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Question #1

Should the Pope have apologized for his comments quoting a Byzantine emperor who equated Islam and violence? David Horovitz: Should the pope apologize? For quoting from a critique of Mohammad in the course of a lengthy address dealing, among other philosophical matters, with the interface between religion and ethics and violence? He has already expressed sorrow at the bitter, sometimes violent reactions, his comments have provoked. The real question is: Which party here is seeking dialogue, and which is rejecting it and displaying intolerance? Which party, as with last year's "cartoon wars," is highlighting the despicable abuse of religion to inflame violence? And which party is proving the point? Editor's Notes: Miri Eisin takes on the world Saul Singer: It would have been nice if the Pope had responded to the protests thus: "I meant no offense to Muslims or to Islam. I would only hope that the respect that our Muslim brothers expect from me they would also accord to Christians and Jews, and that they would condemn anyone who advocates violence and spreads hatred in their name and that of their esteemed religion." Though the Pope did not fully apologize or retract his remarks, the personal regret he expressed is extremely rare and perhaps even unprecedented. In this context, I hope that he has not been bullied into silence about violence and terrorism committed in the name of religion. All religious leaders, including rabbis, have a duty to speak out against atrocities committed in the name of God. Interesting Times: Reckless 'realists' Daniel Doron: Yes, the Pope should apologize: For quoting an obscure, and most likely prejudiced, Byzantine Empror instead of quoting The Koran. It would have made his point more apposite, pithy and convincing and would have deprived his detractors of their chief excuse for calling him a bigot. Galilee gravy train Daoud Kuttab: I saw this problem brewing in the way al-Jazzera was handling it. In addition to the distorted way the Pop's speech was handled in the news bulletins, what was worrisome was the way the story was reported in the scrolling script on the bottom of the screen. By its nature the scrolling script (repeated ad naseauem) can only take a finite number of characters and the possibilities of distortions and taking a speech out of context was exaggerated. In reacting to the Pope's speech, I noticed differing trends. One trend I would call the herd mentality which saw in the few words repeated in the media further proof of some global conspiracy against Islam. The conspiracy's major highlights were George Bush and his "crusade' quotation, secular Europeans and their blasphemous cartoons and the leader of the Christian Catholic church in his stereotyping of Islam as principally violent. Another trend I noticed was also in opposition to the Pope's speech but this time more from a survivalist rationale. This was clearest among Arab Christians (and some secular Muslims) who as a minority see in these statements a scary and dangerous excuse for the uncontrolled herds to hurt them. The third trend I noticed welcomed the statements as an opportunity for debate and dialogue instead of keeping these issues under the carpet. Some of my friends felt that the Pope has dared say things that most are unwilling to say. They point to the hypocrisy many Muslims engage in that simply allows regular attacks and descriptions of heresy to any other religion or any other version of Islam while going nuts when someone questions some of the issues in their own faith. They also point to the daily killings in Iraq of Muslims by fellow Muslims simply because they follow a different persuasion in Islam as yet another indication of the need to confront these theological issues which are used to justify killings. Finally the reactions of Islamic leaders like Palestinian Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh who publicly denounced those torching churches as totally unacceptable way to deal with the issue that Palestinian Christians have nothing to do with. Finally my personal opinion is that all us should take a position on any person or group who use religion to justify violence, and here I remind people of the most recent statements by Christian Zionists who publicly encouraged Israel to continue its attacks on Lebanese using Biblical quotations (the story of Kaleb and Joshua legitimizing killings of women and children) as justification for killing civilians in Lebanon, as well as Jewish settlers who continue to plunder Palestinian lands and attack Palestinians because of a claim that this was their God given right. Wanted - leaders who tell it like it is Larry Derfner: Well, there's one person who would have screamed bloody murder over his apology and that's Oriana Fallaci, who coincidentally died a couple of days after the pope's speech. Fallaci didn't only hate "Islamo-fascism," as her right-wing eulogizers would have it - she hated Islam and Muslims, period. "Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy..." she told a starry-eyed Wall Street Journal interviewer on Aug. 23, 2005. She also reportedly said Muslims "have been told to come to [Europe] and breed like rats," and compared the Koran to Mein Kampf. In its report of her death, Reuters noted that her book "The Rage and the Pride" "described Islam as oppressive and Arab immigrants in Europe as dirty, foul-mouthed and bigoted." It doesn't help the pope's case that Fallaci absolutely idolized him for his views on contemporary Europe, nor that he granted her an audience at his summer residence last August 27 - an audience the Vatican confirmed only after it was reported in the media. This makes me wonder whether the pope may really be a plain-and-simple Islamophobe as his enemies claim. About Fallaci and legions of her right-wing admirers, no one needs to wonder. Rattling the Cage: The Jewish tradition of Aharon Barak Jonathan Tobin: Given the vulnerability of Christians inside the Muslim world, it can be argued that a Papal apology may serve to save lives. But the reason why an apology may have been inevitable - the proclivity of Muslims to use deadly violence to register their opinions and to promote what they think are the interests of their faith - demonstrates the West's dilemma in dealing with the Arab/Muslim world. The notion that Muslim violence and the rise of Islamist terror is not a fit topic for public debate is the real problem. The idea that jihad or an obligation to wage holy war had nothing to do with the historic spread of Islam is as absurd as the attempt to suppress debate about contemporary Islamist terror and hate is dangerous. The violent reaction of Muslim mobs to