« Photo Friday (vol. LXXVII) [honey house edition] | Main | Feeling Old »

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The enemy of my enemy...

By now I'm sure most of you are well aware of the current tempest over the Pope's recent remarks about Islam.  For those of you who missed it, here is a brief recap:

Last week the Pope gave a speech in Germany in which he quoted passages from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor named Manuel II Paleologus that were not particularly flattering to Islam or it's chief prophet, Mohamed.  Specifically he said:

"In the seventh (sura, or chapter of the Quran), the emperor comes to speak about jihad, holy war.

"The emperor certainly knew that Sura 2, 256, reads: 'No force in matters of faith'. It is one of the early suras, from a time -- as experts say -- in which Mohammed himself was still powerless and threatened.

"However, the emperor of course also knew the requirements about the holy war that were later formulated in the Quran. Without going into details like the handling of the owners of the scriptures, or non-believers, he (the emperor) turned to his interlocutors -- in a surprisingly brusque way -- with the central question after the relationship between religion and violence.

"He said, I quote, '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 Pope concluded from these references that "God,is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature."

Needless to say, peace-loving Muslims around the world entered the debate by immediately losing their collective minds and rioting, burning churches and threatening to launch suicide bombings against Christian targets... including the Pope.

So to review... when Muslims call practitioners (or leaders) of other religions, 'dogs', 'monkeys', 'pigs', etc... or compare non-Muslim religious leaders to mass murderers such as Hitler (his name should be obliterated), that is considered protected free speech.  But let anyone say or write anything remotely critical of Islam... and out come the swords!  Apparently, the sword of Islam cuts only one way.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of the present Pope.  But in truth I don't have to be... I don't count myself among his flock.  However, I am tickled pink over what I think is his well-formed strategy to get Europe to finally engage Islam head-on rather than continuing to roll over for increasingly unreasonable demands of Dhimmitude. 

If one examines the content and timing of the Pope's statement, it becomes fairly clear that this was no accidental slip of the tongue. 

First of all, one doesn't go around casually dropping quotes from obscure medieval emperors into speeches. That sort of thing requires a bit of forethought and research.

Second, if the Pope was casting about for unobjectionable content for his remarks during a politically delicate time in European history, he certainly wouldn't draw from a source that intimated that any aspect of Islam which Mohamed hadn't managed to steal outright from Judaism or Christianity was essentially evil.

Next, the riots which resulted from the prophet cartoons failed to force Europeans to take a stand against Islamic subjugation.  In fact they may have actually prevented such a stand from taking place.  This is because the issue at hand was not 'Islam vs. Europe'... but rather 'Islam vs. freedom of expression'. 

This distinction is quite important. 

You see, culturally, Europe prides itself on being extremely diverse.  This diversity is only possible because of a delicate ongoing compromise/balance between freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity.  However, this is also Europe's Achilles heel.  It is the wedge that allowed Islam to divide and conquer European public opinion in the wake of the prophet cartoons. 

Quite simply, the sacrificing of freedom of expression during the prophet riots on a narrow range of topics (Islam) did not make Europeans feel threatened since they were already conditioned to feel comfortable with compromise in the name of cultural sensitivity.  They felt they had room to negotiate without giving up any part of their core identity.  Giving in to the Muslims required a mental adjustment rather than ceding a core position.

However, the one unifying aspect that bridges most of Europe's cultural divides (even among die-hard secularists) is a deep-seated and long-standing Christian identity.  One doesn't have to look much beyond most of the European flags to understand how central Christianity is to European self-definition.

I have a hunch that the Pope understood this quite well before he made his remarks.

My theory is that the Pope was disappointed... perhaps even alarmed... at the failure of Europeans to take a united stand during the prophet cartoon riots.  So he sat down and figured out a plan that would pit Islam... not against Europe... but against Christian Europe (and ultimately all of Christendom).

