Leave it to the main stream news media to editorialize about the necessity for religions to confront one another in the timber box times we now live in. With the nation’s first black president who many in American society want to delegitimize because of his color, his origin or his ethnicity, the editorial which appears here in the New York Times is just one more attempt to kill two birds with one stone; the black president many wish they never had and the menacing Islam which many think he, Obama, represents.
One should come to expect the type of bombast which fills Ross Douthat’s editorial; after all the New York Times hasn’t been known for being very accurate here lately, with all their false articles about WMDs and its reporters cavorting with government officials while engaged in outing covert agents of various intelligence agencies. It comes as no surprise to me therefore that the Times has printed such inflammatory statements about Islam and it’s coexistence with the aspirations of an hegemonical Pope Benedict like, “in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.” (I never thought Islam was out for the count or dying? How can it therefore be ‘resurgent’?) Or this quote, “Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 message in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.” (Does Douthat think the confrontation should extend to the shores of America too?) Why Benedict, at least according to Douthat, wants to pick a fight with Islam is beyond me. Maybe it’s because Europe sees itself threatened by the existence of Muslims in its midst and wants to expell them much like they did in the 15th century with its pogroms against Muslims they expelled from Spain. In some way I would hope a parallel can be drawn sothat a papal inspired Europe could understand the frustration Palestinians feel about having an alien force on their soil whose compatibility is different from their own, but I don’t think that’s going to happen because frankly Europe, like America, is fine tuned for war and confrontation, to use the editorial’s word(s) and there’s is very little else, like empathy or understanding or even peace for that matter, that they are interested in. It pains me to see a religious figure dial into the lustful emotion of hate and distrust the way this Pope has. I am reminded of his meeting with GWB and wonder if they two didn’t share a scriptural text or two to talk about their worldly ambitions; after all, it is this perfect dichotomy between the Church and temporal power that allows them to say to one another, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ isn’t it? Glen Greenwald does a pretty good job of dissecting Douthat’s editorial on a political level here.
What interests me however is the benign reaction the Muslim world has exhibited toward Benedict’s remarks, which some Muslims took offense to because of the defamation of the Prophet, alluded to in the Douthat editorial. You can read the official Muslim response here where a certain group of scholars extended every olive branch there is to the Pope who is being encouraged by his parishioners the likes of Douthat to “confront” Muslims in order to gain Anglican converts. The Muslim response linked to above contains over 50 references to the word “love” in describing their relationship to God and their fellow man and several references the need for “peace” between the different groups of the world. I would think a thoughtful, considerate and judicious clergyman would want to inspire and encourage such sentiments among members of another faith, not incite or aggravate their opposites. In an extraordinary attempt at conciliation meant to allay already heightened fears, concerns, paranoia on the part of papal Christendom, the Muslim reply to Benedict begins thus
Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population.
Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no
meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between
Muslims and Christians.
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very
foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.
These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and
Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of
the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.
and remains consistently conciliatory throughout. Nowhere in the Muslim response is their any attempt to touch on the hot button issues that are usually brought up in discussions between Muslims and non Muslims. Doing so would be distracting at best and tend to feed the appetite of any already hungry desire for war between the two faiths. Instead these “scholars” appear to want to emphasize a common ground that can support a foundation of understanding and mutual respect. I wish that had been the tone of Douthat’s editorial and not the one that seems to encourage Benedict to go down the road of his predecessors whose hands have stained the annals of history with the blood of their religious conquests, read murder, of European Muslims. However, such is the tone of main stream media and the New York Times these days, which is known for reporters who have told Muslims, ‘suck on this’.