Had a pretty normal past few days. Work, Bible study on Monday night, work, work, and so on. So I thought I would mix it up a little by an opinion article. Once again, these are my own personal opinions.
Something that most have undoubtedly caught in the news recently is the Pope making comments about some history concerning Islam which has bought widespread condemnation, and dare I say it, revolt, from large sections of the Muslim world. I should firstly disclaim myself for the non-aware readers that I am not Catholic, so I don't support the Pope or the Catholic Church. Secondly, I am an Orthodox Christian, so up-front there is my disclosure of my background and context before I continue. For some background on this issue, read this Wikipedia article, which includes the context of the offending statements.
I feel that what the Pope said in the lecture was taken out of context and sensationalised, and whilst I do not want to wade into the specifics what he said, I do want to touch on the issue of large sections of the Islamic world's sensitivity to any sort of criticism (which wasn't really what he was doing in his lecture anyway!).
I think it is a two-pronged issue. Firstly is the media, both western and Arabic/Muslim, which jump on any opportunity to mis-quote, mislead, and generally cause a stir. For them more news is good news. Secondly, is the reactions amongst some Muslims themselves.
Seemingly no one can criticise Islam (and specifically anything in the Qu'ran or by Muhammad) whatsoever in today's global setting and not cause some sort of uproar. Whilst public figures should be mindful of what they say, the ultra-sensitivity of a large section of the Muslim world to any sort of criticism is alarming.
Already in relation to this issue a Catholic Nun in Somalia has been murdered, Churches have been attacked, and various Muslim clerics have called for the Pope to be hunted down and killed. Australian Cardinal George Pell, in weighing in on the issue, rightly says that the reactions from the Muslim world to the Pope's lecture, shows "the link for many Islamists between religion and violence, their refusal to respond to criticism with rational arguments, but only with demonstrations, threats and actual violence".
That being said, I think the Pope in this situation did make an error in judgement by citing that particular quote in giving that lecture. As leader of the Catholic Church I was surprised that he, or his minders, did not anticipate the reactions to a person of his position physically saying those words that can and have been so easily quoted in the media as coming from the Pope, regardless of the context in which they were said.
But then again, I am somewhat glad that he honestly gave a lecture as he would as a theologian. I think its time that the easily offended part of the Muslim start respecting Western society's ideology of free speech, and accept that people are going to say things that they don't like and find religiously offensive, and that the West should stop being so apologetic in regards to tip-toeing around the Muslim world.
Imagine if every time someone prominent mocked, ridiculed, and made fun of Jesus, or every time someone prominent brings up the Christian Church's dirty laundry in the pages of history, results people rising up in revolt, calling for the head of person who said it. Unthinkable.
History shows us that it is true that Islam and its history is largely linked with violence. But so is that of Christian, and especially Roman Catholic history in the past 2000 years.