Pope's remarks on Islam

Don't really have a proper commentary on this, but it seems that the recent incident of Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam is a positive demonstration of how we should handle matters that arise now and then in the public sphere. Bro. Micheal Broughton gave a very lucid and exemplary interview to the CatholicNews, which was reprinted by the TODAY newspaper. The CatholicNews should also be commended for coming out very quickly with a full spread of articles relating to the matter, the interview of course, as well as the Pope's full speech. Best of all, the archibishop issued a public statement, read at all churches, stating publicly our sincerity and apology. In my view, this whole affair was dealt with promptly, appropriately, gracefully, professionally. Well done. Let's pray that future affairs may be handled as such.

In fact, the pope's words seem to reflect a growing need for us to engage the public sphere, i.e. the rest of the word. His invitation to Muslim leaders, but more so his very initial words show that he is not afraid to speak out and take a stand on issues. Thus, there is a need for us to not shy away from the media but to learn how to use it effectively to engage others.

The pope's remarks are controversial, but thought-provoking. Fundamentally, it is a call to reason, or rather, a call to connect our faith and reason. Indeed, it is my belief that a lot of the worlds ills are caused by today's faithful disregarding reason, and today's thinkers disregarding faith. This is a rather deep point that maybe some of us can reflect upon. Have you thought and understood enough about your faith and the world?


Anonymous said...

This story was printed from TODAYonline

Pope's lesson for local Catholics

Muslim reaction is understandable; let's apologise, explain, says S'pore Brother

Weekend • September 23, 2006

In the aftermath of Pope Benedict's speech, clarification and apology, there are questions that trouble many Catholics here. CatholicNews, the official newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, asked Brother Michael Broughton for his thoughts on some of these questions.

Brother Michael is a Catholic representative to the Inter-Religious Organisations of Singapore (IRO). He is also the area director of the De La Salle Brothers, deputy principal of St Joseph's Institution and Brother President of SJI International.

Did the pope make a mistake in using the illustration that led to the adverse reaction among Muslims?

Yes, even the Holy Father himself has come to realise that what he said has led to negative reactions that he had never intended. In the present climate in which many Muslims the world over are made to feel the target of the world's suspicion and negative attention, any such illustration would be read by sensitive Muslims as being yet another attack on Islam, especially since the one using this illustration is a prominent and respected Christian leader, the pope.

Is the Muslim reaction understandable or justifiable?

The Muslim reaction is understandable, given the present climate; it is also understandable that many Muslims feel justified in demanding an immediate apology and retraction of that particular 16th century statement by a Byzantine emperor as well.

For more level-headed Muslims who know the actual context of the speech and the good record of Catholic relations with Islam — especially these past 40 years — the present criticism of the pope and the church is an over-reaction.

As Catholics, we ourselves must confess that many of us have not read the pope's full speech which began this controversy; so how can we expect Muslims to have done so?

Is the pope's apology necessary? If it is, is it sufficient?

It is always polite to apologise after a misunderstanding. In that sense an apology is necessary. Some will see complete sincerity in the pope's apology and find it sufficient while others, no matter what he says, will view any regret on his part as insincere and too late to repair the damage done.

Many Muslim leaders and scholars share the sentiments of Imam Habib Hassan of the Ba'alwi mosque in Singapore when he says: "The pope has already apologised. The matter is over. We should all learn from it and move on."

Honestly speaking, this incident can be viewed as yet another window of opportunity to enter into dialogue as we sincerely try to explain our positions.

How has this incident affected Christian-Muslim relations in Singapore?

Muslims in Singapore generally do not overreact to such incidents, usually waiting for the initial storm to subside and for their imams and uztaz to make reference to these incidents in their teaching or preaching. Singapore has inter-religious bodies like the IRO which naturally becomes a channel of communication between the leaders of one religion and the leaders of another when such a need arises.

As Ameerali Abdeali, a Muslim representative on the IRO, said: "We have built up over the years a friendship and trust that facilitates such communication and we shall continue to nurture this relationship between our religions."

Following this incident, has any step been taken or is being planned for Christian-Muslim relations in Singapore?

There has been no direct approach yet to the Catholic representatives on the IRO as regards this matter.

We are ready to enter into dialogue and listen and explain our pope's statement in the context in which it was used.

All Catholics should be prepared to imitate the example of our spiritual leader and humbly apologise and express the pope's regret that his illustration should have caused such upset among Muslims, something that was never his intent.

Anonymous said...

Faith, riots and (un)reason

Threatening the Pope or Salman Rushdie with death is just a way of avoiding reality

Wednesday • September 27, 2006

Irfan Husain
• News Comment

I HAVE a theory about riots: Those out on the streets often don't have a clear idea what they're rioting about. And invariably, they have a lot of time on their hands.

After all, how often do you find an employed person asking for leave to join the demo of the day? But when you have time to kill, you'll join any crowd that's out to protest, no matter what the cause.

When Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses inflamed parts of the Muslim world, how many people demonstrating had actually read the book?

I didn't either, but it wasn't for lack of trying: Struggling manfully, I ploughed through the first hundred pages before admitting defeat.

So, I never actually read the passages that gave rise to the famous fatwa. But I doubt very much if the people who rioted even saw the book.

The same is true for those now up in arms about the Pope's address at the University of Regensburg.

I have printed out the speech, and must confess that it's heavy going. The offending section is a tiny part of the paper, and it remains a mystery why Pope Benedict needed such an obscure quotation in his discussion of faith and reason.

