POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Logic and the Pope's statements on Islam

A friend writes this to me regarding the recent statements made by Pope Benedict in relation to Islam...

So Pope Benedict states a historical fact, that Islam was spread at the point of a sword, and the Muslim community asks that he apologize...a bad start, but let's go on.  To show the full brunt of their outrage at someone willing to state the truth, they bomb a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza.  AHA!  See, we're not violent; we're so non-violent that we blow things up when you suggest that we are violent!

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) would be ashamed of such logic.  After reading the NY Times article something very odd indeed stands out.  Indeed, the only harm that has been done is to hurt someone's feelings with some rather innocous statements.  But to read the reaction, and the fear heard in the journalism, you would think that a bunch of people might get killed because someone's feelings were hurt. Why?  Especially when Haken al-Mutairi, the leader of the of the Islamic Nation Party in Kuwait, says the following about Islam:

I call on all Arab and Islamic states to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican and expel those from the Vatican until the pope says he is sorry for the wrong done to the prophet and to Islam, which preaches peace, tolerance, justice and equality.

If people of Islam are about peace and tolerance, why does everyone freak out when some says "Mohammed taught to spread Islam by the sword."  What does the secular West want - to deny history and pander to a tolerant, peaceful people by not saying things which may hurt someone's feelings?  Bizarre.  The truth is that stuff is already being blown up, threatened, and the bee hive of peace is buzzing.  Another quote from the Times is revelatory:

In Pakistan, Muslim leaders and scholars said that Benedict’s words widened the gap between Islam and Christianity, and risked what one official called greater “disharmony.”

What is "disharmony" a code word for?  Finally, the illogic of all this is clearly displayed by a newspaper from Morroco:

The paper also drew a comparison between the pope’s remarks and the outcry in the Muslim world over unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published around Europe beginning last year.

“The global outcry over the calamitous cartoons have only just died down and now the pontiff, in all his holiness, is launching an attack against Islam,” the newspaper wrote.

The first outrage was the drawing of cartoons, which led to bombs and death threats.  But, wait, we just don't understand, the prophet is sacred to Muslims, they have every right to issue death threats and bombs if cartoons are drawn of him.  If we only understood Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, people would not draw cartoons that "make" people violent and intolerant.  And Benedicts response, is described in the language of war, "He is launching an attack against Islam" - no, the only attacks being launched at these words are by the faithful and peaceful whose feelings the secular west is so terrified of hurting. 

The Pope's remarks I have pulled for you here:

In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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 emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

For the full text of the Pope's speech, you can go here.