Sunday, September 17, 2006

OPINION: On Pompous Popes & Futile Protests

Recently an Australian Catholic Cardinal expressed the view that the Koran preaches violence. His view was based on a partial reading of an English translation of the Koran coloured by the views of an Israeli polemicist known for her extreme hatred of Muslims. When pressed, the Cardinal admitted he could not even remember which translation of the Koran he had relied upon.

How do I know this? Because I spoke to him myself. I approached him at a gathering and asked him politely about his views. I used a reasonable line of questioning, and was able to illustrate to those listening that the Cardinal’s views were based on his own ignorance combined with reliance on limited and hostile sources.

Of course, I could have taken the absurd and pointless route again being taken by Muslim crowds in some parts of the world. I could always gather a mob together and march in the streets, wasting my time and everyone else’s and achieving nothing except a sore throat and awful media coverage.

I would like to think that Muslim mobs had learnt from the PR disaster that accompanied protests against the Danish cartoons. On that occasion, corrupt and unelected Muslim leaders manipulated state-owned media and government-employed religious leaders to incite their masses into frenzies of violent futility.

As I type these lines, thousands of Muslims in the Darfur region of Sudan face certain death, whether by disease or starvation or bullets. Lebanese Muslims are struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Muslims in Gaza are facing economic and social collapse. Muslims in Afghanistan face civil war as the Western-backed government struggles to defeat a Taliban militia we were led to believe was defeated years back.

Muslims in Pakistan are still suffering from the effects of the earthquake. Muslims across Asia continue to rebuild after the devastating tsunami. Muslims in Kashmir find themselves caught between fanatical militants and merciless Indian troops.

With all these difficulties facing Muslims, of what significance are a few throw-away lines from an ageing Pontiff? And why allow the sheer absurdity of his words be overshadowed by the greater absurdity of violent and hysterical response?

Muslims are beginning to behave in the same manner as European Catholics have until recently. At the height of their power, Muslims were quite happy to allow non-Muslims to criticise their faith.

Spain was home to a physician and religious scholar named Sheik Musa bin Maymoun. Sheik Musa spoke and wrote in Arabic. One of his many treatises was a work entitled (in English) “Guide to the Perplexed”. In this book, Sheik Musa sought to compare the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Sheik Musa’s conclusion was clear. Judaism was superior to its sister Abrahamic faiths, Islam and Christianity.

The Muslim response? Muslims who disagreed with Sheik Musa’s views did so by writing reasoned responses. Spanish Muslims still consulted Sheik Musa’s expertise in medicine. Sheik Musa himself wasn’t attacked, and copies of his book were not burnt until Catholic armies took back Muslim Spain. Burning books and effigies was too uncivilised for those polished and proud Muslims.

Sheik Musa was in fact the great Andalusian rabbi Maimonides. His critique of Islam, together with his skills as a physician, led the Kurdish general Saladin to appoint him as chief medical officer to the army that eventually conquered Jerusalem from the Frankish crusader kings. Maimonides went onto become one of Saladin’s closest and most trusted advisers.

(And in case you are wondering what Maimonides looked like, check out the statue of the dude in the turban and robes on the top right-hand side of this blog.)

Islam was robust and strong enough in those times to withstand Maimonides’ criticism. Muslims were sensible and educated and civilised and confident enough to be able to accept criticism. They could debate their critics on an intellectual level without having to resort to violence or being highly strung and reactionary to even the mildest rebuke.

In an environment as free as Australia, a humble layman like myself can expose the relative ignorance of a Cardinal. I can do this using intellect and logic, far more powerful tools than behaving defensively or threatening violence.

Muslims offended by the Pope’s comments about Islam and history are better off addressing these arguments than condemning the Pope. If Muslims become defensive or even hint at violence, they will merely be personifying (and thus confirming) of the Pope’s claims.

Muslims should challenge the Pope to name even one soldier or military commander who took Islam to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. He should be asked to show where a Muslim ruler has murdered 6 million Jews or where Muslims have conducted a Spanish-style Inquisition. He might also advise of which Japanese city Muslims dropped an atomic bomb onto.

The fact is that both Muslims and Christians have had blood on their hands at various points in their history. People have murdered, raped, terrorised, looted and burnt in the names of both Christ and Allah. We are all living in glass houses, and none of us is sinless enough to be able to cast the first stone.

It’s only to be expected that the leader of a missionary faith will criticise other missionary faiths. Just as we expect Don Brash to criticise Helen Clark or Kim Beazley to criticise John Howard or Hillary Clinton to criticise George W Bush. Thankfully, clerics tend to be more polite than politicians most of the time. But criticism (including self-critique) is part of the Abrahamic tradition.

Further, there are enough Christians (including Catholics) of goodwill who will be happy to criticise the Pontiff’s comments. Already, the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt has issued a strong response.