He knew that any statement critical of Islam would elicit a swift and violent response, so he was careful to draw it from a historical source and present it as part of a scholarly, albeit tangential discussion.  This way, when the expected explosion took place he could feign dismay and regret at the Muslim reaction while avoiding a direct apology.  After all, why should he personally apologize for something that has been a matter of public record since the 14th century?

As expected, churches all over the world are now being targeted by angry Muslim mobs and the leader of the Catholic Church is being called unspeakable names... and even threatened... by a wide swath of the world's Muslims. 

Europeans might not have been willing to stand up and take a stand for something as ill-defined as a personal freedom... but they sure as hell feel their backs have been pushed to the wall as their very religious identity comes under attack.  The proof of this can be found in the fact that both religious and political European leaders are now closing ranks... firmly behind the Pope.

If the Pope's goal was to draw clear battle lines for the coming global struggle that would force Christian Europe to finally dig in and say 'not one more inch!'... he seems to have found an extremely effective way to go about it.

If it was merely an accident... there too, I doubt the Pope can be very unhappy with the results.

And since the enemy of my enemy is my friend... let me say for the record, "Onward Christian soldiers...".

221_16_5_129

Posted by David Bogner on September 17, 2006 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c581e53ef00e55051f8808834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The enemy of my enemy...:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I suspect your analysis is correct about the Pope and his strategy...but given Oriana Fallaci's despairing analysis of the secularism of most Europeans and their apparent abandonment of their own religious culture, I'm not optimistic....

Posted by: aliyah06 | Sep 17, 2006 1:56:18 PM

I've heard people say that Pope Benedict doesn't do/say anything by chance, that it all has a purpose... maybe so.

The Catholic blogosphere is fairly buzzing about all this, with liberals saying 'why in the world did he go stirring up trouble?' and the conservatives saying 'he's just calling a spade a spade.' Or something like that.

My personal response is dismay at the fact that we can't have a rational conversation about religiously-inspired violence without descending into violent responses. Sensitivity is needed in interreligious dialog, but so is honesty.

So maybe this is a wake-up call for European Christians... but as sure as we say 'onward Christian soliders' we'll get accused of inciting another call to the crusades ;)

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Sep 17, 2006 4:46:59 PM

All I know is that I am very curious to see what happens here.

Intentional or otherwise, I am wondering if we are going to see what kind of response we are going to see.

I hope that you are right in your analysis, but I don't have much faith if any in Europe.

Posted by: Jack | Sep 17, 2006 5:51:23 PM

Just curious...what turned the tide in Islam and Judiasm from the prosperity and freedom of religion during the reign of the Moors to what Islam became.

I totally agree with you about his strategy and timing. Even with his current remarks of being "deeply sorry." It's like a trial lawyer planting their comments/question in the jury's mind, even if it is stricken from the record.

y - : )

Posted by: jaime | Sep 17, 2006 6:28:33 PM

As a European Christian, I personally feel that my freedom of speech is eroding daily. I get so angry with this constant overreaction that we see from many Muslims - our leaders defer to them constantly.
I'm furious also that the Pops has now apologised. Has the President of Iran apologised for any of his heinous remarks? Do any of them ever spologise for their vile threats? I'm scared, particularly for my children, because it's only going to get worse.

Posted by: siobhan | Sep 17, 2006 7:04:37 PM

As an American agnostic (parents were from different Protestant backgrounds), I'm simply going to toss out two quotes- one of them my own.

Shortly after 9/11, writer (and a rare "liberal hawk" on Iraq) Christopher Hitchens wrote in The Nation:

"9/11 was the first shot of a 3rd World War. Between those who use religious beliefs to justify thuggish acts, and those who oppose thuggish acts purely on principle."

My thought is from feeling a growing need to remind all of us- and this may need to be a world-wide reminder:

"Freedom OF religion also means freedom FROM religion..."

Perhaps- not likely, but perhaps- that may start occuring to the European "street" and make its way upwards to the leadership.

We'll see....

