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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le Pope crée la polémique sur l’Islam

by Paul Falzon

The Pope Sparks Debate about Islam

Translated Wednesday 27 September 2006, by Henry Crapo

Religion: Benedict XVI describes the Moslem faith as a violent religion in which "reason" is absent. Indignant reactions from religious organizations around the world.

There were many reactions yesterday from all parts of the Moslem world, to pronouncements made about Islam by Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday concerning the "fatal sickness" of that religion, in a speech delivered during his trip to his native Germany. Breaking with the strategy of interfaith dialog of his predecessor Jean-Paul II, the pontiff sparked fierce debate by saying that in his judgement "In the Moslem doctrine, God is absolutely transcendant. His will is related to none of our intellectual categories, not even to that of reason".

He contrasted this to Christian thought, which he considers nourished by Greek philosophy, and which refuses "to act other than by reason". With respect to the Prophet of Islam, Benedict XVI was even more critical: "Show me what Mohammed brought us that was new, and you will only find nasty and inhuman things, like his order to use the sword to spread the faith that he professed", he affirmed, in fact quoting a text attributed to a Byzantine emperor, concerning the violence supposedly present in the Moslem religion since its birth.

Several times denouncing the concept of "holy war", the pope faced off against those who "destroy" the image of God "by hate and fanaticism". Along similar lines, he attacked "modern atheism" and the French enlightenment, for which "God becomes superfluous". His address, in his view, was intended to encourage the spread of a religion "of love" and a faith "with a human face".

While those close to the pope reassure us that the remarks were intended to criticize Moslem extremists, reaction from Moslem organizations around the world was wide-spread and hostile. "The claim to establish an explicit connection between Islam and a religion at the heart of which violence exists is inexact", asserts the North American Moslem Association, for whom the pope "takes advantage of the present political context to try to score some political points." The German Central Council of Moslems is of the opinion that this type of discourse is hardly appropriate, "given the history of the Christian Church, from bloody colonization of South America to the Crusades." He recalled that the term "holy war" was "first employed by the pope Urban II in the 11th century". "I hope these remarks will not be used by Islamic fundamentalists", lamented, for his part, the representative of the Pakistani community in Italy. "He neglected to say in his address that the birthplace of Science was Islam, and that the Greek philosophers were first translated by the Moslems before their entry into European history", he emphasized.

Friday, 15 September, page 14

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