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September 15, 2006



King Ratzinger is a throwback to a much unhappier time - and I don't mean his upbringing inside the Third Reich. His religious views parallel those of Torquemada, and our goal is to see to it that he doesn't get the opportunity to parallel Torquemada's activities - only this time, those subjected to the New World Inquisition won't be Jewish.


You see to be suggesting Mark that we should pussyfoot around the danger that radical Islam poses to the West. Why be so craven? Will they chop our heads off? Soon there will be nothing left of our wonderful civilisation if we keep mincing our words. Yes, radical Islam is at war with the West. If the forces that protect us weren't working 24/7 we wouldn't be able to take a bus or a train or a plane.

The pope's remarks were taken out of context as he was just quoting a Byzantine emperor's discussion with a Persian regarding the relationship of reason and religion. In any event why should the Muslims be so angry? Is it not historical truth that Islam was spread by the sword? Was it not forced on the whole region in the 7th century? And why should the pope mince his words? Or should he be afraid of being killed for expressing the truth like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Oriana Fallaci? The reaction of Muslims to his remarks just prove the point. The Western world is finally waking up to the danger of the jihadis.

We must speak the truth, if they can't bear to hear it that's just too bad!!


Dunno whether it's 'the truth' that Muslims "multiply like rats," and the truth value of another Fallaci proclamation, that "the children of Allah spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day" is similarly ambiguous. But someone who writes these things, insisting further that "To be under the illusion that there is a good Islam and a bad Islam or not to understand that Islam is only one ... [and] is against reason" is probably looking for publicity--of which death threats (as Tom Cruise would doubtless tell you if you could get past his flacks) are an unfortunate side effect. Maybe God/the Second Law of Thermodynamics are complicit in some obscure jihadist plot; otherwise, it would seem that Islam left the late Ms. Fallaci alone.

the aardvark

elie - no, you're exactly wrong. The point is to work with and build on the mainstream of Islam, which has nothing to do with al-Qaeda. You don't fight radical Islam by giving it the weapons it needs and trying to push ordinary Muslims into its arms.

Ghurab al-Bain

There is a case to be made against "takfiri Islam" and how it manifests itself in violent ways but the Pope certainly did not do it. He would have been better served not to say anything or to address it in a deep and thoughtful way. He must have been very poorly advised because he did neither. There certainly is a case to be made about extremists who claim to be Muslims committing all sorts of outrages against Christians from Algeria to Indonesia. But the last thing the region needs is anyone feeding into the toxic discourse of monolithic civilizational conflict to the death pushed by Al-Qa'ida. Still, Muslims should have also been exercised this week about Zawahiri's 9/11 message: convert to Islam or we will destroy you America. That doesn't sound much like the Qur'anic strictures of "no compulsion in religion."

the aardvark

GB - that last point is a really good example of how these things could be framed more usefully. "No compulsion in religion" is a core idea for Islam and can be (and is) deployed by moderates against the jihadis. Creating space for that to happen (not doing it ourselves, or demanding that they do it) is a million times more helpful than the Pope and President frame.


Mr Aardvark, would you specifically, scientifically, say that Al-Qaeda can be called an ideology rather than an organisation now, in the light of the 9-11 tape - since it suggests they are holding together rather well.

the aardvark

klaus - I think it's both: an organization and an ideology. The fortunes of the two don't necessarily rise and fall together: AQ the organization might do better but the ideology fade, or AQ the organization struggle and the ideology surge, or both do well or both do poorly. Not an either/or question, I don't think.


True, pardon my stupidity. Thing is, if one could reframe AQ as an ideology rather than a clandestine organisation in the minds of Americans, the war on terror might get intelligent. The idea itself of this struggle as a war assumes a uniformed enemy, and thinking of AQ as an ideology would reframe that struggle for the better. It's also a far more precise description of the problem, I think.



I only wish it were as simple as "work with moderate Islam" in order to defeat radical Islam. Unfortunately, this beast has to be tackled head on or else we're gonners. From my vantage point here in Paris, France I can tell you that over the last 10 years I've seen an explosion in the number of women veiled a la Wahhabi, and it's not Bush or Hirsi Ali that are to blame for this. The percentage of Muslims in London, Paris, Bruxelles etc, that support the violent actions of AQ and view Bin Laden as some great sheikh is alarming to say the least. I'm all for dialogue with moderate Islam, the problem is what we're up against are the Qaradawi's and the Tantawi's, who are looked up to by millions and millions of Muslims, and who justify suicide bombings and the like in the name of Islam.


The fact remains that when you open your mouth to criticize Islam you take your life in your hands, see Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Nagib Mahfuz (they almost killed him), and on and on and on the list goes...submit or die.


I was wondering why this story only got play yesterday ... it was on al Jazeera on Thursday night, and then ... wham! ... Friday prayers.


Re AQ trying to get Muslims to see everything through a "modern crusade vs Islam" prism, I'm waiting for various firebrands in the Middle East, Pakistan and Indonesia to declare that the Pope's apology made a few hours ago wasn't fullsome or contrite enough.

After all, who wants the whole thing to die down when there's a good few weeks of rioting, burning of churches, "Pope is the New HItler" slogans still ahead! Not Al Jazeera I suspect, which has probably got a whole series of studio guests and special progamming lined up.

Benedict's choice of quote to make his point might have been a poor one, but to suggest that he was trying to insult Islam was ridiculous. I mean, it's very clear following the Danish cartoons how thin skinned the Islamic World is to the "M" word being mentioned. No Pope would willingly put the Christians in the Middle East at risk, which following attacks on churches in Gaza and Nablus is exactly what's happening.

