Muslims Enraged by Pope's Remarks on Spreading Islam by Violence

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:06pm EDT

( - Religious scholars and clerics across the Middle East are raging about Pope Benedict XVI's comments on Islam, which he made during a speech in Germany this week. Some are demanding that the pope apologize to the world's Muslims.

This is the latest of a series of rows over non-Muslims' views on Islam, although previous arguments have involved less prominent individuals than the head of the Roman Catholic Church, whom Catholics see as the direct spiritual descendant of the Apostle Peter - and whom some regard as God's representative on earth.

From the Egyptian Brotherhood in Egypt to Islamist clerics in the Gulf, from shari'a judges in Lebanon to top religious figures in Turkey, senior Muslims have criticized the pope's speech at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria on Tuesday.

Some have called on Muslim governments to sever ties with the Holy See and to expel Vatican representatives from their countries. A scheduled papal tour to Turkey in November also is drawing flak.

It's not clear whether critics who have slammed the pope have read the full transcript of his 3,700-word address, but what they have seen or heard is enough.

Specifically, Pope Benedict cited a 14th century discussion on Islam and Christianity between a learned Persian and the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus.

He quoted the emperor as saying to the Persian, "Show me just what Mohammed 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."

The pope told his academic audience that Emperor Manuel II had then explained why spreading faith through violence was unreasonable, that "violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

He also quoted the emperor as saying, "Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death ..."

In his scholarly discourse, the pope said Manuel II had argued that it was "unreasonable" to spread faith through violence.

Benedict spoke at some length about God being "reasonable." Quoting the verse from John's gospel in which John writes "In the beginning was the Word," he noted that the Greek word for "Word" - logos - also means "reason."

"John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God," the pope said.

He concluded by saying that Christians invited "our partners in the dialogue of cultures" to reason.

The translation of the full text of the speech, as prepared for delivery, has been made available by the Vatican.

A Vatican spokesman said Thursday the pope wanted to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward other religions and cultures - obviously toward Islam too"

"What is at the pope's heart is a clear and radical refusal of the religious motivation of violence," said spokesman Federico Lombardi.

Among those condemning the pope's words about violence and Islam were the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization based in numerous Arab countries which gave birth to the Hamas terrorist group in the Palestinian territories.

The pope also was criticized by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born scholar based in Qatar and regarded as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has come under fire for praising Palestinian suicide bombers and for calling on Muslims to fight against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Qaradawi was quoted as telling al-Jazeera television that the pope should "apologize to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its prophet and its beliefs."

See also:
Full text of Pope Benedict's speech at University of Regensburg

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