The Pope’s journey to the Middle East was intended to help patch his relations with Muslims. But so far, Muslims haven’t been impressed … for reasons that defy common sense. AFP reports on Muslim clerics’ irrational dismay::

Pope Benedict XVI urged inter-faith reconciliation on the second day of a Holy Land tour but disappointed Muslim clerics by failing to offer a new apology for remarks seen as targeting Islam. …

Some clerics expressed disappointment however that the pontiff in his wide-ranging speech had made no new apology for a 2006 address in which he quoted a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as “evil and inhuman.”

Let’s clear the air on the matter of Benedict’s supposed “insult” of Islam, before it gets too cluttered with insane rhetoric. In September 2006, the Pope delivered a lecture at a German university. It was a very long lecture about faith and reason, and about historical and present-day beliefs on the matter. In the midst of the speech, Benedict happened to quote a document written by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos (who reigned 1391-1425). This quotation was as follows:

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.

These are the words that lit the torch of Muslim fury. However, not only were these not the Pope’s own words — they were the words of a long-dead Byzantine emperor whose beliefs about Islam were affected by the fact that his nation and Islam had been at war for some five centuries up to his time — the Pope did not say in the speech that he agreed with this sentiment. To the contrary, he stated that it was extreme; moreover, he noted that Manuel himself must have known better, since elsewhere the Emperor had shown an awareness of Qur’an passages stating, among other things, that religion cannot be compelled.

Nevertheless, Muslim fanatics weren’t about to let facts get in the way of their unbridled sanctimonious rage. Protests and violence ensued around the Muslim world. Churches were torched or bombed (including Anglican ones … apparently the mindlessly furious Muslims who attacked them had no idea that there’s a centuries-old schism between the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and that the Pope has nothing to do with the latter). Property in many places was destroyed, and a Catholic nun was even killed in Somalia.

The truth, of course, is that the Pope did not insult Islam in his lecture. He didn’t come anywhere near doing so. The Pope may be guilty of many things … including making some rather wild and inaccurate statements … but he clearly got a bum rap over this particular lecture. Even now, the Muslim world still has not forgiven him for this imagined slight. Someday the Muslim clerics who still unhappy with Pope Benedict will grow up enough to see that he never actually insulted Islam … but that won’t be anytime soon. Certainly it won’t happen in my lifetime.

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