Sunday, September 17, 2006

This is an outrage! The Pope, Islam and perpetual offence.

So, to recap. The Pope makes a speech in Germany and, touching upon the concept of violence within religion, repeats a quote made by Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in 1391: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Cue hysteria and outrage across much of the Muslim world. Cue shock, disgust and despair. Cue thousands of Muslims taking to the streets in India, Pakistan, Turkey and Gaza burning effigies of the Pope, clashing with the police and attacking Catholic churches, outraged that their religion has again been associated with intolerance and violence. I mean, where does this undeserved reputation come from?

Some Muslim gentlemen turn up to engage in a
philosophical debate about their belief system.

Andrew Sullivan here reproduces a quote from a spokeswoman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry which perfectly summarises this response: "Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence.” Beautiful. This is right up there with the one I quoted from someone protesting against the Danish cartoons in Afghanistan: “They want to test our feelings. They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and their newspapers.”

Bonfire of the Inanities

Islam strikes me as a particularly childish faith. Of course, all religions are childish with their superstitions, anachronisms and rituals; their reverence of ‘sacred’ texts, rocks, buildings and animals. But Islam in particular is so rigid and inflexible, so unopen to dialogue, reasoning or criticism, so unchanged since the Middle Ages, it sets itself up for strife. It is the Daily Mail of religions: stuck in another age, frozen rigid in a permanent sense of outrage, preternaturally conditioned to take offence at the slightest opportunity. Prepared to kill in defence of its beliefs. Beliefs that are not open to debate under any circumstances.

And so the Pope, quoting from an ancient text and making it very clear from the outset that these were not his own words, has been forced into making an apology for words which he is not personally responsible for in the hope of nullifying the anger that has erupted – again – through the Islamic world. (Question to Muslims everywhere: is there anything you don’t get offended about?) Of course, one might question the Pope’s motives for highlighting this particular text, and one could also point out that the Catholic Church is in no position to criticise or comment on any faith that seeks to enforce and perpetuate its belief system through violence, as it worked well enough for them for hundreds of years. A pot-kettle-black situation if ever there was one. But it’s little short of depressing that for days the biggest news story has been caused by the leader of one redundant belief system quoting some words spoken 615 years ago by somebody most people have never even heard of, criticising the philosophy of another redundant belief system.

Non-theists like myself can only howl in despair and rage. I think I might take to the streets in protest. Would anyone like to join me?


H said...

For the most part - couldn't agree more. Of course I don't think there was any doubt that the Pope really was offensive. He seems to have used the quote to back up some point he was making. Whatever it was, unless afterwards he said, "this guy was wrong, but..." then it means he didn't disagree with the quote. Just because they aren't his own words, don't mean it isn't offensive to use them. As for the problem with Islam - well Islam is about the same age as the church was when it started to grow up and understand that it could not be an absolute ruler over the world. So perhaps we are about to see an Arabic Renaissance followed by an Islamic reformation.

As for faith - spot on.

ph said...

Muslims taking outrageous offence at the merest slight is of course very effective at making sure the hand wringing guilt-ridden westerners do not have the nerve to comment upon Islam in a negative way in the future. Personally I think that there are too many people and organisations who thrive on the opportunity to take offense, particularly when no offense was meant, it is a form of intellectual bullying. The only way to deal with this is truly meant offense regularly applied. Why does the Pope not say what he really believes, that Muslims are following a false prophet and unless they mend their ways are doomed to an eternity in the firey pit ...... that should give them something to get upset about.

Anonymous said...

Lets just hope El Papa doesn't have to go into was predicted for this Pope in the 1985 version/interpretaion of Nostradamus' writings which claimed this Pope would be the last...oooeer. The American cult of EndTimers must be loving this, they want as much christo/muso strife as possible to bring about Armageddon and their flight to heaven.......nutters, all of them, as is anyone else who beleives in any religion or any prophecies (Nostradamus included) Bonkers !

Devil's Advocate said...

I don't think the point is whether the Pope was being offensive, it was whether he had the right to be offensive. I was glad his apology yesterday was very pointed towards the consequences, rather than what he actually said.

