It's been more than half a year since the Danish cartoon controversy and it's time for another one.
Benedict XVI was not skipping his history classes: he knows quite a lot and still reads a lot of books. That's why he also knows that Manuel Paleologos II, a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, had once told his Persian friend in the Academia:
- 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.
On Tuesday, the Pope has quoted the emperor during his speech (backup) in Regensburg - not far from the Czech border - and I am sure that his goal was neither to despise the emperor nor to offend someone else: his goal was, first of all,
- to illuminate the Pope's opinions about the relationship between science and religion or - if you will - reason and faith, and
- to explain that the policy of jihad is unreasonable.
If there were reasonable people everywhere, some of us would be discussing the Pope's question whether the Christian God or Allah is restricted by the rational rules, the laws of mathematics, or His own words - well, the first God is and the second one is not - but these ideas are overshadowed by a loud reaction to the emperor's quote above.
You can imagine what such a quote can do in a world with hundreds of millions of simpletons, especially those in the not-entirely-civilized countries. It's a thermonuclear explosive. Thousands of articles can be found on news.google.com.
For example, a lot of anger was created in Turkey - a candidate country to join the European Union. The leading party compares the Pope to Hitler (which, according to a strange reader of this blog, also means a comparison of the Pope with Motl - wow). Why exactly Turkey? Well, it's because Paleologos has had his office in Istanbul, Turkey, which used to be a part of the Christian, Eastern Roman empire before it was occupied by the Ottoman Muslims, shortly after Paleologos' comment. The Turks are the first ones who must know so well why Paleologos' comments quite accurately describe not only the old Mohammed but also the newer developments of his religion.
Jesus Christ was arguably more peaceful than Mohammed but Christianity has seen some violence in the past, too. More importantly, however, these two religions seem to affect reality differently in 2006:
Figure 1: Note that these guys say that jihad is their way; jihad is a hump (critical point) of Islam. I am afraid that they are right. The Pope knows it, too. He is saying the very same thing as they are although he is more sensitive and careful than they are. The difference is that the Pope thinks that jihad is wrong while these guys - like this bloody videobeast in a white suit who calls himself a "researcher" - and hundreds of millions of others think that it is correct. Look how their beautiful women educate their children on TV. Then you have the multicultural liberals who deny any links between the Islam and violence. They deny the facts, the history, as well as the opinions of the emperors, the Pope, and hundreds of millions of real-world Muslims like those on the picture above.
Look how teenagers in India entertain themselves (the fire is a model of the Pope himself). Complete barbarians who remind me of the critics of string theory. ;-) To be sure: there are also reasonable people in India. And don't get me wrong: I sympathize with the believers who protect their firm beliefs - but I just can't support a bestial march of millions of people against one wise old Gentleman who is obviously more cultivated than most of them and whose only "sin" (yes, the Popes can do sins according to the Church's dogmas) was to quote an insightful remark of an emperor.
Even if God is gonna fail to protect the Pope against the unfair mass of opponents, be sure that The Reference Frame won't fail. ;-) I am happy to see that Angela Merkel is on the right side, too.
The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs wants to prove that the statement about the violence being the main Mohammed's contribution is wrong, so the ministry immediately tells everyone that the quote is expected to encourage violence, apparently being unaware that this is another proof that Manuel Paleologos II was right on the money.
The Pakistani parliament approved a resolution unanimously: such unanimous resolutions are testaments of the group polarization and intimidation within such parliaments.
Islamic fanatics far too numerous to be listed here have reacted strongly and wanted the Pope to apologize. They have apparently forgotten that since 1870, the Pope has been infallible. In this crazy world, I must probably remind the Pope about this rule myself. ;-)
I gratefully trust two readers who are informing me that the infallibility only applies to special assertions made "ex cathedra" (from the chair) and the university speech probably didn't satisfy the assumptions. But anyway, I think that my original conclusion is still true:
If you apologize or declare your comments to be an error, you will be screwed, Prof. Ratzinger, and incidentally, the whole Catholic Church may start to collapse. We have already tried a similar experiment here at Harvard with a very similar innocent speech and very similar reactions: it just doesn't work. Add a bodyguard or two instead, cancel the trip to Turkey, and remind Prodi that Iran's missiles can reach Italy. If the Danish cartoons were analogous, it will only take a month for this anger to disappear. And maybe less because the Muslims may be actually learning what the freedom of speech means.
