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September 17, 2006



I completely agree with your thoughts on this. Double standards and hypocricy are so prevalent, and even when you point it out to people, they cannot see them. Th eproblem is, I don't foresee any change in direction from our side, and on the other hand, things are also going down hill with opportunists on the western side waiting to flame things up.


Am happy that you are bringing this subject Ammar , i was away and disconnected from the news last week and just came back to find that the world has turned upside down!
I have to say that a man in the pope's position has to be more than careful in his statements specialy under the current sensitive situation between the west and the east.
however i was reading his speach ,and i beleive that it was somehow misinterpretated , he just qouted some dialogue between some byzantine emperor , who's empire was under othman threat , and a learned persian moslem ,where the emperor wanted to explain the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
and in regards to that dialogue the pope says:

". In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point – itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason".."

and in his discussion he quotes the surah which says that "there is no compulsion in religeon"

In fact i was positively surprised to find that in this speach the pope debates the man's relation with God , if God is absolutely transcendent or his will should be bounded with our rationality.

It could be that there are too many ways how his speach can be interpretated but regardless of its context , it cant be that we lost any language except the language of violence , it cant be that we have no other ways of reaction except violent demonstrations , burning flags cars and churches , threatening to burn Rome and to explode the western capitals...even some of our "intellctuals" rushed to talk about religeous war!!
we see people being killed daily in iraq in the name of Islam ,women stoned to death in the name of Islam , only few weeks ago fanatics cut the head of sudani journalist in the name of Islam and NO ONE is doing anything , not the regime , not the people , not even the intellectuals to stand against those who distort the image of Islam...so how do we expect the world to be protictive and positive to our image if we are destroying it by our own hands?
(Note m not moslem but i say WE because i belong to this people no matter of religion)


Hello - I agree with your analysis... if the Pope was any researcher on theological matters...
But the Pope is a "political" and symbolic figure. We should achnowledge that his statement, whether he means what he said or not, is "maladroit". Specially now, a couple of month after the "Denmark" burst and Bush's statements about "Fascist Islam".
How could the pope be so careless?!? I am starting to think he meant to make such a statement. The latter would definitely help the US catholic church regain some support after all the scandals that it has gone through. Let me know what you think


Ammar, this time I agree with you whole-heartedly with every word you have written. I congratulate you for showing that we have intellectuals who are capable or understanding and responding in civilized manner. Our religion as we understand it, is also have the same face of civility. Great Islamic philosophers and thinkers were never reactionaries. Muslims scholars always criticized western Middle Ages for their treatment of heretics and our groupings and sects are prove of our religious diversities.

Curt Hopkins

I spent at least an hour yesterday trying to find some analysis of the pope's speech. Apparently the western press is mostly terrified of looking closely at it except for the very right wing writers, who are not known for their interpretive care. This is a very valuable piece of writing for me to understand the validity of the pope's statements. I would add, however, in response to Maya, that this pope is never careless. He does things on purpose. I think he was quite consciously challenging both 'westerners' and Muslims to directly confront this weird way we have of looking at things like this, that is, either wholesale condemnation, or wholesale excuse-making. I'm not a big fan of this pope, but one thing he's not is careless. He meant to issue a challange to Muslims as much as to Christians like myself. So far Ammar's the only one I've found who took up that challenge. There are hopefully others out there.

ghassan karam

Ammar, an escellent post, as usual:-)

Let me add just one small things. The following is the statement by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry as delivered by Tansim Aslam:

" Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence". lol.


Ammar is not alone;

The Syrian Brit

That quote reminded me of an item of graffiti on a wall in West Beirut, when I lived there in the early eighties.. it goes something like 'No to sectarianism.. Islam is the only way!..'... or words to that effect!!...


Maya: the Pope is not the irresponsible party here.


Indeed, as Curt pointed out, the Pope definitely knew what he was doing. He wanted to issue an intellectual challenge to his Muslim counterparts and generate some debate over the issue of forceful conversion and intercultural dialogue. Note here that he did not use the word interfaith dialogue, as seems bent on including the secular elements in this dialogue as well. This is really a very cleaver speech, and its real purport seems to have been lost to so many, which is, in my opinion, a real indication as to the lack of global readiness for undertaking such a serious dialogue over the relations between faith and reason, and the necessity of a serious intercultural dialogue, not just lip service in this regard.

