Pope’s Trip to Turkey in Doubt
Turkish officials are becoming skittish about Pope Benedict XVI’s planned November trip to Turkey, an almost entirely Muslim country where feelings have been hurt by the pope’s quotation of a medieval Byzantine emperor to the effect that the Prophet Muhammad brought nothing but evil.
Protests grew on Friday, from Muslim clerics, from lay politicians,a nd from Muslim crowds demonstrating. The Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning the Pope’s remarks. (Since the Pakistani parliament has been fighting Muslim fundamentalists and trying to avoid implementing Islamic law, this was an easy way to stress their Muslim bonafides even as they pursue secular policies). Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir took time out from worrying about the Kashmir issue to protest the Pope. Likewise there were protests by Palestinians in Gaza.
The Vatican continues to decline to apologize, only saying that no offense was meant by the Pope’s remarks.
Some commentators have complained about Muslim sensibilities in this regard. But in my view, this sensitivity is a feature of postcolonialism. Muslims were colonized by Western powers, often for centuries, and all that period they were told that their religion was inferior and barbaric. They are independent now, though often they have gained independence only a couple of generations (less if you consider neocolonialism). As independent, they are finally liberated to protest when Westerners put them down.
There is an analogy to African-Americans, who suffered hundreds of years of slavery and then a century of Jim Crow. They are understandably sensitive about white people putting them down, and every time one uses the “n” word, you can expect a strong reaction. In the remarks the pope quoted about Muhammad, he essentially did the equivalent of using the “n” word for Muslims. It is no mystery that people are protesting.
This issue is not going to go away until the Pope comes out and clarifies and apologizes. All he has to do is quote Vatican II on Islam, which is still Catholic doctrine last I knew, and the whole issue would blow over. It will be a huge error if he sticks to his guns.
All he has to do is say he is sorry if it appeared he was slamming Muhammad and Islam, and that this is what the Catholic Church actually feels about the issue:
‘ The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ, “the way the truth, and the life” (John 14, 6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (4).
The Church therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth (5), who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes great pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgement when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this Sacred Synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. ‘
Since it is Catholic doctrine, there is nothing wrong with repeating it to the Muslims now, and the whole thing would immediately blow over.