Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why the Pope is Right - Part II, The Media

Judging from the reporting in the media on the aftermath of the Pope's comments about faith and violence which included comments about violence in Islam, you would think that the media more than Muslims wants an apology from the Pope. It seems as if the media is joining "the Muslim World" in demanding an apology from the Pope and since its not getting one and is not going to get one it has made up one where there is none.

For two days I have surveyed the mayor news outlets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and most of the headlines are attributing the Pope an apology he hasn't given and most likely won't give. Invariably they have translated the fact the Pope feels sad and sorry for the reaction of some Muslims to his words as the same as being sorry for what he said.

This Pope is a very intelligent man and he knew his words would have an effect as they have. He has illustrated the problem he wants to address by letting the fanatical Muslims illustrate it for him with their behavior. The Pope's address is meant for moderate Muslims. His words are to the effect that this is not the first time in history that the world faces the sword of Islam. He also makes the difference that the common love for God that Muslims have with other religions doesn't have to be trapped in the cultural times of Muhammad or of today. In other occasions this Pope has recognized good values in Islam and its practitioners.

Besides exposing the fanatics, the Pope is seeking a cultural dialogue, neither an ecumenical dialogue nor an interfaith dialogue. An ecumenical dialogue is truly only possible with other Christians. And although an interfaith dialogue can happen with other faiths, like Buddhism and Islam, interfaith dialogue is most fruitful with Judaism because it is the roots of Christianity and because we share saints, traditions and one basic faith and promise.

His words will spark more debate between Muslims than between Muslims and Christians. And this is precisely what this Pope is all about in his ministry to these times. Pope John Paul II faced a different world, one that was framed by the Cold War and the threat of atheistic Communism. There was a need for people of faith to unite before a common threat to religious freedom. Pope Benedict XVI faces a post-9/11 world where religious fanaticism threatens religious freedom.

In his recent lecture the Pope, as in other occasions, calls for a "clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come." Pope Benedict XVI sees Islam as a religion that is open to God and the violent trends in it as a matter of history. So his call to responsible Muslims is to reject those aspects that have to do more with human historical conditioning than with God's calling. And he is mostly concerned with mutual reciprocity in freedom of religion, especially in Muslim regions of the world where The Bible and the practice of Christianity is forbidden while Muslims throughout the Western world are allowed to freely practice their faith.

Judging from past coverage it looks like some in the media want an apology from the Pope to diminish his moral authority. The Pope has only said he laments the reaction of some Muslims but not what he said. And according to The Associated Press at least one Muslim spokesman interprets it correctly, "In Turkey, State Minister Mehmet Aydin said the pope appeared to be saying he was sorry for the angry reaction but not the remarks themselves.’ You either have to say this 'I'm sorry' in a proper way or not say it at all,' he told reporters in Istanbul, 'Are you sorry for saying such a thing or because of its consequences?'" Apparently, some people want to put the Pope through the same endless weeks of apologies they expect from politicians, especially conservative ones, went they commit a slip of the tongue.

These same group in the media has already given us a spin that the Pope has apologized. The proper translation of the word the Pope used in his statement "rammaricato" really means "lament", again for the reactions taken out of context, not for the truth contained in them. One can say to anyone, "It saddens me you feel offended by what I have said but what I'm saying is the truth." This is what the Pope has done.

But who do some in the media want to put through the grinder of serial apologies? They do not want an apology from Benedict XVI they want to catch Ratzinger, that's who. The New York Times editorially expressed this attitude very well: "A doctrinal conservative, his greatest fear appears to be the loss of a uniform Catholic identity, not exactly the best jumping-off point for tolerance or interfaith dialogue. The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal." The New York Times confuses tolerance with pusillanimous agreement and interfaith dialogue with politically correct capitulation.

I do not expect the Pope to apologize for what he said, which is not the quote he used in his lecture as illustration of the attitude he is addressing in contemporary radical Islam, that violence in the name of God is irrational and goes against God. I think it will be too much to expect the media to expand on the Pope’s explanation that his lecture "in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect", not the superficial getting along that today passes for interfaith dialogue.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Why the Pope is Right

Jews, Buddhists and Christians in the U.S. whether Catholic, Protestants or Eastern, we live in a pluralistic and free society. We live and accept the right of everyone to practice the religion of their choice regardless of our thoughts and feelings about other religions.

