Friday, June 22, 2007


I would have tossed in some cartoons of cars burning in Paris but this should give an idea of what the story is over-all without me gilding the lily:

(SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)



Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg
Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections

[P]art of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.[1] It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. [2] The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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."[3] The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".[4]
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. [5] 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.[6] Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm 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 practise idolatry. [7]

In reaction:

"[T]he Mujahideen's Army movement in Iraq threatened to carry out a suicide attack against the Pope in revenge for his comments about Islam and jihad. [T] he Mujahideen's Army said members of the organization would 'smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome.' p. 1. [Said a Catholic spokesman:] "[S]ome comments made by Western Muslims were superficial and fed the circus-like criticism' of 'emotional outbursts in response to hearsay.' p. 2. The New York Times editorialized … that the pope must give a "deep and persuasive" apology for his remarks as 'the world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly,' it said." George Conger, "Mujahideen's Army threatens Pope with suicide attack." Jerusalem Post: Sep. 16, 2006.

"Anjem Choudary said those who insulted Islam would be 'subject to capital punishment'. Choudary told a demonstration in London yesterday that the Pope should face execution. His remarks came during a protest outside Westminster Cathedral on a day that worldwide anger among Muslim hardliners towards Pope Benedict XVI appeared to deepen." This is, "The Pope must die, says Muslim." 18 Sept 2006.

"[Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin] a hardline cleric linked to Somalia's powerful Islamist movement has called for Muslims to "hunt down" and kill Pope Benedict XVI for his controversial comments about Islam." AFP, The Age. "Somali cleric calls for pope's death." September 17, 2006.

"Last night the controversy seemed to have claimed its first victims when gunmen killed a 65-year-old Italian nun and her bodyguard at the entrance to a hospital where she worked in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.." John Hooper, The Guardian, "Pope 'deeply sorry' but Muslim protests spread." Rome: 18 Sept. 2006.

"[The Pope is a s]wine and servant of the cross, worships a monkey on a cross, hateful evil man, stoned Satan, may Allah curse him, blood-sucking vampire." Michelle Malkin , (quoting Internet poster ) "Pope Rage on the Internet; church bombings in Gaza." 16 Sept. 2006.

"Mohammed Mahdi Akef from the Muslim Brotherhood said the remarks 'threaten world peace' and "pour oil on the fire and ignite the wrath of the whole Islamic world to prove the claims of enmity of politicians and religious men in the West to whatever is Islamic.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, said: 'There are elements in Islam that can be used to justify violence, just as there are in Christianity and Judaism.'

President Jacques Chirac warned against 'anything that increases tensions between peoples or religions.'

[I]n The Huffington Post weblog … author Sam Harris said, 'It is ironic that a man who has just disparaged Islam as 'evil' and 'inhuman' before 250,000 onlookers and the world press, is now talking about a 'genuine dialogue of cultures.'" [48] Mr Harris also referred to the Pope's lecture as "...a speech so boring, convoluted and oblique to the real concerns of humanity that it could well have been intended as a weapon of war. It might start a war, in fact, given that it contained a stupendously derogatory appraisal of Islam.'

In the West Bank city of Nablus, a Greek Orthodox and an Anglican Church were fire-bombed by a group called the Lions of Monotheism who said they were carried out to protest the pope's speech.[79] A Greek Orthodox church was also attacked in Gaza City. [80] Amira Hass has suggested that the attacks may have been carried out by agents provocateurs, possibly the Shin Bet. "

Palm trees, blue skies, warm weather, cheap rent, fresh food, good-looking girls; AK-47s, left-over
Soviet r.p.g.s, balaklavas, sympathetic blonde U.N. girls giving out goods to sell on the black market; a life-time of playing at Cowboys and Indians in an endless backyard without any parents ever calling you in for dinner and more homework. Oh, jihad: what a life! Easy, dude.

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