Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Debate Regarding Pope's Islam Quotes Blown Out of Proportion

On Tuesday, September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany. The main point of his lecture, Faith, Reason and the University - Memories and Reflections, is to underline that God is logos, or reason, and only by acting with logos can we be in harmony with the nature of God. Yet one passage in the Pope's lecture has caused great offense among certain Muslim communities recently. At one point early in the lecture, the Pope refers to a 14th century dialogue between Byzantine emporer Manuel II Paleologus and a Persian scholar.

The two men are speaking on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and in the seventh conversation, the subject of holy war comes up. The emporer argues against the use of violent conversion employed by Muslims because violence is acting without reason. He says bluntly, "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 speaking of the prophet Muhammad in this way certainly is both rash and insulting, it should be noted that these are not the words of Pope Benedict XVI. He is citing a 14th century Byzantine emporer. The Pope does not endorse these words. He was merely using them to make a larger point: that religion and violence do not go together but that religion and reason do.

Earlier this week, he clarified his intentions, according to Reuters:

"For the careful reader of my text it is clear that I in no way wanted to make mine the negative words pronounced by the medieval emperor and their polemical content does not reflect my personal conviction," he said.

While some extreme Muslims are demanding that the Pope apologize for his lecture and clarify his stance on Islam, the majority of Muslims understand the Pope's intentions. Even hard-line Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said during a visit to the United Nations, "There is no problem." The bottom line is the Pope meant absolutely no offense by his remarks and he owes no one an apology. Anyone who carefully reads his lecture can clearly see that this debate has been blown way out of proportion.

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