Like many such calls, a position was also staked here, the Pope did not try to play the role of some neutral figure, he had a point of view and expressed loudly, the violent character of Islam, or its jihadi tendency, is a source of worry for him and reflects negatively on the history of the faith, if not the faith itself, especially at this point in time, when other faiths, especially Christianity, seem to have transcended to a great extant (although much still needs to be done here as well) their erstwhile messianic zeal, and the violence associated with that. The Pope seems to be inviting the Muslims then to undertake a similar review of their faith and its history, and take a clearer stand on the issue of faith-inspired violence. Coming at this point in time when many acts of violence are being perpetrated in the name of Islam on a daily basis, this is a very legitimate issue to raise. The nature of the Muslim reaction in this regard more than validates this stand.

Abu Kareem


Great post. Thank you for articulating what many of us think but few have the courage to speak out loud. We need thousands of voices like yours.


The stiff stand against civil communication between Islam and Christianity is almost similar to the stand of secular dictatorship against dialogue of all kinds. Currently, no Islamic leader (or secular leader) have the courage to tackle the differences between Islamic sects which creating bloodshed and genocide in Iraq, however they do not stand short to ask for apology from the Pope for mentioning incident happened in the middle ages. What is happening so far is a failure to see the opportunity for a civil dialogue between the faith leaders. This is a reminder of the stiff stand of current President of Syria when the late Pope visited Syria in the beginning for this century.


Thank you for this post -- it is a sign of hope. If you want to know what our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, really thinks about Muslims, I encourage you to read his address to the Muslim community at Cologne, Germany in 2005. His words carry a greater weight than ever before, in light of recent events. It is unfortunate that they are being forgotten and that the media is playing up the controversy for all that it's worth, fanning the flames of hatred where there is simply no cause.

As for an understanding of the context of his speech, which was as much a criticism of the loss of reason in the secular West as it was a challenge to Islam -- really, a theological defense of the integration of biblical faith and philosophical reason -- see Pope Benedict XVI on "Faith, Reason and the University" Regensburg, 2006.

Thank you again for your post -- it is very encouraging.


Great post Ammar, but I have to say that the pope could have done a bit better in packaging his message. It is not enough to be a knowledgeable theologian, he needs to also be a talented communicator, like the pope he replaced.

If he intended to talk to all Muslims (not only the highly educated ones) ... then there is a much more direct way to present his challenging questions, not the confusing way he embedded them within a quote within his highly philosophical speech. Aljazeerah wasted no time in quoting the most controversial parts of that speech.

I will reserve my judgment on his efforts until I see him following up through more detailed questions and arguments. Maybe when he visits Turkey.

Didn’t the Israelis also ask the pope to apologize last year after he accused them of committing crimes against the Palestinian civilians?


If he intended to talk to all Muslims (not only the highly educated ones) ... then there is a much more direct way to present his challenging questions, not the confusing way he embedded them within a quote within his highly philosophical speech. Aljazeerah wasted no time in quoting the most controversial parts of that speech.

The speech was given at Regensburg university where he taught -- to students and faculty. Honestly, I'm not sure how 'calculated' was his use of the quote, or if he anticipated it's being excerpted by the media in the way that they did.

Unfortunately, the media by and large doesn't have the intellectual capacity to tackle the core of his lecture (remember: his comments about Islam comprised 2-3 paragraphs of a rather long and detailed address). I fault the media as much as any of those who are burning the Pope in effigy for picking and reporting out of context what they knew would be inflammatory. What did they expect with headlines like "Pope Enjoys Private Time after SLAMMING Islam"? -- The journalists knew what they were doing and what would happen. Controversy sells. It's hard to say whether those who attended the address thought anything of the remarks at the time they were made, understood in the full context of what the Pope was suggesting.


Ammar, thank you so much for your post. I have been so depressed seeing the reaction of the Moslem world to the Holy Father's comments. It made me question whether there is any chance for a dialogue between the West and the Moslem world. What I found so disconcerting were that so many were eager to criticize the Pope (Moslem and Westerner alike) without taking the time to read his whole speech. Your post have given me hope. Thank you and God Bless you.



I think this was maybe the best piece of your's I have ever read.

I have to borrow from something I heard Dennis Prager say today. Roughly paraphrased:

"The Pope (or as my Hebrew-speaking wife keeps calling him.."the Pop")is a religious and moral leader. What is he supposed to do, be the world's therapist and make everybody feel all OK and warm and fuzzy? If there is something to criticize...then he has a DUTY to speak up." Come on "sticks and stones can..."

