Pope Benedict XVI’s purpose of his Sept.12 speech at Regensburg, Germany was to address the issue of the relationship between faith and reason, not to offend the Islamic culture. Benedict cited a 14th century Byzantine emperor’s remarks stating Muhammad, the Muslim final prophet of God and model of Muslim life, “spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Not only is this statement completely false considering Muhammad defended Islam from the Meccans who threatened and attacked Muslims, but also Benedict’s statements concerning the Qur’anic passage were also incorrect.
Benedict, being a distinguished Catholic theologian, may need to brush up a little on the Islamic heritage before he makes such false accusations aloud again. The Muslims had every right to be angry and insulted by Benedict’s latest speech because not only did Benedict speak wrong information, but he also opened a wider door to discrimination against Islam, Arabs and Muslims.
Many Muslims feel under siege since the attacks of 9/11, and with the statements Benedict spoke, the Muslims deserved nothing less than a heart-felt apology, hoping to rightly justify Muslims from their comparison of being “evil and inhuman.” Benedict’s actions thus since have been made in hopes to bring peace to Muslims and Catholics.
Benedict does indeed need to apologize to Muslims, stating his citing of the Byzantine emperor did not reflect his personal views. “In a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason, we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together,” the pope said. “Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence,” he also added.
There must be more that can be done. Perhaps Benedict should invite Muslim religious leaders and scholars to meet and discuss the issues that his statement raised and hear their concerns and responses to his specific comments about Islam. Benedict, known to have visited Islamic countries very scarcely, should take it upon himself to make more of an appearance to these countries and show them he is not an enemy but a friend.
Though Benedict has first class scholars of Islam at the Vatican to serve him, he must make absolute certain that his addresses are 100 percent truth.
Now is the time to move on. Benedict has made his apology and the two religions must now work to overcome ignorance and hostility, as well as the treats of violence and intolerance.