I have read many press reports on Muslim reaction to one line of a lecture given by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg in Germany on September 12th, yet NONE of them have mentioned the actual point of the Pope's talk, titled Faith, Reason and the University which was delivered to a group of scientists.
In setting up the foundation of his lecture, the Pope recalled as a professor of theology at Regensburg in the 1960s that a colleague had noted the theological professors at the university were "devoted to something that did not exist: God." Pope Benedict observed: "That even in the face of radical skepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question."
It was at this point in his lecture that he quoted a 14th century Christian Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, an educated Greek emperor in conversation with a Persian (Iranian) on the subject of Christianity and Islam. He quote has so enraged Muslims around the world that a 60 year old nun in Somalia has been killed by Muslims, two Christian churches on the West Bank were firebombed, mobs burned Pope Benedict in effigy and Muslims worldwide demanded an apology from him. .
What did he actually SAY that created such a reaction? What he said was:
"I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on — perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara — by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor.
The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between — as they were called — three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point — itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole — which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason," I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
"In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that (in the Qur'an) surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.
"Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God," he says, "is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the 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 weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."
He ended his lecture with the following statement:
"The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur — this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. 'Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God,' said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university."
The Pope invited the Muslims, other Christians, Jews and scientists to TALK to each other. Islam responded to his invitation by killing Christians, burning churches and the Pope in effigy, which doesn't appear to be a good way to start a dialogue. Now, I ask you, if the Qur'an teaches Muslims that there should be no compulsion in religion, why are they killing nuns, burning down Christian churches and burning the Pope in effigy? Well at a later date Mohammad wrote in sura 9: 29-30 of the Qur'an:
"9.29": Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
"9.30": And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! "
Perhaps Europe needs to think about sura 9 before it hands 20% of Serbia, the province of Kosovo, over to Albanian Muslims, who already have destroyed over 150 Serbian Christian Churches and who want to either subject or eliminate the few remaining Serbs.
© Mary Mostert
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