Posted by: Michael Spengler | Sep 17, 2006 10:32:25 PM

First of all, one doesn't go around casually dropping quotes from obscure medieval emperors into speeches. That sort of thing requires a bit of forethought and research.

This pope does. It's not that unusual for him. For Benny to evoke Manuel II Paleologus is a bit like you or I citing the King of the Kuzars. He's a master of this material.

Needless to say, peace-loving Muslims around the world entered the debate by immediately losing their collective minds and rioting, burning churches and threatening to launch suicide bombings against Christian targets... including the Pope.

Not to nit pick, but the millions and millions of Muslims who did not take to the street are the ones who might be called "peace loving." I wouldn't use that phrase to describe the minority of worldwide Muslims who are behaving very badly (again)

So to review... when Muslims call practitioners (or leaders) of other religions, 'dogs', 'monkeys', 'pigs', etc... or compare non-Muslim religious leaders to mass murderers such as Hitler (his name should be obliterated), that is considered protected free speech

I've never heard a hard core Muslim claim his speech was protected. I presume they expect (some of) us to react with the same violence we've seen from (some of) them.


Posted by: DovBear | Sep 17, 2006 11:01:59 PM

Very interesting interpretation. Knowing the Pope's background, I wouldn't be surprised that his quotation wasn't an accident... but I'm wondering if his strategy involved something more. After all, there's already been one death of a nun in Somalia, because of the accident. And given the fact that much of Europe is very secular, and the Catholic Church is much more influential in Latin America and Africa, I wouldn't be surprised if he were hoping for some kind of reaction there.

Posted by: Irina | Sep 18, 2006 2:59:18 AM

Ah, but if you read the whole thing, it was not a blast at Islam (except that Islam stresses the non rationality of religion) as much as a blast at modern relativism, that ignores the importance of Greek logic and rationality...
Europeans who ignore rationality in favor of political correctness didn't even read his speech...which was a wakeup call to remember their Christian (i.e. Hebrew theology AND Greek Philosophy) heritage...

Posted by: tioedong | Sep 18, 2006 3:31:29 AM

So Ratzinger, who led the effort under JohnPaul to re-establish the Inquisition as a major force, now wants to re-establish the Crusades?
How cute that the person responsible for suppressing freedom of speech in internal RC affairs is now represented as a champion of freedom of speech.
I think aliyah06 has a good point. Europe did have an intellectual tradition of which Christianity was an integral part. But for the last 150 years, European intellectuals have been fleeing from Christianity as fast as their pens will let them.
But I do think that his statement was insulting to Moslems, and he knew it, and not all the Moslem reaction to it is unwarranted.

Posted by: jeffrey smith | Sep 18, 2006 6:38:53 AM

But is it good for the Jews? My answer is yes - and even my eleven year old son sees it too. He said to me, "Ima, I don't care if the Christians and the Moslems fight each other, just so they don't fight us."

Posted by: westbankmama | Sep 18, 2006 9:14:14 AM

There is something beautiful about winning someone's heart by love or the nobility of an idea. But there is ugliness in the idea of conversion and conquering by killing. The more the crazies speak, the farther I find myself from them. I think the emporer was right. I'm quite content to live in peace with all people. However, if the "sword of faith" comes to find me, it can only be met by another sword.

Posted by: Seattle | Sep 18, 2006 9:47:06 AM

"and not all the Moslem reaction to it is unwarranted."

What part of burning effigies, shooting nuns, death threats, firebombing churches, and severing diplomatic relations is warranted? Muslim clerics, Muslim governments all encourage these berzerk reactions. Going to burn the libraries that contain the book with the quote BY A LEBANESE theological historian? Yes, I bet they will when they think of it. Well I hope they do. That'll fire up secular Euros... so to speak.

Ratzinger is a dogmatic Catholic, but a brilliant theologian. He does nothing carelessly and he is quite media savvy from his days as 'John Paul's Rottweiler' in charge of orthodoxy. As a feminist I hated him. As a strange bedfellow -- hey, works for me!