It seems to me that far too many Muslims think it is acceptable to intimidate those who make criticisms perfectly within their rights, though this is essentially because the vast majority of Islamic states are not accustomed to the values of free speech, and totally relgiously and otherwise intolerant themselves.

How can it be that the Pope quoting another's words is met with people burning his effigy? Muslims have no right to talk about being offensive when they meet with completely disproportionate responses such as that.

It's all very well saying 'the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful tolerant, blah blah blah', but it's about time they stood up and said it. This isn't an issue for Christians, US/UK foreign policy, it's an issue for the Islamic world.

Citizen Sane said...

I agree with you all.

In yesterday's Times there was a picture of some Muslims protesting at Westminster Cathedral holding placards saying 'Islam will conquer Rome' and 'Christ is the slave of Allan'. Sorry, 'Allah'.

It seems they can dish it out but cannot take it back.

ph said...

I think at the end of the day fundamental Muslims in the UK know they can be as offensive as they like to the non-muslim community because we are scared of them or scared of the multiculturalists who accept this behaviour. We hope that by being nice they will be nice back, but there is no evidence to show that this policy is working.

A said...

Thank you for bring a voice of sanity to this whole debacle. I was screaming with frustration to the parrot about this whole thing and she pointed me towards your blog.

The whole thing seems to me like playground bullying. Whenever anyone does anything the Muslim world doesn't like they react with violence until the rest of the world backs down and apologise. All this to prove how wrong the West is when it accuses them of violence. (I really wish the Pope had refrained from doing this, however careful his wording). We engage in self-flagellation about what we have done to provoke this reaction and how we can avoid doing anything to offend and hurt the feelings of Muslims. When will the world figure out what school children know; that the only way to stop bullying is to stand up to the bullies.

I consider myself a leftist but am being sorely tested these days.


p.s. Is Islam a religion of violence? I don’t know but it is certainly a religion that lacks any sense of irony.

odog said...

I agree that the actions of muslims should be condemmed, clearly there are problems within the faith which must be addressed, however, as someone once noted there are the problems of freedom of free speech in the middle east and more the point LACK OF LAW. In Palestine for instance, there were attacks on churchs by a small minority, which by the way the HAMAS leadership condemmed.

But it should be emphasized that these are actions are of a minority, who in many cases are helped by the general societal feeling of contempt towards the west, lack of law and regimes which may infact encourage this outpouring of anger. (Remember the cartoon affair in Syria and the attack on the embassy, I bet you the Syrain government would never have tolerated a pro-democracy demonstration half the size)

odog said...

By the way liberal elite, your description of the religion of Islam as "childish" displays a distinct level of ignorance of the wider processes which lead to these kinds of affairs.

And to you "a" who feels his left wing credentials being fatigued...don't be frightened to criticise, y'know many muslims feel offened that this special treatment is played upon them, if you consider people equals, then act so. If you see your brother acting in a stupid way, tell him!

However, just because the your world veiw is being eroded by these actions by muslims don't necessarily adopt to alternative mainstream narrative which many on this blog seem to adhere to. As a lefty you should be willing to think a little.

Peace from Bethlehem

H said...


A line borrowed from Toby perhaps?


H said...

This latest post makes me remember some of the posts which once upon a time got discussed on the Guardian's international talkboards before they descended into a wild frenzy of nonsense. But a worthy question was often asked - when do the enlightened masses of the world start standing up for themselves against the ever encroaching danger that is faith and religion? All faiths are clearly dangerous - and even liberal adherants of a faith are unwilling supporters of the more fundamentalist elements of that faith. When will all the agnostics and genuine liberals wake up and realise that it's all very well tolerating this nonsense as long as it is harmless, but that ship has sailed. Those who care for the planet and want to create a world society of harmony, peace, yada yada bullshit need to recognise that our greatest enemy is faith - the irrational, unreasonable belief which enforces and re-enforces divisions which are unnecessary and damaging to the cohesion of the social fabric?

Citizen Sane said...

your description of the religion of Islam as "childish" displays a distinct level of ignorance of the wider processes which lead to these kinds of affairs

How so, Odog?