19 September 2006

Warmed-Over Eggs (on Face) Benedict

Anne Applebaum has an excellent column in this morning's Washington Post concerning the violent Islamic reaction to the Pope's outrageous suggestion that Islam condones violence:
. . . . I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech -- surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts -- and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns.

. . . .

[N]othing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it's time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to "hate" Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn't the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain's chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them -- simultaneously?

Maybe it's a pipe dream . . . . But if stray comments by Western leaders -- not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values -- are going to inspire regular violence, I don't feel that it's asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don't see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.
The New Republic's Jacob Levy has also weighed-in on the controversy, suggesting that not only was the Pope not in the wrong but that he should be expected to go this far and further in defense of his theological views:

I don't expect Catholics to take their theology less seriously than Muslims do; I certainly don't expect the Pope to take his theology anything less than wholly seriously. And what is a Catholic, committed to the truth of Catholicism, to think of Mohammed's additions to and transformations of the Christian bible? What is a theologically serious Catholic to think about "what Mohammed brought that was new"? At a minimum he or she will think it false--and, because false, evil in distracting religious believers from an all-important truth. And, since Mohammed's additions were not limited to a different understanding of Jesus and Mary but also included different understandings of conduct on earth, of government and laws and codes of behavior, the theologically-serious believing Catholic can be expected to think that the additions are morally bad for persons on earth, independent of the falsehood of the claims about God. And, since Christians (and Jews) are theologically committed to seeing Mohammed as a false prophet, they're hardly likely to feel themselves obliged to offer him the same respect and reverence as those for whom Mohammed's status as a prophet is central to their declaration of faith do.

Neither do I expect Muslim clerics to take their theology less than seriously, or to pay those who stand in the apostolic succession the same respect that believing Catholics do! And I would find it very odd, a category mistake, for the Pope to insist on apologies from every Muslim cleric who describes Christianity or Catholicism as false, evil, or likely to lead humans into sin.

I agree, as does Stuart Buck. Brad DeLong and Professor Eric Muller disagree. If you also disagree, perhaps the Pope will apologize to you, too; just burn something to get his attention.

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