anything, whether ironic (as was the case with the Danish cartoons) or scholarly (as in the Pope's speech) that speaks to this issue only reinforces the cogency of a critique of Islamic culture and politics. The retreat of the Vatican is in line with the general rout of Western Europe when dealing with aggressive Islam in recent decades. The work of authors Bat Ye'or (Eurabia) and Melanie Phillips (Londonistan) have brilliantly demonstrated other examples of this trend. The Pope may have felt he had to apologize, but thinking persons who care about the future of the West and freedom ought to be asking the same questions that he tentatively broached. View from America: The next catastrophe waiting Daniel Pipes: The pope should not have apologized, as he did nothing wrong. (By the way, a close look at the Italian original of his statement finds it much milder than the official Vatican translation into English - not "I am deeply sorry" but merely "I regret.") The statement Benedict XVI quoted from the Byzantine emperor, to the effect that everything new in Islam is "evil and inhuman," with specific reference to jihad (holy war) needs to be debated. I happen to disagree with it, but I stand by his right to express his views on Islam. We are in a war and a crisis, and each of us, from the mightiest to the lowliest, needs the freedom to opine on the nature of the enemy and how to defeat him. Nothing can be off limits in this debate; and there must be no penalty for those who express their views. To apologize and to avoid further discussion of Islam is to accept Islamic restrictions and to take a first, and momentous, acceptance of the Shari'a (Islamic law). Nike and 9/11 Michael Freund: The question as to whether or not the Pope should have apologized is beside the point - it is a distraction from the main issue currently confronting Israel and the West, which is how to defeat the global jihadist movement. By focusing so much attention on this issue, while ignoring far more grievous incidents, the media is being selective and tendentious in its choice of what to report. When Palestinian terrorists recently forced two abducted Fox News journalists to convert to Islam as a condition of their release, I don't recall the media pressing any senior Muslim clerics to apologize to Christians. When a Palestinian mob burned and destroyed the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem ( Nablus ) back in October 2000, journalists did not bang down the doors of Muslim sheikhs looking for expressions of regret and contrition. And when Palestinian newspapers and television and filled with anti-Semitic vitriol on a near-daily basis, where is the demand for Muslim remorse? So if the media were truly concerned about assuaging hurt feelings, they would do well to stop worrying so much about our radical Islamist foes, and start focusing more on the victims of their violence and intolerance. Right On!: Laughing at Lenin and Osama Barbara Sofer: I'm thinking of Sister Leonella, an Italian nun shot in the back in Somalia, at the entrance of the hospital for women and children where she worked by defenders of the values and good name of Islam. Kids traveling today assume that taking off their shoes, tossing their soda bottles, and walking through metal detectors is the way people always traveled. No one dares to name the threat: Moslem terror. In the world of no-speak they're as likely to believe that the big bad Israelis with their disproportional responses to being kidnapped and bombed are equally responsible for the inconvenience and threat. It's good for the Pope to recognize the dangers of extreme Islam. But it's modern-day Jihad and not ancient texts that should be targeted. I wince to think of the celebration for Hizbullah and al-Qaida as the Pope backs down. The Human Spirit: A Sicilian lesson Isi Leibler: When the Pope makes a speech it is not off the cuff but a carefully crafted statement. Despite his subsequent "apologies" Pope Benedict performed an important service. He may not have been "street smart" in his language and the medieval quotation he used about the Prophet was hardly a prescription for interdenominational activities. But at long last a Christian leader has had the courage to call a spade a spade and stopped repeating the bizarre mantra that Islam is a religion of peace. As in all religions there are many faces to Islam. But the principal face confronting the world today is barbaric, violent and unyielding in its totalitarian objectives. It regards all infidels as beyond the pale, at best to be treated as a despised second-rate minority. Pope Benedict's foray into inter-religious activities is far more constructive than most of our Jewish interfaith do-gooders who do an injustice to the Jewish people when they grovel before hard line Islamic leaders trying to persuade them that they are in truth lovable and peaceful sons of Abraham. This was exemplified by the sickening statement by Chief Rabbi Amar, who castigated the Pope for failing "to honor every religion and every nation according to their paths" and the World Jewish Congress spokesman who makes absurd statements like "99% of all Moslems reject all forms of violence". We can in fact only encourage moderate Moslems to come out of the closet if we stand up against the murderous violence and inhumanity of those purporting to represent Islam. Kudos to the Pope. Catholicism today has rejected the violence and inhumanity of its past. We can only hope that the Pope will continue speaking and condemning violence in Islam and other religions. My Ten Commandments of political reform Stewart Weiss: The Pope is experiencing what we Jews have suffered for years: Muslim intolerance. The right to have an opinion that differs from the mainstream, the right to dissent, the right to question the behavior of certain privileged others and express oneself freely - all these rub up against the triumphalism of a Moslem hierarchy that brooks no deviation from the party line. And so it has been throughout history. Mohammed gave the "infidels" only two choices: Become my follower, or lose your head. Islam too often remains today a religion of force; it remains widely acceptable for women to be murdered in "honor" killings, and to respond violently to any criticism of Islam. And, of course, any non-Islam entity in the Moslem world - be they Copts, Kurds, Jews or Bahai - are banned, persecuted, or officially relegated to second-class status. Maybe, just maybe, after this experience the Pope will "get religion" and see the light; maybe now he will perceive the darkness Islamic extremists are attempting to spread over this once-bright planet. 'Transplanted' to Israel
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