I read his whole speech, and he was criticizing any creed that is so fundamentalist and literalist that it cannot tolerate reasoned discussion and interpretation. While he spoke mainly about Christian groups, the implication throughout was that any sect or religion that lives or dies by one fixed ancient interpretation of A book is in trouble. Uhhh...that would be Islam.

I found this quote by another theologian that sums up Benedict's point about islam: "Put more dramatically, Christians believe that God gave His own Reason for our sakes that we might become like Him, while Muslims believe that they ought to obey and submit to the will of Allah even if He were to command them to do the most unreasonable things."

Posted by: Pam | Sep 18, 2006 10:06:19 AM

Even if the Pope did make his statements purposefully, I don't have faith enough that Christian Europe will heed his words. We are looking at a clear case of treppenwitz in the making...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Sep 18, 2006 10:48:18 AM

Careful now Trep… who really is/are your enemie(s)? as much as you encourage your friends, be sure of their intentions .

Posted by: pk | Sep 18, 2006 11:48:11 AM

Aliyah06... That Europeans are increasingly secular is neither here nor there. They self-identify as cultural Christians. This is the commonality I think the Pope is trying to tap into.

Steve Bogner... That is what has been bothering me all along. On a range of issues that should be just is important, the world has seemed willing to roll over and appease the Muslim world. I don't think this one will go so easily.

Jack... Ironically, this is not a matter of faith. :-)

Jaime... Somehow I get the feeling that was intended for someone else. :-)

siobhan... I would be interested to know what your neighbors and friends are saying about this issue. Keep in touch.

Michael Spengler... Your G-dless ways are well known to us. :-) Seriously, I agree that in a free society one person's religious views shouldn't impact on his/her neighbor. What's interesting is that many European countries have Christian cultural touchstones codified in their laws... yet they walk around in fear of a Muslim minority (a growing minority to be sure). I think this is the vein of resentment the Pope wants to exploit. I may be reading too much into it, though.

Dov Bear... Benny??? I had no idea you two had become so chummy. And for the record, I have never in my life knowingly cited the King of the Kuzars. As to the math dodge you seem to be attempting, there are admittedly a ginormous number of Muslims in the world. Pray tell, what portion of that number would have to act up before you would accept it as a trend and not a statistical aberration? I don't think anyone would argue with the fact that sickle cell anemia is predominantly an African American disease in the US. Yet despite one in 12 American blacks being carriers, less than 70,000 of them actually have the disease. No, I won't let you get away with playing the numbers game. If the disease of political violence is found to predominantly infect people of a specific race or religion... maybe it's safe to associate it with that race or religion. Not very PC, but there it is. Lastly, I have to ask if you are serious about not having heard a hardcore Muslim say his speech is protected. Much of the outrage we hear from Muslim spokespeople and leaders is a blatant attempt laying claim rights they don't provide to others... with free speech at the top of the list. Think back to any criticism you've ever heard directed at Imams and Ayatollahs who preach violence and hate. The universal response is that the accuser is trying to meddle in religious expression and stifle free speech.

Irina... As I said earlier, I don't think the secularism of Europe will be a factor. The attack isn't against Christian practice, but rather against Christian symbolism.

tioedong... The overall message of the Popes comments are beside the point. Muslim leaders are masters of taking things out of context. But in fairness so are we Jews. :-)

jeffrey smith ... I can't help thinking you would want to rethink that last statement. Are you really suggesting that murder, arson, shooting and other violence is a legitimate response to... words???

Westbankmama... From the mouth of babes...

Seattle... Luckily I have a more modern response at my disposal. ;-)

Pam... As I pointed out to an earlier commenter... I really think the Pope knew the Muslims would zero in on the one aspect of the speech that was critical of Islam.

Mcaryeh... We'll See, won't we?

pk... Not sure I know what you mean.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Sep 18, 2006 2:58:38 PM

A good analysis, but a bit too "middle eastern" if you allow me. But you are rightly describing the context...

The issue is not about "ennemies", but more about "core values".

