• Reports
  • September 15, 2006
  • 8 minutes read

Pope Seen Criticizing Islam

In what some immediately saw as a serious diversion from the rapprochement approach of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, September 12, said the Islamic concepts of “Jihad” was unreasonable and against God’s nature.

Using the words, “Jihad” and “Holy War” in lecture at the University of Regensburg, the pontiff quoted criticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) by a 14th Century Byzantine Christian emperor, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“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,” Benedict quoted Manuel II.

Quoting the Byzantine Christian emperor, Benedict said spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable and that acting without reason was against God’s nature.

“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul,” added the pontiff in his own words.

British Karen Armstrong, a famed prolific writer on all three monotheistic religions, has criticized stereotyping the Arabic word “jihad” as merely meaning holy war.

She stressed that “jihad is a cherished spiritual value that, for most Muslims, has no connection with violence.”

At a giant open-air mass earlier Tuesday, Pope Benedict urged more than 250,000 pilgrims to stand up for their beliefs in the face of the “hatred and fanaticism” tarnishing religion.

“Such an atmosphere made it important to state clearly the God in whom we believe,” the pope said.

Strongest criticism

“This is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn’t speak of fundamentalist Islam but of Islam generally,” said Guolo.

Pope’s criticism of Islam made his address the most political of his six-day visit to Germany, which had previously dealt exclusively with spiritual matters, commented AFP.

“This is maybe the strongest criticism because he doesn’t speak of fundamentalist Islam but of Islam generally,” Renzo Guolo, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Padua, told The New York Times on Wednesday, September 13.

“Not all Islam, thank God, is fundamentalist.”

Marco Politi, the Vatican expert for the Italian daily La Repubblica, said the pontiff’s speech revealed “deep mistrust regarding the aggressive side of Islam.”

“Certainly he closes the door to an idea which was very dear to John Paul II — the idea that Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same God,” he asserted.

Daniel A. Madigan, rector of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, agreed.

“If we are really going into a serious dialogue with Muslims we need to take faith seriously.”

But papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi sought to ease the severity of the Pope’s rebukes of Islam.

He argued that the pontiff used Manuel’s views of Islam only to help explain the issue and not to condemn all of the Muslim religion as violent.

“This is just an example. We know that inside Islam there are many different positions, violent and non-violent,” he said.

“The Pope does not want to give an interpretation of Islam that is violent.”

Unlike late pope John Paul, Cardinal Ratzinger, who took the name of Benedict after his election, does not approve of joint prayers with Muslims.

He is also skeptical of the value of inter-religious dialogue.

In the summer of 2005, Pope Benedict devoted an annual weekend of study with former graduate students to Islam.

During the meeting, and since, he has reportedly expressed skepticism about Islam’s openness to change given the conviction that the Noble Quran is the unchangeable word of God.

In 2004, Pope Benedict also caused a stir by opposing Turkey’s accession into the European Union.

He said Turkey should seek its future in an association of Islamic nations, not with the EU, which has Christian roots.

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