Having said that, he has addressed an issue that needs to be debated: How should believers reconcile their faith with the dictates of reason? According to him, modern Christianity has bridged the gap, while Islam has not.

We can debate his conclusion, and criticise his choice of supporting material, but we can hardly deny his right to hold an opinion.

When some Muslims demonstrated their opposition to his views, many carried placards threatening the Pope with death. It seems that some Muslims' stock response to the slightest provocation consists of death threats and violent demonstrations.

These undignified protests reinforce the worst prejudices others have about some Muslims. After all, why should some cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper, or a papal address at an unknown German university, send hundreds of thousands pouring into streets around the world?

When we were children, when somebody said anything offensive, we would chant: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

As we grew older, we learned that some words are deadlier than any stick or stone, festering long after bruises and wounds have healed. But, we were also taught to be stoical, and not to complain.

In a letter to the Guardian of Sept 20, San Cassimally of Edinburgh wrote: "As a Muslim, I am much more saddened and shocked by the murder of the Somali nun than by what the Pope said in Regensburg ... even if he knew exactly what he was doing."

I would add that I am far more horrified by the endless Muslim-on-Muslim killing going on in Iraq than by anything the pontiff could possibly say.

According to United Nations estimates, an average of a hundred Iraqis are being killed every day, almost invariably by other Iraqis. And all too often, many of the victims are tortured to death.

When Israel killed a thousand Lebanese civilians in a month of senseless bombing, Muslims (and others with a conscience) around the world were rightly incensed. But approximately the same number of Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every 10 days in Iraq, and there is no protest anywhere.

Before the invasion of Iraq, when Saddam Hussein tortured and gassed his own people with impunity, I do not recall any Muslims condemning him publicly.

Applying these same double standards, when Nato forces accidentally kill Afghans, we are furious. But when the Taliban kill innocent Afghans in suicide bombings, and assassinate teachers for teaching girls, we look the other way.

This kind of moral inconsistency is reflected in the treatment non-Muslims generally get in Muslim countries.

For instance, while the 300,000 Iraqi Christians were treated as equal citizens in Saddam's secular regime, two-thirds of them have fled the increasingly-Islamic nature of the present government.

Saudi Arabia, while funding Wahabi mosques across the West, refuses to permit non-Muslims to build their places of worship on its soil.

I am often asked why Muslims in Pakistan get so worked up about Bosnia, Chechnya and Palestine.

I try and explain in terms of the ummah, and the feeling of connectedness between, say, Indonesian Muslims and Turkish Muslims. But I fear this is only a small part of the real answer.

The truth is that the problems we face in much of the Muslim world are often so intractable that we escape reality by looking abroad.

Matters like poverty, disease, political instability and institutional meltdown are too difficult to be tackled by the inefficient and corrupt elites much of the Muslim world is cursed with. To deflect blame, they fulminate against the West for its perceived anti-Islamic attitudes.

It is this mindless, knee-jerk anti-West sentiment that sustains the jihadi groups, and is now propelling us to a very real "clash of civilisations".

As Islam becomes more heavily-politicised, it is evoking a strong reaction in the West. More and more, the Muslims who have migrated to Europe and America, as well as their children, are being seen as a fifth column.

The sight of perpetually-angry Muslims from London to Lahore, marching with placards calling for the death of somebody or the other, is moving normally liberal people to anger.

For me, the really worrying part of the Pope's address was his demand for the subordination of reason to theology: "Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought; to philosophy and theology."

Sorry, but I'm not buying this. This is precisely why I don't think faith and reason can ever be reconciled.

The writer is a columnist for Dawn,

a widely-circulated English-language

newspaper in Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Extract from a WSJ Editorial that was on WDTPRS...

In Christianity, God is inseparable from reason. "In the beginning was the Word," the pope quotes from the Gospel according to John. "God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word," he explained. "The inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of history of religions, but also from that of world history. . . . This convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe."

The question raised by the pope is whether this convergence has taken place in Islam as well. He quotes the Lebanese Catholic theologist Theodore Khoury, who said that "for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent, his will is not bound up with any of our categories." If this is true, can there be dialogue at all between Islam and the West? For the pope, the precondition for any meaningful interfaith discussions is a religion tempered by reason: "It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures," he concluded.

This is not an invitation to the usual feel-good interfaith round-tables. It is a request for dialogue with one condition—that everyone at the table reject the irrationality of religiously motivated violence. The pope isn’t condemning Islam; he is inviting it to join rather than reject the modern world. By their reaction to the pope’s speech, some Muslim leaders showed again that Islam has a problem with modernity that is going to have to be solved by a debate within Islam. The day Muslims condemn Islamic terror with the same vehemence they condemn those who criticize Islam, an attempt at dialogue—and at improving relations between the Western and Islamic worlds—can begin.


Anonymous said...

Extract from the London Times...

..Yet it would be wrong to censor a pope who has pondered the future of faith and reserves disdain for rationalists whom he confronts in his conclusion: “In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion to the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.”

Both Christianity and Islam aspire to the divine and they share a theology that is contemptuous of mindless materialism and crass consumerism. This Pope is not “relegating religion” and he is tweaking the tail of the rationalists, which provides no excuse, no justification, no cause for the spiritual to be irrational. Christianity and Islam have rarely sat easily together; but tolerance must not be deliberately destroyed by the intolerant.