"The Last Judgment" - Giovanni da Modena, circa 1420 - a fresco residing at the Church of St. Petronio in Bologna, Italy and which depicts Mohammed being tortured for all eternity by demons.
September 19, 2006 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - The irony of the Muslim world demanding the death of Pope Benedict XVI for remarks which have been interpreted as being critical of the religion of peace is supreme.
What better way to refute such allegations than with violence filled protests, the killing of an innocent nun and the firebombing of churches?
How could such behavior lead anyone to believe that Muslims are intolerant, fanatical, backwards and violent?
One senses a quickening here...first the declarations of holy war - jihad - in the 1990s, then the attacks against the United States but outside the country [embassies at first then other symbols of power including those associated with the military such as the USS Cole] followed by the 9/11 domestic attack and concluding recently with demands for Christians and Jews to convert.
And now of course, the Pope must die because he spoke the truth about Islam.
So what could have been said to provoke such anger, hatred and outrage by the former Cardinal - and eminent theologian - Joseph Ratzinger?
The date was September 12, 2006 and the location was the University of Regensberg, Germany, below an excerpt from Benedict XVI's speech, this portion dealing with the nature of holy war, or jihad.
"...I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part 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. 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. 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 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 the experts, this is 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 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". 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 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..." - Access complete text of speech here
Regarding what has now been branded the "harsh" judgment of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus let us not forget that Byzantium had been suffering - at the time of the discourse quoted by the Pope - for nearly 100 years of continual Islamic jihad waged by the Ottoman Turks, and the Ottoman Empire would continue for another six centuries to advance Islam at the point of a sword.As Sandro Magister of Chiesa magazine correctly observes, the Regensberg lecture dwelt upon what is perhaps the central concern of Benedicts' papacy, the tension between rationalism and faith.
"...when reason separates itself from God, it closes in upon itself. And likewise, faith in an "irrational" God, an absolute, unbridled will, can become the seed of violence. Every religion, culture, and civilization is exposed to this twofold error - not only Islam, but also Christianity..." - September 18, 2006, Sandro Magister, Islam's Unreasonable War Against Benedict XVI, Chiesa Magazine
Efforts to clarify the Pope's statement have encountered minds closed off to debate - terrorist Hamas and Islamists like Yusuf al-Qaradawi for example - having "rejected" the Pope's subsequent statements which were intended to provide context for his now controversial remarks.
This reflects the agenda of those who have now registered their official outrage - Islam's bigots - as intending to seize upon mere words, which when read in their entirety are far from confrontational, to justify continuing the jihad.
There is simply nothing that can come from West - this side of "I convert to Islam" that can stop this process peaceably.
What was Benedict's intent in giving this address in the first place, certainly he must have known that it would at least raise a few eyebrows.
To simply assume that Benedict is not well versed in Islamic history and theology ignores what he has written in the past regarding Islam - well before he was elected Pope - which proves a well developed and concise grasp of the religion.
"Islam has a total organization of life that is completely different from ours; it embraces simply everything. There is a very marked subordination of woman to man; there is a very tightly knit criminal law, indeed, a law regulating all areas of life, that is opposed to our modern ideas about society. One has to have a clear understanding that it is not simply a denomination that can be included in the free realm of a pluralistic society. When one represents the situation in those terms, as often happens today, Islam is defined according to the Christian model and is not seen as it really is in itself. In this sense, the question of dialogue with Islam is naturally much more complicated than, for example, an internal dialogue among Christians." - " Salt of the Earth" 1997, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as interviewed by Peter Seewald.
More on point perhaps was Benedict's perception that it was necessary to stimulate a dialogue over the nature of Islam and its relationship to Christianity at precisely this point in time when the Church is being challenged from both within and without.
It also served when taken in context to help define Benedict's reason for embarking on this tour in the first place, that he, "came to Germany, to Bavaria, to re-propose the eternal truths of the Gospel as present-day truths and strength, and to strengthen believers in their adherence to Christ, the Son of God who became man for our salvation."
The Pope thus began to straighfowardly deal with the West's moral unpreparedness for what now can only be described as religious warfare:
" But then the great moral crisis of the Western world, which appears to be the Christian world, broke out. In the face of the deep moral contradictions of the West and of its internal helplessness -- which was suddenly opposed by a new economic power of the Arab countries -- the Islamic soul reawakened. We are somebody too; we know who we are; our religion is holding its ground; you don't have one any longer." - "Salt of the Earth" 1997, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as interviewed by Peter Seewald.
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