Robert Miller at the First Things blog says Pope Benedict blundered in quoting Manuel II Paleologus, who said, “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.” While acknowledging that the Pope himself has said Manuel’s words do not represent his own belief and that the Pope’s aims were good, Miller says the Pope should have known better than to have thought that the Islamic world would allow him to quote like a scholar and not a world religious figure.
Still, Benedict went about this noble business in a very imprudent way. The statement he quoted—that everything new Mohammed brought was “evil and inhuman”—is simply untrue and so obviously hurtful that it will prevent anything else the pope might say from getting a hearing. Given the predictable reactions in the Muslim world, it is patently counterproductive to try to make the legitimate point that Muslims have sometimes used violence to spread their faith by quoting, even without endorsing, the untrue and much more sweeping statement that everything peculiar to Islam is “evil and inhuman.”
But I have to ask the question: Is the statement untrue? I’m not saying Manuel is right, but can we assume that he is wrong? What positive contributions has Islam made? What about it is good?
Again, I’m not saying there isn’t good, but if it exists we should enumerate it, not just assume it.
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