We would like to respond to the Pope’s recent message denigrating the prophet Muhammad and misinterpreting Islam and misunderstanding jihad (self control).
Papa John Paul. May God Bless his soul. He was a saint and did much for harmony among the religions.
1) John Paul II was the embodiment of the love of Jesus and he endeared people to him and Catholicism. Praying to the common God and joint prayers were a fantastic manifestation of our common humanity. Any other direction will alienate Muslims, Christians and Jews away from each other.
2) Arab armies never conquered or stayed in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Bangladesh, where 80% of all Muslims reside. Arab armies did reach the Indus, but Mohammad bin Qasim quickly withdrew. The conversions for a vast majority of Muslims (who now live in Asia)was by Sufis and traders and by example and because Islam was LOGICAL and simple…pray to one God.
3) In the 7th century, Arab armies comprised of less than 25,000 able bodied men as soldiers, out of a population of 50,000. It is a physical impossibility to spread Islam to millions with such a small army or by force of arms. Muslims could not have spread Islam through the sword from Arabia to Morocco and destroyed the Byzantine and Roman empires, if Islam did not have grass level appeal based on “Arianism” (unity of God), which was never actually eliminated even though Emperor Constantine had imposed trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325AD.
4) The idea of holy war or jihad (which is about defending the community or at most about establishing rule by Muslims, not about imposing the faith on individuals by force) is also not a Quranic doctrine. The doctrine was elaborated much later, on the Umayyad-Byzantine frontier, long after the Prophet’s death. In fact, in early Islam it was hard to join, and Christians who asked to become Muslim were routinely turned away. The tyrannical governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj, was notorious for this rejection of applicants, because he got higher taxes on non-Muslims. Arab Muslims had conquered Iraq, which was then largely pagan, Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish. But they weren’t seeking converts and certainly weren’t imposing their religion. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/09/15/18311787.php 5) But there have been many schools of Islamic theology and philosophy. The Mu’tazilite school maintained exactly what the Pope is saying, that God must act in accordance with reason and the good as humans know them. The Mu’tazilite approach is still popular in Zaidism and in Twelver Shiism of the Iraqi and Iranian sort. The Ash’ari school, in contrast, insisted that God was beyond human reason and therefore could not be judged rationally. (I think the Pope would find that Tertullian and perhaps also John Calvin would be more sympathetic to this view within Christianity than he is).As for the Quran, it constantly appeals to reason in knowing God, and in refuting idolatry and paganism, and asks, “do you not reason?” “do you not understand?” (a fala ta`qilun?)http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/09/15/18311787.php
6) The idea of holy war or jihad (which is about defending the community or at most about establishing rule by Muslims, not about imposing the faith on individuals by force) is also not a Quranic doctrine. The doctrine was elaborated much later, on the Umayyad-Byzantine frontier, long after the Prophet’s death. In fact, in early Islam it was hard to join, and Christians who asked to become Muslim were routinely turned away. The tyrannical governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj, was notorious for this rejection of applicants, because he got higher taxes on non-Muslims. Arab Muslims had conquered Iraq, which was then largely pagan, Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish. But they weren’t seeking converts and certainly weren’t imposing their religion. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/09/15/18311787.php
7) Did the Pope have selective amnesia about tolerating the holocaust, sprinkling holy water on the marching Nazi soldiers, directing the crusades, supporting the ethnic cleansing of native Americans, supporting conquistador invasions, administering the Spanish inquisition, encouraging colonialism to civilize the natives, and finding quotes in the Bible to support slavery.
7) Finally, that Byzantine emperor that the Pope quoted, Manuel II? The Byzantines had been weakened by Latin predations during the fourth Crusade, so it was in a way Rome that had sought coercion first. And, he ended his days as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/09/15/18311787.php
8) Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire did not agree with the Vatican. He wrote the quote during the siege of Constantinople.
9) The propaganda against our prophet has been waged for centuries, and Muslims keep growing. The more they send crusades, the more Islam grows.
10) [2:62] Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians– any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. ‘
11) This is one of the best responses that I have seen: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/spiritual-niggers-islam_b_29663.html
12) “As Politi points out, the underlying question now facing the Church is the following: ‘Does Ratzinger want to deal with the Islamic world as merely a cultural partner, or is he willing to recognise that Islam should enjoy the same status as Christianity?”(© 2006 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur, http://news.monstersandcritics.com/europe/article_1202570.php/Pope_Benedicts_Islam_blunder_undermines_dialogue)
13) “Rather than rail at the pope’s characterization of Islam, Muslims might have responded as follows: “Excuse me, Your Holiness, but did we hear you say that you represent a religion of reason, whereas Allah is a god of unreason? Do you not personally eat the body and blood of your god – at least things that you insist really are his flesh and blood – every day at Mass? And you accuse us of unreason!”"
Regarding Benedict XVI’s statement that the characterization of the Prophet Mohammed did not reflect his “personal opinion”: In 1938, at the peak of Stalin’s terror, a Muscovite called the KGB to report that his parrot had escaped. The KGB officer said, “Why are you calling us?” The Muscovite averred, “I want to state for the record that I do not share the parrot’s political opinions.” (http://atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HI19Aa02.html)
In one of the most conceited statements of the century, the Pope full of hubris said he was sorry because his remarks had been misunderstood. e said that deeply sorry” that Muslims were offended. This is not an apology, it is an indictment on Muslims who were unable to comprehend his message. Therefore the onus of the problem is on the Muslims still.
I miss John Paul 11 (papa) who did so much for Muslim-Catholic and Catholic-Jewish dialogue. Such grace, such beuty, such class. In spite of the fact that John Paul apologized to the Jews for the inquisition, but did not apologize to the Muslims for the Crusades or the inquisition, he was near and dear to Muslim hearts. Pope Benedict should not have made the remarks, and he needs to withdraw them, apologize properly and make restitution to Muslims around the world. He should also apologize for historical wrongs against Muslims, including, the crusades, colonialism, and the inquisition.
May God forgive the sins of the Pope and may he find enlightenment. God Bless him.