Pope Benedict's "Jihad"

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(The Pope needs to issue a real apology).

Anyone who read the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s hate speech delivered last week at the University of Regensburg, knows that there is considerable cause for alarm, given his caustic comments about Islam. In part, he said:

“Show me just what Muhammad 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… Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 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…

“It is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."
Certainly, his incendiary suggestion that Muhammad was “only evil and inhuman� was irresponsible, unless deliberately intended to trigger Christian animosity towards Muslims, and vice-versa. After all, he already was aware of what happened a year ago when a cartoonist drew a picture of the Prophet with a bomb tucked in his turban.
That caricature sparked riots and boycotts worldwide. So, what could the Pontiff possibly think the reaction would be when he totally trashed Muhammad? A crusade? A jihad? World War III? Don’t think for a minute that the Pope’s words were a simple slip of the tongue either, because he was reading from an annotated, well-researched, carefully-prepared, papal script.

Furthermore, as every devout Catholic knows, the Pope is infallible. Faithful followers believe that he cannot err in matters of faith and morals, and a talk condemning another religion as wicked undoubtedly qualifies. In the wake of Muslim outrage over the lecture, the Church issued a press release stating that the Holy Father “sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful, and should have been interpreted in a manner that in no way corresponds to his intentions.�

Unfortunately, this half-hearted apology never specifically retracts the offensive language, which caused the uproar in the first place. Instead, it blames Muslims by suggesting that they might have misinterpreted his meaning. Plus, it states that they revere Jesus as a prophet, and that, “They also honour Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion.� That disingenuous double-talk does not bear any resemblance to a sincere beg for forgiveness.

If the Pope is truly remorseful for his divisive diatribe, then he needs to say so himself, and in a very public manner, preferably from the Vatican pulpit overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Until then, I would not blame Muslims for remaining concerned about the true motives behind a speech, which patently appealed to Europeans’ deeply ingrained inclination towards racism and religious chauvinism, especially when it was delivered in Germany, a country with such a checkered record when it comes to tolerance.

Black Star columnist and movie reviewer Williams is an attorney and a member of the bar in NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars.

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