[ADDENDUM- I have added this as a preface to my original post as a preemptive clarification on my words that follow. I feel the need to do this because the first comment I got really seemed to agree with me BUT took a much more condemning stance to Islam as a whole than I do, and I wanted to make sure I was not misconstrued as attacking the whole faith. In regards to that first comment, I think the commenter was a non-native English speaker, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that they were just agreeing with me and simply limited in their vocabulary, not wholly condemning Islamic faith.
I want to say that my statements about Muslims are really only about the people who are rioting (not a small minority, but a minority to be sure.) These are the ones who demand that the Pope be “removed from office” and burn effigies of our dear Padre. Not the Muslims that may go, “Well, I certainly disagree with what the Pope just said!” and then do their own thing. The rational, moderate voices.
A few pulled quotes from my post emphasize that my post is NOT an attack on Islam: First, I believe in an earnest dialogue between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism and other world religions, for that matter.) And I believe that a vast majority of Muslims really do value peace…I don’t believe at all that this reaction [violent protests] is representative of all Muslims, not even a majority of Muslims…I don’t dislike Islam, don’t want to invade the Middle East, still respect my Muslim friends and their beliefs, and hope that sometime in the future the world can all be friends…
And later in my post, when I state that I do not believe Mohammed was a prophet, I am not attacking Mohammed. He is a prophet to Muslims, but I am not Muslim, so it makes sense that I don’t believe he was a prophet. This is just simple doctrinal difference between the two faiths. Christians believe in Jesus Christ. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the final prophet. No insults there. Just simple, obvious differences of faith. But please note the main point of that paragraph: Christians who choose to have any type of reverence for Mohammed (such as myself, and indeed, the POPE) do so purely out of respect for their Muslims brothers and sisters’ faith and a belief in religious freedom. Just because we don’t believe the same doesn’t mean we are slandering the other’s faith. We agree to disagree. Might not be perfect, but it’s a good start toward peace.]
OK, so there has been much discussion on this topic, but now that I have a moment, I want to weigh in ever so briefly about the “Pope vs. Islam” affair (which of course isn’t the situation at all).
First, I believe in an earnest dialogue between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism and other world religions, for that matter.) And I believe that a vast majority of Muslims really do value peace. But I am just annoyed at how ridiculous many Muslims can get over anything that can be construed as a slight against Mohammed or Islam in general. These protests and reactions within the Muslim world are fraught with hypocrisy so thick I would love to think it was a joke, but alas it is not. I think many in the Muslim world are incapable of grasping irony.
“Muslims are not violent! And if you think so, we’ll kill you!”
Ok, so I don’t believe at all that this reaction is representative of all Muslims, not even a majority of Muslims. Certainly the Muslims in the USA haven’t taken to the streets. But if the crux of the matter comes down to offense taken because a 600-year-old comment makes Muslims sound violent, then Muslims need to do some serious navel-gazing and start criticizing their own back yard.
Nothing new here. People have been saying this for years. But this situation is the epitome of this hypocrisy. For instance: In a speech about the incompatibility of religion and violence, reference a 14th century Emperor (Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus) in an academic lecture, and include a quote IN CONTEXT OF THE TOPIC ("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’s words]), and you get this:
You have a group of modern day terrorists (the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda) claiming Islam as their inspiration and ideology who issue this statement:"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya…We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen” and you get this:
No protests or effigies of Bin Laden burned here today, folks. It seems to me that a group pf psychopaths murdering in the name of Mohammed can do a lot more PR damage to Islam’s “peaceful” image than the words of a dead-for-600-plus-years emperor can. Hypocrisy, indeed. And granted, the quote used by the Pope is not a flattering view of Islam, but I promise the Pope can say some pretty unflattering things about Christianity as well.
And to those who would say that it is disrespectful to criticize another’s religious beliefs and that I am supporting religious intolerance by supporting the Pope in this instance, I say this: There is indeed a lot of religious intolerance evident in this circumstance, but I’m thinking most of it’s on the side of the fence that’s burning crosses and declaring the destruction of Rome. Where can I pick up my picket sign and burn an effigy of Mohammed? Protesters burned a cross in disrespect of my religion. It’s OK if that offends me, right? Tit for tat, people. (Actually, tit for tat is a very un-Christian mentality, so I’ll opt for forgiveness, instead.)
And here’s another thing Muslims don’t seem to get: Christians who choose to have any type of reverence for Mohammed (such as myself, and indeed, the POPE) do so purely out of respect for their Muslims brothers and sisters’ faith and a belief in religious freedom. It has nothing to do with Mohammed himself. I am not a scholar on Islam or the Middle East, but I do have Muslim friends, and every week I am a guest in the homes of Muslim families and tutor anywhere from 1-7 Islamic children per week. I ask questions and inquire about the belief. But I don’t in any form or fashion think Mohammed was a prophet. It goes against MY beliefs. But YOU can think so. Doesn’t bother me at all. What DOES bother me is seeing Muslims burn crosses and effigies of the Pope. But as much as it pisses me off, I don’t wanna kill ya. Sorry. I guess I’m just not “peaceful” enough.
And here one last thing that struck me: I’m Catholic, and there’s a good chance that I never would have read one word of the Pope’s speech. So how do thousands and thousands of Muslims hear about the Pope’s comments? And why do they go ape-shit over it? Three things in combination: poverty, ignorance, and religious fervor (and we’ve got it here, too, folks, in all sorts of flavors). Religious leaders who have a vested interest in a struggle are stoking the flames and inciting people to rally around factual distortions and “attacks” against their faith (no context required). And many believe what they hear. They have faith that if their religious leaders tell them that the West (and/or the Pope) is out to get them, they believe it. They likely have no way to independently verify the truth of these statements, so they believe what they are told. (And we do the same thing, getting our news in snippets from talking heads.) Protest ensue, and slowly but surely words are used to destroy dialogue. And those in power remain in power. Poverty + ideology can create fanatics. It's a simple equation that works all over the world.
Anyway, it's late and I am just rambling on now. Here's a happy ending to my rambling post: In summary, I don’t dislike Islam, don’t want to invade the Middle East, still respect my Muslim friends and their beliefs, and hope that sometime in the future the world can all be friends.
Read the Pope’s entire speech out of “sound-bite” format.
Gashwin’s blog is a great resource for commentary and links to sites concerning this situation.