Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pope Regensburg Address

At the University of Regensburg in Germany on September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVII gave a lecture to representatives of the academic community. Immediately it stirred the Muslims to anger accusing him of criticizing their religion. His “fault” was quote the Surah (2,256) that reads: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

He also cited an erudite Byzentine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, who said: "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" Explaining that spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable as violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul, he quotes further: “God is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of 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 weapon of any kind, or any means of threatening a person with…”

These quotations were not the punch lines of the lecture. There were mere entry points to an academic and educated treatment of faith and reason.

To the surprise of the academic world, these citations provoked overly violent reactions from all over the Muslim world: a Catholic church in Tulkarem in Palestine and in Tubas were attacked, Molotov bombs were thrown to three churches in Nablus and another one in Gaza, and an Italian nun in Mogadishu, Somalia was shot dead by gunmen presumably to vent anger against the Pope.

Outside the Palestinian Embassy in Jakarta, a big rally was convened in hatred of the Holy Father. The rally organizer, Heri Budianto blared “God is great… of course, as we know, the meaning of jihad can only be understood by Muslims…Only Muslims can understand what jihad is. It is impossible that jihad can be linked with violence, we Muslims have no violent character.”

This totally escapes my mind—and without knowing really why.

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