Recent comments made by Pope Benedict XVI, "Show me just what Muhammad 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" challenged the very historical foundations of Islam. The comments were not his, though. He was quoting an ancient text during an academic lecture titled “Faith, reason and the university.”

Muslims are offended. Or more accurately some Muslims are offended. Which Muslims? A spokeswoman for the Pakistani Parliament, which issued a condemnation of the Pope words and demands an apology, that's one. Many other Muslim "representatives" have also expressed outrage at the comments by Benedict XVI. And experience should tell us that those who went on a worldwide killing and rioting campaign about some cartoons are also offended.

The point the Pope made is that use of violence in the name of God is irrational. And yet this so-called Muslim leaders show the Pope right. Instead of reacting intellectually to the challenge, as giving a reason for the truth of their faith, they react irrationally. Multiculturalists in the West are reacting the same way. The Pope is insensitive they say.

Out of civil tolerance and education we have come to accept Islam as a religion, and indeed it meets all the sociological requirements that define it as such. But from the theological point of view of Christianity, Muhammad is a false prophet, period. And the religion that came from his religious experience has been at odds with the roots it claims to come from, Judaism and Christianity, from the very beginning. And yes, there were historical periods in which members of Judaism and Christianity have been less than exemplary. But nowhere in the sacred scriptures of these two ancient religions are there calls to violence in the name of God for the purpose of gaining adherents.

Christians the world over are killed by fundamentalist Muslims in the name of their religion. The whole world is the stage of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam. Women are oppressed around the planet in the name of Muhammad. As we write Sunni Muslims blow into pieces tens of innocent Iraqi citizens. And where is a world conference of Muslim religious leaders condemning these acts?

But what has people up in arms, Muslims as well as multiculturalists is that the Pope has said more than that. In reality he has said what many have wanted to say and dare not. That many of us who have taken advantage of our freedom and pluralism to study Islam have come to the conclusion that Islam, as practiced by radical fundamentalism is incompatible with democracy and modern civilization. It is up to Muslims around the world to prove we are wrong.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Dangereous Guardians of His-story

This is not what I wanted to comment on this week because I hate party politics and try to stay away from it but this is beyond the pale to an alarming point. That a U.S. Senator and cohorts will use the power of his office and of Congress to threaten and then to ask of a private television network that a show be pulled out simply because it is politically incorrect should be alarming to all regardless of political affiliation. Sen. Reid and those who signed the threatening letter to ABC over the showing of the docudrama "Path to 9/11" should be severely censured.

Since the media fabricated CIA leak scandal has plumetted into oblivion the media seems to be walking around brainless. Acting more like Fidel Castro than a Fullbright Scholar, President Clinton, has unleashed the full force of his legacy troopers against ABC. The Democratic Party apparently has a Ministry of Culture and Propaganda, headed by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and assisted by Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Byron Dorgan, and it has sent a threatening letter to ABC which intimates that their license could be in jeopardy once their hope for and almost guaranteed return to power takes place.

Just about every apparatchik of the Stalinist establishment has come out en masse after receiving marching orders from what now appears to be a Democrat Caudillo protecting a legacy which should stand on its own. That legacy shouldn't be in instant danger of being brought down by a little part of that history.

But the real scandal is the scandal of the silence of the media nomenklatura and the Hollywoodgentsia before the onslaught of censorship by the Democratic Party machinery against a little docudrama about 9/11 by ABC. Apparently it threatens the already obviously flimsy Clinton legacy. No one in the media or in the artistic community has come out in the defense of the writer, or ABC or freedom of speech.

No one in the media has come out in defense of one of their colleagues. A political party uses the power of Congress to ask a network to "pull out", as Sen. Reid has said "a work of fiction" and nobody in the liberal writer's community says anything? If it is just "a work of fiction", why worry? Is Sen. Reid saying that only works of fiction that he agrees with politically should be aired?

What is truly amazing is that Sen. Reid, Sen. Schumer and the rest admit that they haven't even seen the show! And those that have, admitted they only saw the first part. Even for a former Democrat like me - I'm independent now - it is hard to recognize the Democratic Party of today. Even the most timid liberal should be alarmed at the attempt not only of censorship but of out right intimidation of a private business in the exercise of freedom of speech.