My advice to any Muslim genuinely perturbed by the Pope’s comments is simply this - if you can’t stand the missionary heat, you should think about getting out of Abraham’s spiritual kitchen. If you are unhappy with the reason and restraint your religious heritage insists upon, you should find yourself another religion.

Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

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8 comments:

Guy said...

go back to Pakistan you fat slug. And take that fat bald no hoper Tome Pearce with you!

Here If, name one Christian who had his followers fly planes into buildings to murder innocent people. Name one Christian group who wants to wipe Israel off the map with its people. Name one modern day Christian dictator who kills entire villeges of those who disagree with his religious views. Name one Western man (all that excludes Mussies) who kill honour kill their family members. And who in Australia are primarily the gang rapists?

Shut up and go home. Its a war between the west and Islam and we will win.

Anonymous said...

Guy, name one Aussie sheik or imam who touches up little boys. Name one Aussie sheik or imam who has been jailed for pedophilia.

There is a war going on between the police and child welfare officials on the one hand and churches who hide their pedophile priests on the other. Whose side are you on, Guy?

Law Student said...

Guy, you sound very shallow. As the saying goes, empty drums make lots of noise.

"name one Christian who had his followers fly planes into buildings to murder innocent people."

Guy, 3000 people died as a result of that incident. Nazis killed 6 million jews. Three thousand is nothing compared to 6 million. Did you know Geobells and Hermming read mass Christian prayers with Nazi soldiers before killing the Jews?

"Name one modern day Christian dictator who kills entire villeges of those who disagree with his religious views."

Have you forgotten about the Srebrenica Massacre in 1995. Where 8000 Bosnian males were slaughtered for not being Serbian Orthodox Christian. Have you forgot the footage where the head of the Serbian Church blessed these soldiers before they went on their rampage?

"Name one Western man (all that excludes Mussies) who kill honour kill their family members."

That is a pre islamic south asian hindu culture.

"And who in Australia are primarily the gang rapists?"

If you mean lebs/muslims do the most rapings then youre wrong. The ratio of white australians rapists surpasses those of the Lebanese.

You're wrong in all areas mate. Sorry, go get a life.

Ken said...

Hey Irf - thoughtful and interesting writing as always. There's so much we anglos don't know, although a visit to Granada in Spain broadens the understanding.

Delete the above two - we don't need their ranting.

Keep up the good work!

sammy said...

"Here If, name one Christian who had his followers fly planes into buildings to murder innocent people."

Planes into buildings is unique, I think. The first ever plane hijacking however was by a Puerto Rican born Christian, Antuilo Ramierez Ortiz.

"Name one Christian group who wants to wipe Israel off the map with its people."

There are heaps on neo-Nazi groups who want not only Israel to be wiped from the map, but want all Jews to be wiped from the map.

"Name one modern day Christian dictator who kills entire villeges of those who disagree with his religious views."

Augusto Pinochet.

"Name one Western man (all that excludes Mussies) who kill honour kill their family members."

How about I list the thousands and thousands of Western men who 'dis-honour kill' their families?

"And who in Australia are primarily the gang rapists?"

To quote NSW Rape Crisis Centre manager Karen Willis: “Women are led to believe that if they stay clear of Middle Eastern men, they will be safe. But the harsh reality is, young men are congregating after the footy, after the cricket, after a surf, at weekend parties…and they are committing these same horrific acts on women.”

“There are groups of Australian Anglo-Saxon men, here in Sydney, committing the exact same horrific crimes on women from their own background. In fact, they are the most common group of men to be committing these crimes – simply because there are more of them.”

Helen said...

How about I list the thousands and thousands of Western men who 'dis-honour kill' their families?

Quite so, and the underlying motivation is really quite similar: I own this woman, she is my (or the family's) chattel.

Thanks Gummo for directing me to this great blog.

Andjam said...

He should be asked to show where a Muslim ruler has murdered 6 million Jews

As this is a rhetorical question, I won't mention Mohammad Amin al-Husayni's role in the holocaust.


With all these difficulties facing Muslims, of what significance are a few throw-away lines from an ageing Pontiff? And why allow the sheer absurdity of his words be overshadowed by the greater absurdity of violent and hysterical response?


So why do you think the violence occurred? The standard excuses about Palestine or Iraq can't apply - the Catholic Church has been pro-Palestine and opposed war in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Andjam, what did the Mufti of Jerusalem do? Did he provide a church building for the Third Reich to use for their launch? Was he elected Pope and quietly supported the gassing of millions of Jews? Or was he a member of the Hitler Youth?

The fact is, Andjam, that you and your European buddies have 2 millenia of Jewish blood on your hands. Hitler might have murdered 6 million Jews. How many Jews have been murdered and gassed and tortured and raped and pillaged by Catholic Europe?

Judeo-Christian culture? Really? Sounds like a carte blanche for Christians to kill lots of Jews.