Saturday, September 16, 2006

The First Post: Pope's remarks 'enlightened'

In an opinion piece sure to get a few folks' knickers in a knot, Andrew Brown at The First Post declares that Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam last week were actually "enlightened".

The words that have so enflamed the Muslim world (once again) were not actually the Pope's, but rather those of Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos II [I've read other sources that say it was Manuel, not Michael--I'm using the name from the First Post column. --ed.] to a Muslim General:
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.
According to Brown, the Pope went on to describe the rest of the Emperor's words, which give full context to the controversial remarks:
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...
Of course, any public statements about Islam other than the "Islam is a religion of peace" line elicit reactions throughout the Muslim world that only serve to validate the offending statement. But as Mr. Brown says in his opening line, "Here we go again...".

The closing paragraph is sure to earn Mr. Brown his very own fatwa:
Calling this "an insult to Islam" or to the Prophet is simply an exercise in bullying and stupidity. [My emphasis. --ed.] The most surreal sight of all is that of Turkish Muslim officials demanding that Pope Benedict apologise for suggesting that Islam is spread by the sword. For why are Turkey's highest religious officials Muslims? Because, roughly 50 years after the Emperor, besieged in Constantinople, set down his account of these theological discussions, Constantinople fell and became Istanbul.

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