But the real problem is we're speaking completely separate languages.

To many of us in the West this looks like another case of "Waaaaah, you've insulted the Holy Quran. I think I'm going to cry...I mean burn a few Churches and effigies."

To the Islamic World I suspect this looks like another case of "eat dust Abdul. And here are some more Crusader troops to occupy your holy lands."


Oh, what did I tell you:

In Egypt, the opposition Muslim Brotherhood said the papal statement didn't constitute a proper apology because the Pope only apologized for the interpretation of his words, not the words themselves, Agence France-Presse reported.


Lee A. Arnold

Well you have to wonder how many the papacy saw slaughtered!

But Marc I was wondering another question: isn't it about time for moderate Muslims to get embarrassed about all this? Why can't the West force them rhetorically up to the plate, to talk about order in their societies? The Iraqi civil war, after we're done blaming the U.S. for loosing it, is really a cultural embarrassment. The war within Islam may be over much sooner than anyone expects, simply because moderate Muslims may start choosing to side with a peaceable modernity.


Has everyone gone crazy or is it just me that understands that the Pope was talking about Jihad and the early roots of Islam from a particular perspective--not Islam itself--and that true religion is peaceful...
And so people react by saying don't call us violent or we will riot and burn down your churches?


The worst thing about this is how it has sucked the media oxygen out of the reform movement for women's rights in Pakistan. The Pope had a real opportunity to lend moral support to the reformists. Instead he effectively killed all hope of it.



You seem convinced, but I'll just point out that taking a controversial position in an urgent political debate is a known risk factor for death threats. Edward Said, for example--a notably moderate, near-pacifistic commentator--got any number of them before succumbing organically to cancer a couple of years back. I'm aware of nobody who argued then, based on those threats, that Jews were doctrinally, culturally, and/or genetically predisposed to violence.

The Pope has rashly (and rather gratuitously) inserted himself into one of the bitterest controversies of the day: who cast the first stone in the current struggle between Euro-America and jihado-postcolonialism. But like the JDL goons who threatened Said -- an infinitesimal figure by comparison -- those teenage hotheads you see on the news are, as hotheads will, expressing a desire, not a reality. Back in the day, the great mass of mainstream, JNF-donating, Yom Kippur synagogue-attending, Chanukah-bush lighting American Jews, when they thought about Said at all, looked at his criticisms of Israel and were simply offended. I see no evidence at all that the social dynamics of Muslims the world over are any different.

Theo van Gogh was assassinated, sure, and it's terrible. But so was Harvey Milk. Come back to us when you've spent a few months denouncing the heterosexual jihad.


True, pardon my stupidity. Thing is, if one could reframe AQ as an ideology rather than a clandestine organisation in the minds of Americans, the war on terror might get intelligent.

It is demonstratably true that al Qaeda *is* a clandestine organization. It may also be more than that- organizations need principles to organize themselves around- but to define al Qaeda primarily as an ideology would be foolish, IMO.

The idea itself of this struggle as a war assumes a uniformed enemy, and thinking of AQ as an ideology would reframe that struggle for the better. It's also a far more precise description of the problem, I think.

Dunno about that.

Do we want to go back to the days when killing someone for thinking the wrong ideas was acceptable?

That's what it's going to take, and you're kidding yourself if you think otherwise.


Does anyone seriously believe that Islamic fundamentalists need rhetoric to mobilize their movement?

The fire is fueled internally regardless of comments - Muslims in the UK were demanding Sharia law 12 years ago.

These of course were moderate muslims not fundamtentalists .. so do comments such as the pope push moderates over the edge? Clearly not, the moderate position of Islam is a slow domination of all religion/politics/philosophy. The fundamentalists position is rather more expedient.

At the end of the day as can be seen by anyone that understands the basics of Islam is we (infidels destined for death or dhimmitude) are damned if we do and doomed if we don't.

Our values of openness and tolerance cannot serve us if our 'brothers and sisters' are theologically intolerant of us.

It's about time that we stood up for our values - including freedom of speech, tolerance and equity by defending those values against people that do not share them.

This does NOT mean trying to force our views or beliefs on others but simply defending our rights to fundamental freedoms within our own societies.

I openly welcome muslims and non-muslims into our societies on the simple but fair precondition that they tolerate us.

The pope has simply stated that Mohammed (a warrior) has created a warriors vision of religion .. rule by the sword and the shadow of the sword. This does clearly threaten our freedom and we do therefore have the right to defend it, rhetoric or not the movement has begun and will continue... if we gag ourselves into not speaking then Islam will take this opportunity to mobilise further .. you don't need to be a Phd in theology to see that!

Ivan Lenin

What do you mean by "work with the mainstream Islam"? I'm not sure what you're suggesting.


yes who exactly are the mainstream? who is their voice? what are they doing to deal with problems withing their own culture? what eveidence is there that they even exist?

Muslim Apple

The anti-Islam rhetoric coming out of many corners of the western political and religious landscape to serve to push many Muslims closer to the edge of extremism.

Some mainstream organizations within the North American Muslim community:

Islamic Society of North America
AlMaghrib Institute
Zaytuna Institute
Council on American Islamic Relations

Whoever doesn't know about these organizations and their leaders or instructors knows nothing of the reality of the forces of moderation or otherwise within the American Muslim community.

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