Saturday, September 16, 2006


The Pope, The Emperor, and Factions of Islam

The divide between two of the world's most highly populated religions has deepened with the outrage from the Muslim "street" over comments from Pope Benedict XVI. Violence is occurring across the Middle East towards Christians and their churches, regardless of denomination. Such violence is an example of the level of education we, in the West, are dealing with when confronting problems and rifts in that war torn region.

Let me explain what I am saying about what I am seeing. We don't want anyone throwing bombs at Italian-Americans because this Irish-American made a statement that was misinterpreted.

Pope Benedict quoted a Christian emperor from the 14th Century while discussing the concept of reason in religious doctrines. As his backdrop, he used violence in the name of religion to show where the world was to where it has moved to. Namely, the Crusades on the part of Christians and the spread of Islam, prior to this particular emperor, through the sword. As a historical basis, Pope Benedict used an "obscure" quote from Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire.

"Show me just what Muhammad 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."

More to the Pope's defense, he used the phrase "I Quote" several times when speaking of this emperor so as not to be tied personally to the quote. Benedict also stated that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

The educated leaders of Islam - Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and the Muslim Brotherhood - feigned outrage. The uneducated leaders - radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Salih Kapusuz - used the occasion to inflame already high tensions. Kapusuz compared the Pope to Mussolini and Hitler while al-Sadr preached on the matter at Friday prayers.

A dear friend of mine, who is Muslim and from Uzbekistan, taught me that there are various lineages in the Muslim world. To call a Shia Muslim a Sunni is an insult that could result in death. And vice-versa. Yet, in the West Bank, two churches were firebombed - an Anglican and a Greek Orthodox. Neither of these churches are directly related to the Catholic Churches over which Pope Benedict reigns . They broke away from the Catholic church centuries ago. To attack these churches because you are mad at the other church is the height of stupidity and ignorance.

The problem is that a very high percentage of Islamic children do not receive an accurate education. I know - what is my accurate and their accurate? What I mean by this is that rather than have a structured education that teaches generally accepted history, science, etc., many of these these imams teach religious bigotry towards Jews and the West, along with their religious lessons. This leaves people without the ability to reason and understand the difference between a person quoting history as a way of stating where society once was and using history to justify violence. The Pope being the former in this case and al-Sadr et al being the latter.

Don't get me wrong, I believe every child should be brought up with some religious teachings from a world recognized religion (no, Tom Cruise, Scientology is not one of them). This gives a sense of moral centering from which a child can negotiate through life. At the same time the child, upon reaching adulthood, should be able to decide his or her own path in life.

Islam, as a rule, believes much of this as well. However, the fundementalists teach a differing philosophy of Islam. One in which, quite frankly, Emperor Manuel would be correct. We in the West must take care to try to distinguish between the teaching of Islam by those who do not promote violence and those that do.

Our very lives may depend on this.

  • Fox News Story
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  • Guardian News'>,,1873914,00.html">Guardian News Story

  • My Way'>">My Way News Story

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