I essentially think that
the comment by Michael Spengler is closer to the mark.

The intention of this pope is both to engage in a frank debate about values with the European Union, and to address dialogue and the issue of "reciprocity" with Islam.

Recall that the great Khomeiny taught that there "are eleven things which are impure: urine, excrement, sperm, bones, blood, dogs, pigs, non-Moslem men and women, wine, beer, and the sweat of the garbage-eating camel". The fact is that Khomeiny said those words when he was a refugee in France, at Nauphle-le-Chateau.
Reciprocity, Anyone?

The pope's "apology" is enlightening in this respect; the media, having used his words out of context (no surprise here), are now misquoting him.

He essentially said that he was "saddened (not sorry) by the reaction". More like a Jesuit lecturer who is berating his students in a passive/agressive mode.

This debate is not over, it has merely started.

Posted by: Jeha | Sep 18, 2006 3:36:58 PM

Put more dramatically, Christians believe that God gave His own Reason for our sakes that we might become like Him, while Muslims believe that they ought to obey and submit to the will of Allah even if He were to command them to do the most unreasonable things."

Sounds a little bit like Judaism. On my blog and others I've often heard from Jews who believe God wants them to kill Arabs, rob them of their homes, and so on. This isn't a mainstream Jewish idea, thank heavens, but there it is.

Posted by: DovBear | Sep 18, 2006 5:24:49 PM

As to the math dodge you seem to be attempting, there are admittedly a ginormous number of Muslims in the world. Pray tell, what portion of that number would have to act up before you would accept it as a trend and not a statistical aberration? I don't think anyone would argue with the fact that sickle cell anemia is predominantly an African American disease in the US. Yet despite one in 12 American blacks being carriers, less than 70,000 of them actually have the disease. No, I won't let you get away with playing the numbers game. If the disease of political violence is found to predominantly infect people of a specific race or religion... maybe it's safe to associate it with that race or religion. Not very PC, but there it is.

You know me well enough, I think, to know that I have no use for political correctness. What I am insisting on here is accuracy. If the great majority of Muslims don't participate in acts of violence, why suggest that the religion isn't peace-loving? The majority of Jews don't advocate for transfer, for example. So wouldn't you be surprised, and perhaps upset, if you saw a Muslim blog treating MK Eitan's remarks as if he spoke for all of Judaism?

Lastly, I have to ask if you are serious about not having heard a hardcore Muslim say his speech is protected. Much of the outrage we hear from Muslim spokespeople and leaders is a blatant attempt laying claim rights they don't provide to others... with free speech at the top of the list. Think back to any criticism you've ever heard directed at Imams and Ayatollahs who preach violence and hate. The universal response is that the accuser is trying to meddle in religious expression and stifle free speech.

I was serious. I wasn't aware that "hard core Muslims" ever sought refuge in democratic principles. How cynical of them. I thank you for the correction.

Posted by: DovBear | Sep 18, 2006 5:31:02 PM

"Muslims violently protest assertion that Islam is a violent religion"

- Enraged Muslims across the world violently protest the pope's citing of an obscure text that suggests Islam is a violent religion.

lol. rather rich isn't it...

Posted by: Sebastian | Sep 19, 2006 4:27:43 AM

Just remember the Tom Lehrer song "National Brother Week"

"Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews"

And it has come to pass because I have heard on the news this morning that the Jews were accused of making the Pope say what he said.

Posted by: Renee | Sep 19, 2006 4:44:56 AM

Does anybody know if Arabic has a word for irony?

If it does, I suspect it may have gone missing. I cannot find it in my dictionary. And neither, apparently, can they.

Posted by: The Back of the Hill | Sep 19, 2006 5:26:23 AM

Just a correction here -- you interpret Ratzinger incorrectly in the first sentence that you quote when you write:
"In the seventh (sura, or chapter of the Quran)"....

That's not the source of the quotation from the late-Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleogus. The Pope refers to the seventh dialogue in a recent edition of a late-medieval work. Certainly such material would not be found in the Quran!

