Pope Benedict XVI, while visiting his native Germany for six days, gave a speech on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 at the University of Regensburg, entitled "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections." He appeared to target Islam as a violent faith and quoted an obscure medieval ruler to hammer home this point. The pope quoted a 14th century Christian Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, for allegedly saying the following:
"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."
Indian Muslims protested against the pope's quotation about Muhammad.
It would be interesting to know why the pope quoted this comment despite his efforts to clarify authorship, "I am quoting.": Was he attempting to explore the consequences of faith and violence? Was he attempting to criticise such outcomes? If so, then why present Islam ALONE as an alleged example and not reflect on the evils of Christianity when religion was the guiding force behind wars and empire? It would appear that Islam was singled out for criticism without significant relational analysis of other faiths. If so, that would seem to justify criticism of the pontiff as engaging in selective, non-reflective and non-ecumenical criticism. Many prominent Muslim groups, both private and governmental, from Europe to Asia have requested either clarification or an apology. I question whether John Paul II would have arrived at a similar imbroglio due to his tolerance of and courage in supporting the Islamic faith.
This quotation would seem to link Islam with violence and Jihad with vengeance. Of course Christianity has led to rivers of blood from the crusades under the popes and under American presidents. None of the great religions could be considered restrained whether pursuing an aggressive Zionism, abusive missionary expansionism and opting for war in the name of righteousness, biblical dictates and as God's chosen flock.
I have noted a very belated coverage of this international controversy in the American press after days of coverage in Europe and Asia. I am sure if the pope's remarks had offended American jewry, that this would be given much more immediate journalistic reportage.
p.s. In 2004, when then Cardinal Ratzinger was the leader of the inquisition's progeny, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict opposed Turkey's entrance into the European Union. He said Turkey, a secular Muslim state and a member of N.A.T.O., should join a confederation of Islamic states instead. This would seem to reveal a bias against Islam and a rather dramatic assertion that a country's entrance into a regional grouping of nations should be predicated on religious considerations and that if non-Christian, a Muslim state should be excluded. I think the pope could use some sensitivity training and perhaps read the works of Thomas Merton, perhaps the 20th Century's greatest Roman Catholic writer, who had a keen interest in Asian religions and in expanding the realm of ecumenism.