So: the Pope goes to the University of Regensburg and in the course of an academic reflection on faith and reason quotes from a medieval conversation between Emperor Manuel II Paleologus (a Christian) and an educated Persian. The conversation took place during one of those cheery occasions when Ottomans were besieging Constantinople, so it was not surprising that the topics of violence and religious compulsion (“convert or die”) came up. The Pope quoted this sentence from Manuel: “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.”
In the ordinary course of events, you might say: “Yes. So what? The Pope gives an academic address and quotes a fourteenth-century emperor who isn’t keen on Muslims. Big deal.” Well, that’s in the ordinary course of events. Today, we have The New York Times, which thunders that the Pope “has insulted Muslims” and demands that he “offer a deep and persuasive apology.” We also, alas, have members of the religion of peace, i.e., Muslims, who take to the streets all over Europe, burn the Pope in effigy, trash (as of this writing) six churches in the Middle East, and—just to be sure we haven’t forgotten how upset they are at having someone quote a fourteenth-century emperor accusing Mohammed of spreading faith “by the sword”—murder Leonella Sgorbati, an Italian nun, and her bodyguard at a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, where she cared for impoverished Muslim children.
Two questions and one commendation: 1. Where is The New York Times and its indignation machine when Sister Leonella gets shot in the back, stomach, and chest? Don’t we need “a deep and persuasive apology” for that? 2. Where are the “moderate” Muslim leaders? When Timothy McVeigh, a crazed Christian fundamentalist, blew up a government building in Oklahoma, you could have been trampled by Christian leaders who rushed in to condemn the act and distance themselves and their religion from McVeigh. The improbably named “Biglizards” weblog detailed the response of the “moderate” Muslim leadership: As of the morning of September 17, for example, spokesmen for the Council on American-Islamic Relations had gone on record saying … nothing. (The two inches of blank space the blogger inserts here dramatize the point.) By contrast, however, Mary Rose Oakar, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said … Gosh, she didn’t say anything either. How about the Muslim Public Affairs Council? Nada. Zilch. Zip. Biglizards also reports that the American Islamic Congress, the youngest and fastest growing “moderate” Islamic organization in America, although they had nothing to say about the cataract of insane violence in response to the Pope’s speech, did announce the prize winners of the “Dream Deferred” Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East. 3. The commendation? It goes to John Howard’s government in Australia, for (as one news report put it) reading “the riot act” to Muslim leaders. Because “it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts,” a government spokesman said, “it is your problem… . Speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia.” To which we can only add, Amen.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 2, on page 3
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