Pope flap: The importance of being honest

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What stirred Muslim to riot this week was not just Pope Benedict's scholarly discussion of the historic argument between Christian Emperor Paleologus and his Muslim opponent. Rather, it is the exact fit between that dialogue and today's clash of cultures.

The core issue —— constantly evaded by Islamist apologists —— is the matter of killing in the service of religion. That is exactly the point made by Emperor Paleologus, and by Benedict. For Catholics that point is literally excruciating, because the Byzantine Empire was under constant assault by Muslim jihadis, spreading Islam by the sword. They won the long war, resulting in the Ottoman Empire, which practiced extraordinary cruelty against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims for five hundred years. For the West, the Ottoman Empire became indeed the measure of human cruelty rationalized  by religion. We tend to forget that the Ottomans only crumbled at the end of World War I,  a few minutes ago as history goes.

Thus the rage against the Pope comes from his honesty. Today in Darfur, conversion by the sword goes on every day. The Sudanese genocide cannot be understood without understanding that. Muslim nations constantly block UN proposals for intervention in the Sudan because they know exactly what's going on: It's jihad, infidels. Allah wants it.  And it is no accident that Christian churches are being firebombed today in Gaza. Today the firebombs are only thrown at the outer walls of the churches, but Arab Christians know perfectly well what signal is being sent: You can be next, and if Hamas enforces Shari'a the way it wants to, you too will be given a choice between Islam, death, or the semi—slavery of dhimmitude.

I don't believe the Pope stirred up this tempest by accident. It was leaked to make a point. (Believe it or not, news reporters are not in the habit of attending  lectures on church history). So it was a planted story — but deniable as just an historic reference. The Pope sent a signal, and the Muslim world responded with riots. Nobody could have been surprised.

Even the BBC explains today that the Pope wants to start a dialogue with the Muslim world, following the lead of John Paul II. But Benedict wants the dialogue to be reciprocal, and that means that Muslims must reflect on the dark side of their history, just as the Catholics have done to a considerable extent. And they must stop legitimizing violence.

Why was Benedict so provocative? Because he would not have been heard otherwise.  Benedict is looking for an honest dialogue. No doubt he is prepared to  apologize again, as appropriate, for harm done to Muslims by Christians. His planted provocation is designed to ask Muslims: Are you also prepared to mend your ways?

This is an act of courage designed to advance a genuine dialogue of cultures, not just happy talk.

James Lewis   9 16 06

What stirred Muslim to riot this week was not just Pope Benedict's scholarly discussion of the historic argument between Christian Emperor Paleologus and his Muslim opponent. Rather, it is the exact fit between that dialogue and today's clash of cultures.

The core issue —— constantly evaded by Islamist apologists —— is the matter of killing in the service of religion. That is exactly the point made by Emperor Paleologus, and by Benedict. For Catholics that point is literally excruciating, because the Byzantine Empire was under constant assault by Muslim jihadis, spreading Islam by the sword. They won the long war, resulting in the Ottoman Empire, which practiced extraordinary cruelty against Christians, Jews, and other Muslims for five hundred years. For the West, the Ottoman Empire became indeed the measure of human cruelty rationalized  by religion. We tend to forget that the Ottomans only crumbled at the end of World War I,  a few minutes ago as history goes.

Thus the rage against the Pope comes from his honesty. Today in Darfur, conversion by the sword goes on every day. The Sudanese genocide cannot be understood without understanding that. Muslim nations constantly block UN proposals for intervention in the Sudan because they know exactly what's going on: It's jihad, infidels. Allah wants it.  And it is no accident that Christian churches are being firebombed today in Gaza. Today the firebombs are only thrown at the outer walls of the churches, but Arab Christians know perfectly well what signal is being sent: You can be next, and if Hamas enforces Shari'a the way it wants to, you too will be given a choice between Islam, death, or the semi—slavery of dhimmitude.

I don't believe the Pope stirred up this tempest by accident. It was leaked to make a point. (Believe it or not, news reporters are not in the habit of attending  lectures on church history). So it was a planted story — but deniable as just an historic reference. The Pope sent a signal, and the Muslim world responded with riots. Nobody could have been surprised.

Even the BBC explains today that the Pope wants to start a dialogue with the Muslim world, following the lead of John Paul II. But Benedict wants the dialogue to be reciprocal, and that means that Muslims must reflect on the dark side of their history, just as the Catholics have done to a considerable extent. And they must stop legitimizing violence.

Why was Benedict so provocative? Because he would not have been heard otherwise.  Benedict is looking for an honest dialogue. No doubt he is prepared to  apologize again, as appropriate, for harm done to Muslims by Christians. His planted provocation is designed to ask Muslims: Are you also prepared to mend your ways?

This is an act of courage designed to advance a genuine dialogue of cultures, not just happy talk.

James Lewis   9 16 06