It goes further than that, of course. "We're offended. Our feelings are hurt. Our religion has been insulted. We demand an apology."
I was expecting all of that. I didn't yawn even though it was happening just as I was certain it would. Very interesting, I said to myself. We will see if the others play the same moves as the last time around.
The last time. September 2005. A Danish cartoonist publishers a cartoon that offends quite a number of Muslims. Muslim outrage. Muslim protests. Muslim demands for apologies. Muslims burning an embassy, torching cars, taking Danish products off the shelves of stores. A price on the Danish cartoonist's head. And Western niceness. (For an exploration of that, you can find The Rage of the "Righteous" at
This time. September 2006. The Catholic pope makes a speech, in which he quotes a fourteenth-century Christian Byzantine emperor debating with a Muslim Persian scholar. In that speech, the long-ago emperor speaks against the concept of jihad, holy war, saying that violence in the name of religion is against the nature of god. He also speaks against the rightness of trying to spread a religion by the sword.
I am sure it took the pope quite some time to find the way he wanted to say what he wanted to say about jihad, that it is against the nature of a deity to be in favor of such a thing.
I wondered, watching a news clip of the pope speaking, how has he planned to react to the Muslim reaction which he must have known was coming? For the pope is not a stupid man. I expected that he had a carefully worded response, one as planned as the words of his speech.
In chess, one plans ahead by more than one move.
The Muslim response has come, as I have said. Utterly predictable. Utterly unsurprising.
Here is the pope's response: he is sorry if his words were misinterpreted. No apology. He does not appear to be responding with fear. He does not seem to be intimidated by what he must have known would occur.
My guess. He is deeply upset by what is happening in the name of the Muslim religion. And since Muslims are not responding in outrage to Muslim violence in the name of the Muslim religion, he is.
The image that comes to mind is of someone lancing a boil - opening an underground infection so the wound can be cleaned. (For my response, see [http://www.elsas-word-story-image-idea-music-emporium.com/the-idea-emporium-2.html].)
Another guess. The pope has long been angry at the use of violence in the name of the Muslim religion. So he chose harsh words to describe a harsh reality.
Here is the pope's opening quote from the fourteen-century Byzantine emperor:
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.
As cowboys say in Western movies, "Them's fightin' words." Often, soon after, guns are drawn, shots are fired, good prevails and evil is vanquished. That's the most common scenario in Western movies.
The world I live in is far more complex, with lots of debate, for example, on what is good and what is evil. I am sure the pope knows that, and also knew he was using fighting words.
The reality the pope describes - people using violence in the name of their god - is one that Christians have often been guilty of. The Crusades were done - largely against Muslims - in the name of the Christian religion. Roman emperors converted their subjects to Christianity with the sword. The alternative to conversion was often death. It is not only part of the Muslim religion that has waged so-called holy war, and had gotten converts by violence. The pope knows that full well.
That horrors have been committed in the name of the Christian religion do not make it any better when the same is done by Muslims. If it is against the nature of god to do these things, that's the way it is. It doesn't matter who does the thing.
Back to the pope and his response to the unfolding events of speech, outrage, response. The pope is not backing away from what he said. He is holding to his beliefs and his vision of god, but definitely not calling for violence.
Where do I stand. I hold that one must be able to express one's vision of god, without calling for this vision to be enforced or attacked by violence. And no, not all visions are basically alike (a commonly held and utterly unfounded opinion) or equally valid. Since many of these visions of god are contradictory, it does not stand to reason that they are all valid - for it would make god forgiving, unforgiving, loving, vengeful, hating, rigid, flexible. There is the vision of a loving god, of a punitive god, of a harsh and rigid god, of many very different gods.
It is vital that one can speak what one believes and then back these beliefs with all the evidence one can summon.
Outrage as a response to the pope's words is only meant to cut off debate, thought, reflection. It attempts to keep closed around people the shell that cuts them off from thinking, reflection, experience, development.
We will see the next moves.
When one lances a boil, what oozes out is anything but pleasant. The good thing is that one recognizes it as something that needs to be drained, not as something healthy, to be encouraged as much as possible. One drains as well as possible, and administers antibiotics.
I don't know if the world will manage to lance the outbreak of Muslim rage and outrage, to get Muslims to face fully what is being done in the name of the Muslim religion. "Our religion is a religion of peace," I have heard many Muslims say angrily. The evidence does not show that, not at present.
It will, it's my guess, take thousands of small pushes to get the segment of the Muslim religion that upholds violence in the name of the Muslim religion to somehow or other face what it is doing, to experience the horror of thousands and thousands of Muslims and nonMuslims murdered in the name of the Muslim religion.
I think back to the pope's harsh words. They were not gentle, soft, tentative suggestions that it might be better not to kill people in the name of a god. Maybe he could not contain his outrage. Or maybe he intentionally was provoking. At present, only he knows.
My hope is that the pope has given things one more small nudge in the right direction.
September 16, 2006
I pause. And soon come to further thoughts and questions.
Question one. What made the pope fail to acknowledge the Christian religion's many transgressions against the nature of god, as he sees it - the many instances of Christian violence in the name of the Christian religion? It would have been better had he done so.
Question two. What was the final impetus for the pope's harsh words? My partner wonders: does it have anything to do with the poor treatment of Christians in overwhelmingly Muslim countries? Has the treatment of these Christians (Copts) deteriorated even more during the last few years?
My biggest question. How will this turn out? - because all is not predictable.
I have pointed out Muslim rage and outrage. I have a link to other equally enraged, outraged and outrageous responses in the wake of the pope's speech - from people against all Muslims, and from people disregarding the pope's major argument.
Anti-Muslim rage. One kind of horror, an equally inaccurate understanding of the pope's speech is to applaud it and call for the death of all Muslims. Rage and outrage and hatred are definitely not an exclusive Muslim phenomenon. A question here: who and what will break the hate-rage shell of these people? - because the anti-Muslim hate-rage shell is just an important to break through.
Non-Muslim raging disregard for the pope's words. Probably the most common way of not hearing the pope's message is through saying that the pope has no right to be against Muslims doing violence in the name of religion because Christians have done the same. This is a logical fallacy. Something is wrong because it is wrong, no matter who has done it. It is fair to point out the masses of wrongs done in the name of the Christian religion - and I have in fact said it would have been better had the pope done so. That does not make the wrongs done in the name of the Muslim religion any better. Once again, how does one break through the shell of not listening, not hearing?
Here's the link to some of these outraged outrageous responses - another testament to the human capacity to rage instead of to care, to cut off without thinking instead of to listen and think well .