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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Pope meant no disrespect

In the last few last few weeks, since the Pope made his now famous speech, it is with great dismay that I have heard reports in the news that Muslims have again way overreacted in a totally inproportionate manor. In his speech, Pope Benedict XVI quotes a 14th century text, as said by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleogolus when he said "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 whole speech was meant to be taken into context with the rest of the Emperor's speech in which he discussed the relationship between religion and violence with an educated Persian.

The irony in this is that, in their rioting and burning of churches, all they are doing is proving the Emperor right. The way through this crisis is for both sides to sit down and attempt to solve their differences peacefully. The only result stemming from violence is more violence. It is the Muslims who should do the apologizing. Here is an article I think might be interesting.

Local Muslims insulted by pope's choice of quotes
Saturday, September 23, 2006
By Matt Vande Bunte
The Grand Rapids Press

A group of bad guys who happened to be Muslim flew jets into major U.S. buildings and an entire religion became suspect. That's how Ali Metwalli viewed the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and he was frustrated last week to hear an anti-Muslim perspective preached from the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church.

To his ears, it's almost as if Pope Benedict XVI promotes the notion that Islam is a violent religion.

"To have this off-the-cuff remark for a leader who has great weight around the world makes it surprising to me," said Metwalli, chairman of the board of directors at the Islamic Mosque Religious Institute in Grand Rapids. "(The West) basically generalized the behavior of 19 people (on Sept. 11) as if it's a common behavior. It's like the Cold War against Muslims, but it's a hot war right now."

And the holy father of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics may have spilled fuel on the fire with comments last week at a German university. In a lecture on faith and reason, Benedict referred to a 14th-century emperor who wrote "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."

The quotation sparked rage in some parts of the world, with churches burned in Palestinian areas. And many believe it led to the murder of a nun doing mission work in Africa.

Local Muslims said they want a sincere apology for what feels like a slap in the face from a respected world leader. Benedict did say he was "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries" to the quotations that "do not in any way express my personal thought."

"You are taking the prophet of Islam as an illustration. Either you talk in a responsible way about him or you don't talk at all, especially in this sensitive time," said Dr. Khaled Moustafa, a local Muslim. "If he doesn't agree with this (perspective) he should say in the same speech 'I do not agree with this.' Now, he's blaming Muslims that they misunderstood it."

Local Catholic leaders said the comments must be understood as part of an overall message calling for greater religious and cultural dialogue.

"What's offensive to me is that one sentence was taken entirely out of context of the larger speech," said Mary Vaccaro, pastoral associate at the Catholic Information Center who this summer studied Islam and Christian-Muslim relations in an institute for pastoral workers at Georgetown University. "A lot is going to depend on how things are going to be reconciled. I hope that Muslims will be able to look at the whole picture."

At the same time, however, Vaccaro and the Most Rev. Walter A. Hurley questioned why Benedict quoted that particular 14th-century exchange. A board member of the Interfaith Dialogue Association of Grand Rapids called it "inflammatory."

"I have no idea what his intentions were, but I did find it insulting to Islam," said Debbie Mageed, a convert to Islam. "Why was that even in there? It's the same old, same old things that are so untrue."

After getting several inquiries about his thoughts on Benedict's lecture, Noah Seifullah, imam of Masjid Muhammad, a predominantly black mosque in Grand Rapids, wrote a paper and then mailed it to various media outlets because "somewhere along the line somebody has got to stop all the hype."

"I don't see an intent in there to insult Muslims," Seifullah said. "(Benedict) was educating Christians...on how do you have intellectual dialogue."

Seifullah's paper stated that "any sincere seeker of knowledge would find the Pope's remarks historically enlightening and intellectually stimulating."

"His position challenged the understanding of most Christians who, in a manner similar to the emperor, questioned the rational value of what other cultures bring," Seifullah wrote.

Hurley, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, said he called the imam of a Burton Street mosque in the wake of Benedict's comments.

"It certainly illustrates in my mind as a leader that we must be absolutely careful choosing our words so they're not subject to misinterpretation," Hurley said. "Unfortunately, once the words are spoken, it's hard to take them back. We really have to work harder to mend the fences that are broken."


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