Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Pope on Islam

A good friend of mine has been having something of an exchange with Michael Ledeen and others on the Corner (there are more posts on Alykhan's blog). Essentially their debate is turning on whether the quote chosen by the Pope should necessarily be offensive given its context and source and whether or not it is correct. I think this is kind of missing the point.

The real question has to be why, of all the quotes in the world, the Pope chose to use that one. If I were to look for an example of the religious arguing that the will of God is not subject to reason I would have chosen this one. Of course, that might be a little beneath the Holy Father but surely he could have come up with some other example over the last millenium?

I'm not saying it should be necessary for him to avoid the topic of Islam and violence. I'm not saying that the Muslim world is right to be throwing such a tiz. My best guess is that it is a ridiculous generalisation to call it a religion of peace or war. However, I find the idea that the Pope, when looking for an example of religious people with a dislike of reason, would leap straight to a 14th-15th century quote about Islam and holy war entirely at random ridiculous. This must have been a conscious choice to focus on the provocative question, for the head of the Catholic church more than anyone, of Islam's irrationality as well as his broader topic and it is entirely legitimate for Alykhan to question this choice.

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