Friday, May 05, 2006

Thoughts on Cardinal Pell

I first met Cardinal Pell in Sydney speak some years . He was delivering the annuial Acton Lecture under the auspices of the Centre for Independent Studies. At the time, he was a ‘humble’ Archbishop.

I was impressed by what he said. I thought I would ask him a question about the topic of religious fundamentalism. I thought he answered it quite well, making sure he understood and pondered on my question before responding to it.

So in responding to Cardinal Pell’s recent remarks about Islam, I should definitely show him the same courtesy. I should first read what the man himself has said, ponder over his words and then make up my own mind.

Here are some initial thoughts.

Pell is not an elected official with the benefit of taxpayer-funded staffers and spin-doctors to research for and assist him. If an official I elect uses my tax dollars to vilify my or anyone else’s religious symbols, I would be grossly pissed off.

If I was an elected official I wouldn’t go around attacking some Greek Orthodox women for wearing black veils or some Jewish men for wearing caps. Governments (especially those claiming to be liberal) have no business lecturing people on how they should dress or what religious symbols they should honour.

Pell isn’t an elected official. He is an official of a religious faith which, like Islam, is a missionary faith that actively seeks out converts. Missionary faiths believe they have the truth, and are unselfish enough to share it with people.

Pell has expressed some views. He has also been kind enough to tell us where he got these views from. The first thing I glanced over when a journo sent me the speech was the references.

Cardinal Pell makes heavy use of Daniel Pipes. I don’t have loads of time for Dr Pipes, whom I regard as little more than a propagandist for some of the ugliest sides of Israeli and American politics. Pipes was recently criticised by an Israeli commentator for criticising Israelis for not electing a government determined to eliminate Palestinians.

Pipes’ work reminds me of the work of German propagandists during the 1930’s and 40’s. What they wrote about Jews is what he writes about Muslims.

Pipes masquerades as an expert on modern politicised Islam. He makes much of his Harvard PhD and the ability to speak, read and write Arabic. Which all sounds very impressive except that his PhD is in medieval European history, not modern Middle Eastern or Asian politics.

Further, the most influential writers and ideologues of “Islamism” (as he likes to call it) did not write in Arabic but rather in Urdu and Farsi (languages over which he cannot even legitimately claim even the most rudimentary command.

Pell also makes use of Paul Stenhouse. I have only read one piece by Dr Stenhouse which appeared in a recent issue of Quadrant. Suffice it to say that Stenhouse somehow found it possible to cover the entire spectrum of Muslim political thought by citing not more than 3 or 4 Muslim writers. A bit like me summarising government policy by citing the words of 3 or 4 dog whistlers.

I would like to think Cardinal Pell doesn’t take the works of these writers for granted and casts a critical eye over their conclusions. Cardinal Pell has a formidable intellect and is a man of principle. Amongst his many involvements, Cardinal Pell joined yours truly and over 80 other men from across Australia as a male ambassador for UNIFEM’s White Ribbon Day.

This article is getting way too long. It’s time for me to actually read the speech and make up my mind about it. I urge anyone else interested to do the same. You can find it here.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006


Anonymous said...

Irfan, all i can say is Cardinal Pell can do a good job sucking my ball sac. How the hell did he become a Cardinal?

1. "Reasons for optimism are also sometimes drawn from the totalitarian nature of Islamist ideology, and the brutality and rigidity of Islamist rule, exemplified in Afghanistan under the Taliban". Ummm, well the Taliban were pretty un-Islamic. The cardinal seems not to know the difference between rule following the guidelines of Islam, and rule by a CIA funded group meeting the agenda of the Pakistani ISI. Cardinal Pell ought to do a Political Science major at UniMelb.

2. "Ottoman conquest of the Balkans commenced in the mid-fifteenth century, and was completed over the following two hundred years. Churches were destroyed or converted into mosques, and the Jewish and Christians populations became subject to forcible relocation and slavery. The extension or withdrawal of protection depended entirely on the disposition of the Ottoman ruler of the time. Christians who refused to apostatize were taxed and subject to conscript labour. Where the practice of the faith was not strictly prohibited, it was frustrated—for example, by making the only legal market day Sunday." Funny, he doesnt have a citation for this assertion.

3. "In the Muslim understanding, the Koran comes directly from God, unmediated. Muhammad simply wrote down God’s eternal and immutable words as they were dictated to him by the Archangel Gabriel". Well, the cardinal simply has his facts wrong. Daniel Pipes has even come to acknowledge that Muhammad couldnt read nor write.

4. "Christoph Luxenberg published a book in German setting out detailed evidence that the original language of the Koran was a dialect of Aramaic known as Syriac. Syriac or Syro-Aramaic was the written language of the Near East during Muhammad’s time, and Arabic did not assume written form until 150 years after his death." I've read the same book as the cardinal, however the cardinal takes Christophers word as being historical fact, whereas Chrissy doesnt even hold any type of recognised historical study undertaken. Its like me writing a medical book of the human body with my Humanities background.

5. " Death threats and violence are frequently directed against Islamic scholars who question the divine origin of the Koran." Are you talking about Salman Rushdie? Ummm, sorry he was a children's book author, not an islamic scholar.

6. "Islam is not a tolerant religion"....Why do i even bother. It must suck having cardinal pell's brains.

I think cardinal pell has lied. Claiming to have gone through the koran. nearly all translations of the koran have footnotes which put "verses of the sword" in context. There is no need to hide that the koran explicitly says kill the unbelievers. Now, a sensible cardinal would read the commentary and observe: "oh ok, this verse only applied when mohammed and his followers were under heavy prosecution and a systematic annihilation by the idolators of mecca, therefore god revealed unto them that if you have to you can kill them, oh ok, this is only if theyre attacked". Apparently, cardinal didnt do this. Poor soul.

Overall, i reckon a highschool kid could of done a better job.


Irfan said...

Anonymous @ 6:36, some of your references to Cardinal Pell are insulting and most unhelpful. I have only allowed your post to get through because it was largely an analysis of the Cardinal's speech.

Anonymous said...

We are too busy cracking tha davinci code.

Please do not bother us with islamism.

dawood said...

Interesting stuff Irf... i would like to see some more in-depth thoughts once you have ruminated on them. Keep it up bro!

Anonymous said...

There are lots of new and exciting organisations springing up that will be able to deal with this.

Preston Mosque recently established a think tank to deal with these sorts of issues.

Anonymous said...

"He was delivering the annuial Acton Lecture..."

What is your hidden code?