As this article is being published ignorant Muslims in many parts of the world are burning churches and threatening Christians as a reaction to a speech made by Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg University in Germany. The Pope’s speech, titled “Faith, Reason and the University. Memories and Reflections” was prepared as an interdisciplinary, academic exercise to faculty and students at the beginning of the academic year. The speech is a rigorous academic document that must have taken many hours to prepare. The text of the speech is 3,700 words and 8 pages long. It is not easy reading. The complete text of the speech can be found at:
In the speech the Pope refers to a dialogue between Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian regarding Islam and Christianity and the truth of both. During the dialog, held in 1391 in a barracks near Ankara, Turkey, the issue of the relationship between religion and violence was discussed. At one point the emperor says to his Persian friend, “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.”
These 32 words in a 3,700 word speech, an historical account of a conversation between two individuals 616 years ago, were blasted around the world by the media and were characterized by so-called Muslim scholars and ignorant Muslim masses as an assault on Islam by Christians, despite the fact that the speech had not been translated into Arabic, the full text of the speech had not been released, and no one had read the speech in its entirety.
The message of the entire speech, if one were to actually sit down and read it, is that the Western world and Christians, in particular, need to emulate their Islamic brothers and sisters by tempering their scientific reason with the teachings of God. The speech delivered a criticism of the concept of “reason” as it has evolved in the West since the Enlightenment. The Pope was pointing out how the western world, including the Catholic Church, has become too secularized, removing the spiritual dimension from the concept of reason. The Pope’s thoughts mimic what Muslims say about the secularized world, that the west has science and technology, but that we have marginalized the spirituality of our existence.
The speech was not a criticism of Islam, but did suggest that doing away with violence would bring about a dialogue between Christians and Muslims that would make the world a far better place. The Pope proposed a universal dialogue open to people of all religions as a conduit based on a broader, and more spiritual definition of reason.
The violence, killings, and attacks on Christian churches stirred up by uninformed Muslims in reaction to the Pope’s speech is eerily reminiscent of the deaths and destruction a few months ago as a result of a cartoon image drawn by a Danish editorial cartoonist. The stupid actions of these ignorant Muslims and some of their leaders serves only to discredit Islam. Using violence to make the point that the west is falsely accusing Islam of being a religion of violence only reinforces in the minds of westerners that Islam must indeed be a religion of violence!
Muslim leaders and scholars who have criticized the Pope’s academic treatise at Regensburg should try a new approach. First, they should not react to any speech until they have read it in its entirety. Second, they should not let the mass media manipulate their scholarly views. Finally, even if the speech (or cartoon, or whatever else offends them) is critical to Islam, they should publicly urge their followers to resort to dialogue rather than violence. If they stay the present course, to allow violence and street protest to grow, Islam will spiral downward and crash upon itself.
Today, Sunday September 17, 2006, the Pope apologized to the Muslim world, for any misunderstanding and hurt that his comments might have caused. He did not apologize for the content of his speech, nor should he do so.