I have to throw in another part of a piece I read today by a Moslem American:

"While this fighting is often thought to be the only way to empower Palestinians, and even all Muslims, it’s really nothing more than the power to self-destruct. Our goals of creating a better life for Palestinians and Muslims are not being accomplished. Instead, life is becoming unbearable across the Arab world. Is that power?

Muslims are not powerless. We have the power to do what no one else ultimately can. We can stop the violence. But we need to convince other Muslims that this behavior is vile, rather than telling non-Muslims that this is not Islam.

Stopping this strain from flowing through our faith and cultures doesn’t mean that bad feelings won’t remain and that Palestinians won’t continue to feel that Israel has humiliated them. It means that as Palestinians get back on the road to dignity, trust will be gained and they’ll eventually be able to give their children something to to look forward to: life.

This is the only chance that Muslims have for gaining the respect we crave from the rest of the world, and it is the only way the Middle East will ever become a viable part of the global community."

I know I was long-winded here...but this is a vital issue and a crucial time. Not just for the ME either.

Criticism is not necessarily and insult. And if you get insulted...well deal with it...and then do something to make things better.

Philip I


This is really an excellent post, which I very much appreciate and agree with.

I have posted someting similar on my blog and linked it to yours.

Mary Kay

Thanks for your post. I've added your blog to those I read periodically.

Red Tulips

Thanks for this post! I agree with it 100%! I actually think the whole thing is comical, because by rioting and pillaging at the suggestion that Islam is a violent faith, they prove the pope correct!

I have much respect for Muslims or ex-Muslims, such as yourself, but very little respect for Islam the faith, a faith that has so view voices of moderation and tolerance within it. I have so little respect for a faith that contains clerics and imams who regularly call for the death to infidels, and then get offended when the pope says his mild comments.

But I want to be clear that I have the utmost respect for you and people like you, who speak out against the barbarism. You are a voice of sanity amidst the insanity. So thank you.


You seem as ignorant as the Pope is on Islam; no wonder you're a heretic. The verse 2:256 was revealed in Madinah and NOT in the early period. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Shame on you.


I work for the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders.
We think of translating your post "we the barbarians" into french and include it in one of our publications. Would it be ok? (We would of course mention that the copyright is yours).
You can contact me at internet at rsf.org
Julien Pain


I shouldn't be floored at that last anonymous comment (taking issue with one line of your lengthy and thoughtful post and expecting that to discredit the whole thing), since that's essentially what so many have done with the Pope's speech, but the irony still staggers me...

Apart from that I have nothing insightful to say, but wanted to add one more "God bless you!" It's increasingly difficult to find any kind of reasoned discourse from any side, much less on this issue...all we keep seeing in the Western media are wild-eyed men stomping on burning papal effigies and so forth (and, of course, Tasnim Aslam's tacit endorsement of violent responses). Your blog has given me new hope, and I'm adding it to my links. I look forward to reading more from you.


"You seem as ignorant as the Pope is on Islam; no wonder you're a heretic. The verse 2:256 was revealed in Madinah and NOT in the early period. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Shame on you."

Actually, neither I nor the Pope had anything to say about the exact period in which the verse appeared, be it Makkan or Madinan. But you should note here two things: there are so many verse in the Qur'an whose origins, whether in Makkah or Madinah, are not decided with any certainty and is still subject to debate, verse 2:256 being one of them. The second point is that, even, in Madinah, Muhammad and the Muslims remained “under threat” until after the Battle of the Trench and the massacre of the Jewish Tribe of Bani Quraizah.

The arrogant attitude of the true believer in your intervention is also pretty amusing, especially when suggest that if I ended up embracing heretical views, I must be ignorant of Islam. The fact is: I studied Islam in depth for many years, and was an Islamist preacher at some mosque in LA in 1988-89. I even had the dubious pleasure of converting people to Islam during that period. Believers have to really factor in their calculations that no matter how dear their faith is to them, human reason and calls of conscience can still lead people to other conclusions, and that this cannot be interpreted as a sign of ignorance of the faith.

No heretic is a born a heretic. Indeed, heretics are usually quite versed in their erstwhile faith. It is the combination of their intimate knowledge of it, their particular experiences in life and their constant soul-searching that lead them away, but not necessarily astray.


By all means Julien, you can translate the piece into any language you want.

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