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News.com.au - Blow to Islam's claim of tolerance

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Blow to Islam's claim of tolerance by

September 18, 2006

From: The Daily Telegraph

THERE is a huge element of self-defeat in the attacks by Muslim leaders, both here and abroad, on Pope Benedict XVI and his discourse last week on the nature of God.

Already several churches, none of them Catholic, have been violated and an effigy of the Pope burnt by outraged Muslims as well as the usual demands for retractions and apologies.

There has not, however, been any serious discussion of his remarks by anyone of any stature in the Islamic world. Therein lies the nub of the conflict between the spiritual leaders of much of the Muslim world and those who uphold such clear Western values as freedom of speech and intellectual inquiry.

The Pope, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, is a serious scholar of renown and his remarks deserve to be accorded full respect and examined with intellectual honesty. As the world learned from the faux scandal over the Danish cartoons, there is a sparsity of both traits among those whose sole desire is to inflame tensions between global Islam and the West.

In his remarks, the Pope made it abundantly clear he was quoting from a conversation between the 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a scholarly Persian on the nature of Christianity and Islam.

The emperor touched on the theme of jihad (holy war) and a particular reference in the Koran (2:256) still quoted frequently by Muslims to argue there is no compulsion in religion.

However, the emperor, who was aware of the nature of other verses which justified jihad, then rather bluntly asked about the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "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 Pope told his audience the emperor detailed the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable and that was the essence of his address. He quoted the emperor as saying: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

It is not un-Christian to make such an obvious statement, as some have claimed, and those fanning the outrage only dishonour those who claim that Islam is the religion of tolerance

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