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« When the Islamists Come to Town | Main | Rosh Hashana »

September 18, 2006


Selwyn Lichtenstein

the word "tenants" should be replaced by "tenets"




Mike, how much do you really know about Islam? of course there are moderate Muslims, literally millions of them, (I know a few myself) but it is debatable whether Islam the religion itself, is moderate. The distinction is crucial and I do not want to be misunderstood here.

As far as Christianity and Auschwitz goes, I agree that murder, (and all other human brutalities) whether of Christians or non-Christians is untenable with Christ's teachings and Christianity's core beliefs. 100%. However with that said, the Passion itself (and I mean the Passion as recounted in the New Testament, not Mel Gibson's version) has anti-Semitic connotations that no amount of apologetics can get round and this has had its consequences. And that is putting it mildly.

I don't want to sart a religious argument, that is not what this blog is about, but just thought I would make mention of a few things.

Shimon Z. Klein

On September 12th 2006, Pope Benedict xvi delivered a speech to scientists at Regensberg University where he was professor and vice rector from 1959 to 1971. If one were to read the speech in its entirety one would not interpret it as being anti-Islam. After all, the Pope had quoted the opinion of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. He did not express any opinion on the statement made. He used the opinion as an anecdote – a historical occurrence. True, it was not sympathetic to Islam, but then again one must judge the anecdote in the context of the speech that was not anti-Islam at all. If anything, the speech was conciliatory towards all faiths.

This was not the main point of the speech anyway. The Pope made the point that conversion by force to the ways of God is not desirable and is against religious preaching of all faiths.

What happened after the speech was a tremendous reaction by Muslim communities all over the world. They viewed the anecdote as a condemnation and an insult to their faith. The hysteria resulting from the speech caused many extremist Muslims to demonstrate and burn churches as a protest. The Pope had no alternative but to issue an apology to the world Muslim community for using the historical anecdote that in practice turned out to be a “hysterical” anecdote.

This incident illustrates the irrational attitude of many Muslim leaders that provoke violence. Why are Muslim clerics so quick on the defensive when they feel that the Pope had insulted their faith? Where were the Muslim clerics when Muslim terrorists carried out terror attacks in various parts of the world? Their voices were silent! They never condemned terror against innocent people. Examples of Islamist terror have occurred so often that one cannot in all honesty claim that Islamist terror is not a threat to the world. This being so, the conclusion that any reasonable person who views Islam objectively, is that Islam is not strong in its condemnation of terror against innocent people. Many of their clerics have made statements supporting terror for spreading the “holy word by the sword.”

Many people rationalize Islamist terror and try to justify it. I wonder if they would have the same rationalization if they, themselves, lost dear ones in an Islamist terror attack!


Lawrence, the Catholic Church repudiated the anti-Semitic aspects of the Passion. Jack Bloom makes the excellent point in his book that if a conservative Pope could reform Catholicism, there is no reason why the same thing could not take place in Islam.

There are many verses in the Koran that can be interpreted as anti-Jewish (mainly later verses) but there are also others that look more favourably on us (the earlier verses). It is how the Koran is taught that is important.


Mike, I am well aware of the post WW2 Vatican Council that repudiated anti-semitism in church sermons and liturgy. That only proves the point I make. Obviously the repudiation of the anti-semitism in Catholic dogma is a tacit recognition of the anti-semitism implicit wrt the Passion and Christian dogma in the first place (otherwise no need for a renunciation), which is what I was getting at.

Secondly the Catholic Church is not the whole church, there are the numerous and varied Protestant denominations, Anglican and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Anglican and Lutheran churches esp anti-semitic at the highest levels.

Thirdly, official Vatican councils are one thing, the grass-roots mentality and conditioning of people from one generation to the next by parents, teachers, priests etc among the rich, middle-class and poor from Caracus to Mexico City to Rome and Marseilles is another thing altogether.

Plus, something largely overlooked, anti-semitic conditioning is passed down from generation to generation transcending and superceding its usual Christian roots ie people's anti-semitism remains even if the orignal cause of it is long forgotten and unknown. there is an irony to modern Leftist anti-semitism that is largely if not almost entirely unrecognised even by Jewry.

If people understood the roots and dynamics of anti-semitism they would cease to be anti-semitic. To truly understand anti-semitism is to be free of it.

As far as Islam goes, there are a few passages in Koran that are favourable to Jews and Christians and other non-Muslims, HOWEVER there are other passages which are derogatory in the extreme (to Jews, Christians and other infidels), these tend to come in the latter chapters of the Koran which count for far more among the "pious" than the earlier chapters because in Islam there is the principle of abrogation, the religious authority of latter chapters counting for more and superceding the religious authority of earlier verses. There is also Hadith which likewise contains many derogatory verses. Likewise the misogyny in Islam is integral to Islam, as Koran and more esp Hadith and fiq (Muslim jurispudence) testify to.


Lawrence, I think your point in this regard is absolutely valid. I was by no means suggesting that Christian anti-Semitism was dead. I was speaking sole about the Catholic Church as this post was about the pope. Repudiating the anti-Semitic aspects official Catholic Church was a huge step in the right direction. But as you point out much more work is needed.

I believe religion is largely about interpretation. I think Muslims, if they wish to be part of modernity, will have to find creative ways to reinterpret the Koran. There are some Islamic Scholars who are involved in this process. I believe, for what it is worth, that Sufi Islam may provide the answer.

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