Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another Holy Mess

I'm following up on Ghazi's comment that all religions of the day are competing for the distinction of being the most unreasonable in the lot. Perhaps that is made clearer by the unfolding crisis following the statements made by Pope Benedict about Islam.

Before we get to the Muslim response to the Pope's comments, it is quite appropriate to touch on some aspects of the other side. Here we have a Pope, which means the embodiment of doctrine, advocacy, subjectivity and partiality. And he is speaking about (of all things) reason, and where? at a University. Give me a break! This guy not only symbolizes the abdication of reason, but even his professional function was to be the enforcer of doctrine! Forgive me, but I think the whole thing is a major sham to begin with. A university is hardly the proper stage for partisan pontifications. Yes, I know, there is some tolerance in academia for the faith affair and for religious doctrine, but only as a subject of study, perhaps a pathological pursuit, but a university is hardly a place for the promotion of a specific doctrine or view of the world, and especially not at the expense of another. A Pope speaking about reason at a university sounds as ridiculously contrived as a political campaign manager lecturing judges about impartiality! Nothing of any value whatsoever should be expected out of such a mockery of reason.

So the Pope warms up his audience by throwing a couple blows at religious violence--or so they later told us. But, instead of singling out or including examples closer to home, the Pope chose to present someone else's finger of accusation alleging a connection between Islam and violence, but he never gave a hint of the rebuttal of the accused. Surely, the learned Pope could have chosen plenty of other examples and sources of religious violence, without venturing far from his spacetime environment. He had his own Germany of only 50 years ago, to draw from, or Ireland of only a decade or so ago, in both catastrophes catholics figured quite prominently. But he didn't, and frankly, that's not unexpected.

In the old days, say the days of the original debate that the Pope quoted selectively, a jab by a subscriber of one faith at another religion probably would have had no effect. Now the faith enterprise has a different reality to deal with, and it must be able to do so both on the giving and the receiving ends. The new reality is: science and technology have broken all the barriers. If you are a religious leader, a drunk Hollywood actor, or just a tabloid editor, your words can now travel instantly to every corner of the world. Of course that does not mean people should be expected to shut up just because they'll otherwise be widely heard; on the contrary, they will be speaking ever more. But they need to be mindful of the vastness of their audience, and therefore being able to do a better risk/opportunity assessment. Of course, on the individual level the constraints are much more relaxed.

I think, the burden of adjusting must fall more heavily on the receiving end, for purely practical reasons if nothing else. The differences between Catholics and Muslims are nothing new, nothing accidental or superficial. Who does not know that? Those eternal differences cannot be ignored and they will make it to the surface, through the channels of free speech, whether you like it or not. Frankly, the Muslim establishment's views on other religions, as expressed widely, are not necessarily better than the Pope's statements, not by any stretch! Not only that, but one can easily argue that over history, and present times not excluded, the most egregious acts committed against Muslims come from their own leaders, but there is little history about riots breaking out to protest those cases. The Pope speaks, and organizations like Muslim Brotherhood pipe right up! But when Gaddafi recently gassed on endlessly in a speech to Libya's religious authorities, his comments about Islam, and other religions for that matter, went completely unnoticed by the Libyan MB and everyone else who is now protesting frantically.

The Muslims need to get used to living in the global village. This is the big city, you hear a lot of things you don't like. They need to understand that "un-islamic" and "ignorant" are two very different things, that Islam can be and it is audibly rejected by a lot of ordinary people within reach, not just "ignorant" people and agents of this imperialist state or that. It is not by accident that the majority of the world population are non-Muslims. They are not ignorant, they have some beef of some sort or another with Islam, or they might just be bigoted hateful drunks looking for someone to piss off. Whatever the case may be, they are going to talk about it, and they have every right to assert their differences. It is unimaginable to think that no one can accuse Islam of anything, and the same is true for any other religion with over a thousand years on record. It was possible to silence criticism and accusations in the old days, but it is now a different reality. Muslims need to answer a few basic questions: Where and under what circumstances can people state their accusations of Islam? Nowhere? Under no circumstance? If an academic setting is not the appropriate venue for an intellectual, then what the hell is? A lot of Muslims have to grapple with that, especially those who are not accustomed to seeing religion on a level field with no special state protection. Yes, of course that means the overwhelming majority of Muslims, the same ones mentioned in one headline that said,"Pope implies Islam is violent... Muslims respond by burning churches!"


  1. Glad to see you're alive and kicking..still. Good sign that you have not lost your mind yet and surviving those jrabee3.

    See you tomorrow in Columbus.


  2. Really it is a so comical sight, people are demonstrating to protest others for saying that Islam and Muslims are violent, and terrorism is part of its teachings, and they vow to slaughter, blow, and burn, who ever say that.
    in the last 'cartoon crises’, the comedian Jon Stewart, commented on the images of people burning the Danish, American, Israeli, and so on flags, he said 'I wonder from which store do these angry men get their new flags, actually if they really have a store in Islamabad that have all sorts of flags, then these people are buying them, it is quiet a funny scene to witness your self spending money on something then enjoying burning it....'
    As for the Pope, A guy who believes that using condoms to prevent AIDS is a sin, I say... how are you...! (Kaif Halek!!)...