I’ve posted some items on the attitude of Muslims towards the Pope during his visit. The picture below was taken in Nazereth during his recent visit.
“And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and if the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”
Qur’an, Aal ‘Imraan 3:85.
By the standards of modern tolerance this is problematic however one reads it, even if whoever refers only to Muslims. After all, isn’t secular, civil society about the marketplace of ideas, even religious ones, and isn’t the highest form of any religion voluntary, adherence from conviction and love, not from fear and coercion?
But if whoever refers to everyone, Muslim and not, it goes beyond “problematic” to “slap in your face” when the sign is hung out — with translation — to “welcome” the head of another religious tradition on a highly public occasion.
There were other passages from the Qur’an they might have cited, for example:
Surely, those who believe, those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians – whosoever believed in Allaah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
But for many (all?) Muslims, the former passage supersedes this more tolerant one. The generosity of acknowledging that God will be merciful to those who worship him in their own fashion disappears once Islam is completely revealed, according to an internet site that presents itself as moderate. (Note that on the question of whether non-Muslims deserve to live the same religious authority uses of the very passage here dismissed as depassé.)
Newsworthy sign? Indicator of a mood? Something Westerners should know about?
Apparently not (except for Fox News). My search for images of the pope’s visit to Nazareth finds no such image published by the news agencies. It’s all holding hands with Muslims and Jews and singing odes to peace and tolerance.
Let’s call it the Sieple approach to dialogue, embodied here in the apologetic words of the AJC’s rabbi for interfaith dialogue, David Rosen. In response to criticism of the pope’s disembodied speech at Yad Vashem. (Note that the Pope’s visit to Yad Vahsem was itself overshadowed by the Pope’s refusal to visit the museum where a display criticized Pope Pius XII for his behavior during the Holocaust, the same pope that Benedict XVI would like to beatify.) Rosen both defended the pope and pointed to Nazareth as a counter-point of the real spirit of his visit.
Rosen said that he regarded the criticism of Benedict as “not really fair” and noted that before the pope departed Israel on Friday, he decried anti-Semitism in unequivocal terms and made many of the points critics said were missing from his speech at Yad Vashem. If there’s a pattern, Benedict’s admirers say, it’s that his public relations skills are not as strong as his theology — but that he tends to make up ground once he recognizes a problem.
Doubters, Rosen said, should look at the pope’s involvement in a broad interfaith meeting held in Nazareth. Representatives treated their different religious traditions “as a sort of blessing and enrichment, and not as a sort of tension and strife,” he said.
That’s certainly the message of hope that our media also convey with their pictures. As one reporter put it, “Pope slowly learns to dialogue with Muslims.”
But the bottom line is, like “peace” negotiations, it’s the West fantasizing a partner who isn’t there.