Tuesday, September 19, 2006
posted by PabloPabla at 9:40 am

I think most people would have heard the controversy lately regarding something said by Pope Benedict in Regensburg which drew the ire and protests by the Muslim community. The protests were peaceful in some areas but somewhat violent in some other areas (churches firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza and a nun murdered in Somalia). Whether these violent acts represent the unanimous feelings and intention of the Muslim community is not known and it is best not to associate and presume that all Muslims would react in this way.

Yes, the Pope said something which was interpreted as meaning the Prophet Muhammad's command to spread Islam by the sword must indeed be "evil or inhuman". Perhaps he should have chosen his words carefully. And he realised that and has expressed deep regret. Only God knows what was the Pope's intention in saying the offending words. Only God knows. Not you. Not me.

Sometimes, I am amused by the request or demand to "retract one's statement". This also happens in a Court of Law. A counsel challenges a witness to a fact which he knew was irrelevant to the case and would not have been admitted in any event. However, the purpose of putting the fact is merely to stain the credibility of the witness eg. on bad character. The witness's counsel then objects to the questioning made and the counsel retracts his question. By then, the whole courtroom would have heard the damaging fact and formed an opinion on the witness.

Demanding the Pope to "retract his statement" (as some leaders and countries have made) does not reverse the fact that he made the statements (offending or not). If somebody shouts at you in public saying that your parents are murderers or thieves, would his "retracting of his statement" change the fact that you have been hurt or that others have formed an opinion about you? I suppose, to some, they obtain comfort when the offending party retracts the offending statement. If it will comfort them, then the Pope should seriously humble himself and retract the statements for the peace of mankind. But then again, it is his personal decision to make. You and I cannot make the decision for him.

I am reminded of the following passages from James in the bible:-

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:7 - 12)

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17 - 18)

Let us all, collectively, men of all religions, pray for peace and harmony amongst mankind. If indeed you believe that God created all men, then all of us belong to God and He has the right to deal with all of us according to His will. Each of us will have to account to God for our doings.

7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7)



At 12:50 am, Blogger Nizam Bashir

The underlying principle of asking any party to retract his statement is merely to emphasise that he no longer believes in the veracity of the statements previously made.

That said, at the end of the day, I think what is simply required is to consider whether Prophet Muhammad clearly enjoined Muslims to spread Islam 'by the sword'. In that respect, I think no Muslim worth his salt would disregard one of the clearest edicts of the Islamic faith 'There is no compulsion in religion'. Yet, interestingly, the Pope has appeared to provide a limited context to that verse as being one which was revealed and implicitly only applicable when Islam was still in its infancy. However, when allusions are made as to jihad, no context is provided.

All said and done, the issue is simply this, do the verses relating to jihad envisage ONLY spreading the faith through war or as the Pope puts it 'by the sword'? Douglas E. Streusand, the author of The Formation of the Mughal Empire and The Islamic Gunpowder Empires in World History puts it best when he asserts that 'A non-Muslim cannot assert that jihad always means violence or that all Muslims believe in jihad as warfare. Conversely, ... A Muslim can honestly dismiss jihad as warfare, but he cannot deny the existence of this concept.' (See http://tinyurl.co.uk/9gve)

In other words, jihad as war may be exercisable but only in certain circumstances. For that reason and I say this most respectfully, when jihad in the sense of a struggle through war is highlighted by the Pope without similarly pointing out those circumstances, it is akin to selective quoting. A point has been made but perhaps somewhat unfairly and by not providing a context.

In any event, if you wish to consider this issue more fully, kindly see http://nizambashir.com/?p=64 but irrespective of our deliberations on this issue, I share the sentiments you expressed in the 2nd last paragraph of your post.


At 12:39 pm, Blogger Nizam Bashir

By the way, in case I am misunderstood by those who chose to read the comment and not go further, I don't really see a need to 'condemn' the Pope. My sole intent was simply to point out the basis of the concerns expressed by some Muslims. If the leared gentleman made a honest mistake etc and he says sorry, lets move on. There are too many other pressing concerns in this world. Poverty and starvation being right up there as far as lists are concerned and I am sure enjoining the good is something common to all faiths.


At 4:06 pm, Blogger PabloPabla

nizam : Glad you are back, Nizam. And thanks for your sharing. At least you have demonstrated that there are Muslims out there who are peace loving and prepared to share and have a dialogue in a civic manner. Of course, knowing you since the "Elite" days, I know you are someone whom I can always talk and approach to :)