CNN offers speculations that Benedict XVI has confused his present job with the previous job of a professor of theology. I find this comment amusing because professors and universities' presidents are often under the very same attack as pontiffs, if not bigger. ;-)
Finally, I want to say that Manuel Paleologos II probably knew more about the true Mohammed than all Muslim scholars in the present world combined: the reality has been idealized and fogged by many layers of propaganda and fraud - in the name of "sensibilities" of many people who are not sensible at all - and it was partly forgotten. Prof. Ratzinger has studied these things in depth, too, and has written books about Islam, which makes the assertions about his "ignorance" undefendable. And I just believe that it is important to remember the history and it is wrong to build anything on scientifically or historically untrue pillars.
And that's the memo.
Bonus and Saturday additions
You can see that the Pope's (or Manuel's) comments about Mohammed are extremely friendly in comparison with the stern 1899 analysis of Mohammedanists by Winston Churchill or with the medieval Christian legends. You will find voices of many other famous people over there, too.
This was not the first story in which Benedict XVI expressed his skepticism over Islam. In January, it was revealed that the Pope thinks that Islam is incapable of reform. No one got upset because these limited people only get upset if someone else tells them that they should get angry. Prof. Ratzinger has been a well-known enemy of jihad for years.
On Saturday, a cleric in Somalia ordered the Muslims to hunt down and kill the Pope.
- Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,
Mr. Malin, a prominent cleric, said, defending his religion of peace truly energetically. The average IQ in Somalia is 68 which technically makes most of the people either morons or imbeciles but Somalia is not quite an exception. Two West Bank churches were hit by firebombs; update: five churches in Palestine. One of numerous Mujahideen's Armies with a website has promised to destroy a cross in Rome, probably with the rest of the city, to punish the Zionized Christians and loathsome crusaders. This reads almost like Not Even Wrong. ;-)
Meanwhile, the Holy Father is extremely pissed off or extremely sorry - depending on the translation and interpretation - by the reaction. And I understand him very well. Some Muslims like the British ones have interpreted the papal state of being pissed off as an apology: if it helps them psychologically to believe that the Pope has apologized, why not? ;-)
The New York Times shame
In their anti-papal rant sold as an editorial, The New York Times have joined the tribes that have called for a "deep and persuasive apology" from a Pope who "sows pain" which is "tragic and dangerous". I would have some appreciation for such journalists if they were at risk that they would be burned at stake for their blasphemy against the Holy Father. But this is not how the Western world works in 2006.
Today, they're just parasites who are completely safe and who want to sell their cheap diatribes and they figuratively resemble hooligans who, together with a gang of wild monkeys, penetrate into a senior house to rape someone and because they don't see any goat to marry, they happen to choose a 79-year-old accomplished pianist and ex-professor who speaks 10 languages.
The New York Times editors should be ashamed but I am not gonna demand apologies because my attitude to the truth dramatically differs from the attitude of the Islamist and New York Times-like PC militias who apparently think that if they force someone to say something or accept a belief, it changes the truth. My opinion happens to be rather close to Prof. Ratzinger - which is the right term to describe the man who spoke in Regensburg - who thinks that the arguments and the good will are the things that matter.
Moreover I am not backed by thousands of terrorists who would help me to force the editors to apologize, so it is my pragmatic decision to give up. ;-)
The sword and a forced apology don't change anything about the truth, dear Al-Qaeda, feminists, the New York Times, and other fellow citizens who build their beliefs on tabboos, lies, violence, and intimidation. Both the terrorists and the editors would be much better off if they tried to learn something from the wise Gentleman's speech instead of piling hysterical attacks against him based on a misinterpretation of individual words from the Pope's speech, a speech that neither the terrorists nor the editors understand.
And that's my second memo. ;-)