On September 12th 2006, Pope Benedict xvi delivered a speech to scientists at Regensberg University where he was professor and vice rector from 1959 to 1971. If one were to read the speech in its entirety one would not interpret it as being anti-Islam. After all, the Pope had quoted the opinion of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. He did not express any opinion on the statement made. He used the opinion as an anecdote – a historical occurrence. True, it was not sympathetic to Islam, but then again one must judge the anecdote in the context of the speech that was not anti-Islam at all. If anything, the speech was conciliatory towards all faiths.
This was not the main point of the speech anyway. The Pope made the point that conversion by force to the ways of God is not desirable and is against religious preaching of all faiths.
What happened after the speech was a tremendous reaction by Muslim communities all over the world. They viewed the anecdote as a condemnation and an insult to their faith. The hysteria resulting from the speech caused many extremist Muslims to demonstrate and burn churches as a protest. The Pope had no alternative but to issue an apology to the world Muslim community for using the historical anecdote that in practice turned out to be a “hysterical” anecdote.
This incident illustrates the irrational attitude of many Muslim leaders that provoke violence. Why are Muslim clerics so quick on the defensive when they feel that the Pope had insulted their faith? Where were the Muslim clerics when Muslim terrorists carried out terror attacks in various parts of the world? Their voices were silent! They never condemned terror against innocent people. Examples of Islamist terror have occurred so often that one cannot in all honesty claim that Islamist terror is not a threat to the world. This being so, the conclusion that any reasonable person who views Islam objectively, is that Islam is not strong in its condemnation of terror against innocent people. Many of their clerics have made statements supporting terror for spreading the “holy word by the sword.”
Many people rationalize Islamist terror and try to justify it. I wonder if they would have the same rationalization if they, themselves, lost dear ones in an Islamist terror attack!