Meanwhile, while I don't share your point of view otherwise, I suspect that one item in your analysis is correct: that the Pope didn't accidentally drop such a big bomb. Yes, he's fond of bringing obscure (to you and me) citations into his arguments. But he seems quite canny to me, and I very much doubt that such material finds its way into his public speechifying without full consideration.

Posted by: David Pannett | Sep 19, 2006 6:47:01 AM

When I spoke of some of the Moslem reponse as not being unwarranted, I meant what I said. SOME of the Moslem response. There are lots of Moslems who respons in non violent ways.

Posted by: jeffrey smith | Sep 19, 2006 7:04:31 AM

oy...and what's going to happen if the fate of the entire free world rests squarely on the two shoulders of one Pope?...i wrote him a letter in my blog today...i wonder if he'll reply...stay safe

Posted by: marallyn | Sep 19, 2006 10:00:18 AM

I have a picture of you singing Onward Christian Soldiers in my head, in a sort of Michael Landon from Little House on the Prarie kind of way... :-)

I liked Mr. Spengler's comment.

Posted by: nrg | Sep 19, 2006 1:45:51 PM

My friends,it is a great concern to see different men trying to fix history in their own fahion way,the GOD of the bible has a plan for humanity some may question it, or some will think to take the place of GOD on earth,all in all do not forget that He(GOD) the creator is watching and also has his spirit doing his work on earth even when man want to keep silence. The GOD of Abraham call men to pray and to follow him and not to follow man, if the world will do this we will be in better shape, and when we spake use the bible as the word of GOD and not as a school book where you will gather people to see where is it that they will disagree on or use it as a philosophical debate, instead of saying this is the WORD of GOD and not yours or man to argue about it.But then again these are the times where there is more weigh on been political correct(do not say this or call it that)than to obey GOD the creator and not to make a mess of things said or done.
What kind of world you want to live in depends on you,start by praying and be obedient and this is-to the creator.
Who thinks to know more do more!
Who thinks to be great let others see him(GOD)
Read the line

Posted by: jose t. sanchez | Sep 19, 2006 11:43:26 PM

In my generation (I'm 57), children were taught that it was rude to discuss religion or politics in a mixed group, because, obviously, people disagreed on such matters, and such discussions tended to provoke arguments. Such rules have long since gone by the board--now, known public figures go out of their way to offend others and create dissension.

Posted by: Shira Salamone | Sep 20, 2006 3:40:30 AM

The latest Muslim tantrum was really getting me down until I had this thought: The Catholic church and the Muslims have much in common...their hands are stained with Jewish blood.

Could it be that G-d is lining them up like little soldiers...

Posted by: Dina | Sep 20, 2006 10:20:05 AM

Pope vs Muslims: It will not be the first time that enemies of Israel turn against each other.

Posted by: Dina | Sep 20, 2006 10:30:23 AM

Europeans might not have been willing to stand up and take a stand for something as ill-defined as a personal freedom... but they sure as hell feel their backs have been pushed to the wall as their very religious identity comes under attack.

This is a bizarre statement and, if it's accurate, it's a problem.

The statement is bizarre because Europe is only nominally Christian (Catholic). "Their very religious identity" is too emphatic, it seems to me. Europe is similar to Israel, where most of the population is thoroughly secular in its worldview.

But Israel has a very conservative religious minority, and I'm not sure Europe has even that. There are familial ties to the Church, including rites like marriage and infant baptism, but Catholicism isn't the focal point of most people's lives.

If the statement is accurate, it's a terrible problem. It means that our quest for security is turning into a religious war: Christians against Muslims.

I'm not convinced that's what the Pope was aiming to achieve. (And I hope a religious war is not what you're after!) In fact, I don't think Pope Benedict had any strategy at all. I think he was just careless, and now he's scrambling to recover: and you're building castles in the air.

Posted by: Q | Sep 22, 2006 4:22:12 PM

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In