Air date: 2006.09.18
Guests: Romesh Ratnesar, Jim Pinkerton
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Last week Ratzinger a.k.a Pope Benedict, the head honcho of organized Christianity, contributed to the Global War on Islam with the following gem:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read… of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both.
In the seventh conversation…the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “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.”
For some reason, the Muslims had an adverse reaction to this bit of wisdom, for which (the Muslims’ reaction that is, not his words) the father has now apologised:
At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.
Chew on that for a bit. This morning Brian Lehrer brought on Romesh Ratnesar and Jim Pinkerton to discuss the news (Monday Morning Politics). Romesh works for Time, so perhaps he should be excused for anything he might say, but we are getting a bit ahead of things here. We were talking about the Holy Father’s take on Muhammad and Lehrer and friends had some thoughts to offer. Quite in keeping to script, these thoughts were not so much about Ratzinger’s rhetoric, but about … wait for it … the Muslim reaction to it! Which gave room for Romesh to hold forth (rough transcript):
It’s a sign that throughout the Islamic world there is a fever pitch […] of the kinds of reaction we are going to see over and over again … to anything that … in the slightest … offense to Islam … and its a sign that in lots of places there is a very real streak of … violent radicalism that isn’t being contained.
Romesh goes on and peddles the “right context” meme. If only, he bemoans, people would read in the right context the stuff about Muhammad bringing about evil and inhuman things. Unfortunately for us, Romesh leaves the right context as an exercise to the reader, giving us rather this: its a “complex, arcane speech” about “moral relativism”, the anecdote being used to “highlight the tension” (between faith and reason) — the gem of this context being that the Emperor (offering the nonsense about Muhammad) is a “man of reason”. One is forced to conclude that that explains the level of reasoning at the Times more than anything else.
Ratnesar suggests that the Pope refrain from such “hypotheticals”, since the current context is one of “deep seething public opinion”. In a context such as the Inquisition, perhaps he may suggest, this thing would have been met with little such misunderstanding and radical interpretation.
Lehrer was honest enough to point out the weasel apology from the Pope, but quickly moved on to question the hypocrisy of Muslim protesters (I guess just so its clear he is “objective”).