September 15, 2006

"A challenge - on the level of an intellectual query..."

Mike Plaiss sent me a link to the Pope's recent speech. You can easily see that it is not some sort of anti-Muslim rant. I like this take, by Amy Welborn:

...But what of his words on Islam? I have maintained that it wasn't an idle historical reference. It was a challenge - on the level of an intellectual query - to the assumptions driving much of contemporary Islam. Violence, jihad, hatred of non-Muslims, and a restriction of their rights to worship in Muslim countries are inarguably elements of contemporary Islam to varying extents, in various parts of the globe. Six hundred years ago, this came up in a dialogue - the answer pointed to a dilemma: the Muslim said that God was greater than any of his own precepts.

The question becomes then - what basis for "dialogue" can there be in this context?

Just as, the Pope proceeds to ask, what basis for dialogue can there be in the modern world when religious questions and sensibilities are deleted from the discussion even before we start?

Since there are, indeed, many ways of thinking under the umbrella of "Islam" and there is no central magisterium, we always issue caveats about proclaiming what Islam teaches or the way of Islam in the modern world. But I think it's safe to say that the drumbeat is getting terrifically tedious. It's the drumbeat of constant offense coupled with a Muslim world in which Christians and Jews and the West in general are vilified, in which, for the most part in Muslim states, there is either very little or no freedom of religion for non-Muslims or the threat of violence by Muslims against non-Muslims, in which the most destructive acts of terror are committed explictly in the name of Allah - they are offended?

The Pope held up an interesting question for us to contemplate: Who is God? How can we talk about God? What does God's existence and nature then imply about the way human beings are to live together on this planet? When true reason is abandoned as an attribute and expression of God, what hope is there for dialogue and peace?

The "Muslim" response to the Pope ironically and unwittingly answers his question, don't you think?...[emphasis added by JW]

* Update: The Vatican link is squirelly, at least for me. Here it is in plain text: Posted by John Weidner at September 15, 2006 8:18 AM

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