The French magazine Charlie Hebdo, when
it ran the contentious Danish anti-theocratic
cartoons, emblazoned its front page with an image
of Mohammed which had him saying 'it's hard to
be loved by fools.' It was the first thought to
come to mind when I learned that it was 'here
they go again' time.
recent days in those places where the Islamic
theocrats feel strong enough there has been the
spectacle of 'knees up Mohammed Brown' as religious
zealots, faces contorted by hate, danced the totalitarian
two-step in fulmination against something they
don't approve of and have not yet managed to suppress.
The anti-pope demonstrations have seen effigies
of Pope Benedict being burned, while one senior
Al-Qaeda figure is reported as having said: 'we
are certain that the infidelity and tyranny of
the Pope will only be stopped by a major attack.'
The pope has been likened to Hitler and Mussolini.
A bit rich when the accusers themselves are theocratic
fascists. Catholic churches have been attacked
in the Middle East while a nun was shot dead in
Somalia, believed to be the victim of theocrats
enraged by others not seeing things as they do.
One senior cleric has called for a new day of
anger, the 365 other angry days each year seemingly
not enough for them to vent their spleen.
is not that the pope has been stoning women for
adultery, throwing acid in their faces for not
wearing a veil, murdering them in defence of macho
honour, sentencing Hans Kung to death for apostasy
that has provoked the latest round of hate fests.
These practices are the type of thing that would
certainly enrage people who genuinely valued other
human beings and recoiled at their brutalisation.
But it was none of that which gave rise to the
latest hideous outburst of Islamic angst. Rather
it was something as anodyne as a theological-cum-academic
lecture delivered by Pope Benedict at the German
university of Regensburg.
lecture titled 'Faith,
Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections'
sought to explore the relationship between faith
and reason in the modern world. Given that the
pope was critical of the secularist 'exclusion
of the divine from the universality of reason'
there were excuses in abundance for non-believers
to jump up and down, scream obscenities and threaten
death to all who insult atheism. They chose not
to. But per usual the mullahs and muftis had done
their work, spotted their opportunity and were
soon goading the simpletons into action. Not all
that difficult when it is considered that, according
to Lebanese Jesuit, Samir Khalil Samir, many people
phoned in to Al Jazeera to complain about the
pope's comments without even knowing what the
Vatican boss had in fact said.
as always within the superstitious world of the
theocrat, there are those who want reason to be
wholly usurped by faith. More anti-intellectual
than theological, for them the Pope's lecture
was offensive because it did not go far enough
in seeking the abolition of reason.
this was not the chosen ground for the hate battle
that was to follow Regensburg. Deliberately homed
in on was the pope quoting the Byzantine emperor
Manuel II Palaeologus who challenged a Muslim:
'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.'
much the type of terminology that characterises
modern discourse on the world and nothing to go
ballistic about. It is also how many human beings
view Mohammed, not all of whom hail from the West
or Christendom. He was after all a warrior who
waged war. Not all that different from quite a
number of popes throughout the ages.
Ireland, responding to the protests, the Bishop
of Achonry said:
appear very sensitive about issues when it suits
them. This was a lecture given to the staff
and students at the University of Regensburg.
It was a very intellectual, in-depth analysis
of the situation in the world today. I am not
quite sure that, if it was studied, there would
be any offence found in it.
true, the point is not about some in the Muslim
world finding gratuitous offence. If those howling
for the crucifixion of the pope were unable to
find offence they would have dug deep into the
pages of the Koran in search of some way to claim
offence. And dare anyone, at the risk of fatwa,
challenge their right to feel offended. A round
of stoning or amputation would always be on hand
to demonstrate theocratic peaceful intent.
permits the current brouhaha to serve as a useful
prism through which to revisit the rumpus manufactured
earlier this year in response to the Danish cartoons
controversy. It is now even clearer that this
was an artificially induced crisis and was never
about Muslim sensibilities being trodden over
by supposedly racist sentiment lurking behind
images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
the theocrats and their apologists claimed that
criticism of Islam was acceptable but publishing
the image of Mohammed was a step too far. The
current outrage against the pope's comments on
Mohammed demonstrates such a defence as a falsehood.
The images of Mohammed were the pretext for launching
an attack on free expression and inquiry. It matters
little in what form the critique comes, the theocrats
want no discussion of Islam, merely submission
Ratzinger, the current pope, is not known for
his tolerance of other faiths. Conservative and
authoritarian he has displayed tetchiness and
resentment towards Islam as a competing belief
system rather than its disposition towards totalitarianism.
His extended audience to one of the outstanding
modern journalists, Oriana Fallaci, indicted by
a judge in Italy because of her book criticising
Islam, has stoked the embers of antipathy. Moreover,
he was behind the 1999 Vatican document that alleged
all religions but Catholicism were impaired.
is modern Christianity free from the malignancy
it so often finds in Islam and the pope should
be reminded of this. One need only look at the
malevolence of 'Christian nationalism' in the
US today, the hate spouted by Pat Robertson, or
the attempts by the creationist lobby to smother
science. Both Islam and Christianity have committed
atrocities to enforce their writ.
fascists prompted by whatever god should never
be allowed to have their way. The Islam faithful
think it is daft that others have a certain negative
view of Mohammed. Many outside that faith think
it is equally absurd that anyone could believe
in either him or Allah. Each has the right to
believe of the other what they will; but no right
to behead those who think differently. For people
so ostensibly religious the reaction to the pope's
lecture has more to do with this world than matters
of the next one. The power to evade critique is
one of the most valuable weapons an oppressor
can lay hands upon. To forego critique in the
interests of some spurious harmony designed to
appease the despot is the surrender of reason
to superstition. And the theocrats and their domination
theology will have dragged us back into their
make believe world of the 7th Century.
two word apology for the pope's speech will suffice.