Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cardinal Pell, the Pope and Islam

Australian Catholic Cardinal George Pell has recently spoken out in support of the comments of the Pope that caused a lot of sabre rattling amongst aggreived members of the world Islamic community. The Islamic response to the comments go to show that the comments were valid and he also said "the pontiff did nothing wrong in making the speech, and says he does not rule out a link between Islam and violence."
Australia's Cardinal George Pell weighed into the debate, suggesting that violent responses to the Pope's September 12 lecture demonstrate the link "for the Islamists" between religion and violence.
The Koran: It is self-evident that some Koranic verses encourage violence. Consider for example a verse which implies that fighting is "good for you": "Fighting is prescribed upon you, and you dislike it. But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows and you know not." (2:216)

On the other hand, it is equally clear that there are peaceful verses as well, including the famous "no compulsion in religion" (2:256).
The New Testament takes a completely different approach.

Throughout the New Testament there is a systematic rejection of religious violence. The key to this is Jesus' message that his kingdom was spiritual and not political. Jesus explicitly and repeatedly condemns the use of force to achieve his goals: "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." (Matthew 26:52)

As Jesus goes to the cross, he renounces force, even at the cost of his own life: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36) The Sermon on the Mount elaborates several aspects of Jesus' non-violent ethic.

Retribution was no longer acceptable (Matthew 5:38), enemies were to be loved, not hated (Matthew 5:43), the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5) and Jesus' disciples should rejoice when they are persecuted (Matthew 5:10).

While Benedict's comments on Islam and holy war may not have been "politically correct," said former Vatican diplomat John-Peter Pham, "today much of our dialogue is fruitless because we feel constrained from saying what we really think."

The source of the Islamic anger was a speech last week in which the pontiff cited a Medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

While the pope later said he was "deeply sorry" over the reactions to his remarks and that they did not reflect his own opinions, top churchmen rushed to his defense.

"The violent reactions in many parts of the Islamic world justified one of Pope Benedict's main fears," said Australian Cardinal George Pell.

"They showed 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," Pell said Monday.
Carindal Pell has not shrunk away from the media nor from contentious or potentially volatile comments and has previously been outspoken (5 May 2006) in relation to the connection between violence and reactions of muslims.
Having read the sacred text, Cardinal Pell then sets out what he discovered.The Koran, he says, is riddled with invocations to violence.
There are so many of these, he says, that after about 50, or 60, or 70 pages, he stopped taking notes.
He goes on to say that considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.
And he points to the difficulty that scholars and commentators face when analysing the Koran, such as receiving death threats and violence when questioning the divine origin of the holy book.
Dr Pell said while he was grateful for the contributions of moderate Muslims, "evil acts done falsely in the name of Islam around the world need to be addressed, not swept under the carpet".

Dr Pell has repeatedly said Islam is more warlike than Christianity.

In June this year he told the National Catholic Reporter in the US: "It's difficult to find periods of tolerance in Islam."

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