"Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things."I suppose it's futile to point out that the Pope has been quoted out of context - because for the Islamists, quoting things out of context is their stock and trade. Ratzinger described the emperor's remarks as 'startlingly brusque' in the context of a section about violence in religion, which in turn was a small part of a wider discourse about religion and rationality.
The Guardian reports that an "influential Iranian cleric" has described the Pope's remarks as "absurd" and that it showed he knew little about religion. While I've no doubt these are a true reflection of his heart-felt views, if he thought otherwise he wouldn't be able to say so, would he?
Those that are burning things tonight are behaving like spoilt children. From a secular point of view I didn't agree with everything the Pope said myself, although his reflections on the philosophical implications of the notion of sola scriptura made me think - a rare thing in Legoland.
And it's this quality in what the Pope said that should be defended. At the close of his speech he said:
"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."It wouldn't be this task of the university - to join the general conversation of mankind - that the Islamists are afraid of, would it?
No doubt the usual 'liberals' will, in that special pained sort of way they have, 'regret' the insensitivity of the Pope's remarks. In anticipation of this I can only insist on the following. We are not talking about a few infantile cartoons being published in a provincial European newspaper now, this shifts it to fundamentals: you either believe in free speech or you do not; you either believe in academic and intellectual freedom or you do not; and you either believe in the freedom of religion or you do not. And if you chose the censorious path, let's hear a respectable intellectual argument that does not rest solely on accusations of racism. Oh, and don't call yourself a liberal - don't you dare.
[Cross-posted on DSTPFW]