The Pope and his reference to Islam: Part two

The Pope and his reference to Islam: Part two

I have some more thoughts on the Pope’s speech in Regensburg that referenced Islam and is causing such an uproar from liberals and Muslims because of the insult they perceive. Note the context in which the “offensive” quote—“Show me just what Mohammed 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.”—was given.

It is part of several paragraphs referencing a new translation of a dialogue between Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in Constantinople and a Persian scholar in 1391. Recall 1391 as a time in which Manuel’s Byzantine empire was under constant attack from Muslims. The Pope even notes that the dialogue was believed to have been set down in writing “during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402.” During the siege. Gee, why do you think the emperor might have some hard feelings against Islam.

Okay, critics might say, the emperor has reasons to be upset, but why did the Pope repeat those words? Because he was a making a point—using what he called a “brusque” statement by Manuel II—that religious violence is never acceptable because it is unreasonable, that is “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.”

The Pope was making a point regarding the importance of reason in faith.

Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

But this isn’t the end of the Pope’s talk because he then goes on to address the failings of reason (more properly, an overreliance on reason, in Western secular humanism. Unfortunately, this is too subtle for firebrands, drum-pounders, and the vast majority of the mainstream media. Instead, they put up headlines that say that Pope Benedict bashed Islam and leave it at that.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli