Islam has a problem on its hands.
While it may be true that less than 1% of the world's Muslims actually take up arms against "infidels" (for a religion with 1.5 billion followers, that's an army approaching 15 million), the holy men of Islam have remained largely silent with regard to the violence perpetrated by these warriors of Allah.
The result? It seems more and more likely that the average Muslim, though he probably would never attack or kill his non-Muslim neighbors, watches the killings, riots, and bombings conducted by his more radical brethren and thinks to himself, I would never do this ... but perhaps these men might have a point. Maybe my faith is just not strong enough.
And inevitably, the army of Allah's holy warriors grows.
The remarks made this week by Pope Benedict XVI have officially hit the "Muslim street," which as usual is swarming with bearded men heaving rifles in the air, setting fires, and demanding blood.
At this point it seems doubtful that most of the rioters have even the slightest clue what the Pope actually said.
Writing in the London-based Arabic language paper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Hussein Shabakshy says:
"It is clear that such remarks only contribute to the fueling of the fire raging between Islam and the West. There is no difference between Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri speaking from their caves in Tora Bora and the stage of an important Christian saint. Both parties contribute to the world verbal weapons for mass destruction."
"The pope's latest statement cannot be considered a slip of the tongue or a comic bit from a TV show; the situatio0n here is different, and his remarks are indicative of an important and highly symbolic stance toward the religion (Islam) and the prophet of about a billion and-a-half Muslims," he said.
"These are ignorant comments previously made by Adolf Hitler, who spoke of a supreme white race against all the other races, especially the African race." (emphasis added)
Did Pope Benedict XVI speak of white supremacy? No. He delivered a lengthy scholarly address discussing the influence of Greek thought on the Christian concept of rationality and reason as distinct fundamental traits of the Christian God. As a contrast, he explained that the noted Andalusian philosopher Ibn Hazm described the Muslim Allah as a transcendent supreme being who is "not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry."
He further contrasted Christianity and Islam by explaining that the rational nature of Christianity eliminates the necessity to use violence or force when asking people to accept Christ's gospel. Benedict XVI quoted another historical figure, the 14th century Byzantine emperor Manual II Paleologus, who remarked, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Pope Benedict XVI quoted the emperor at length again:
"God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."
This must be a difficult pill for Muslims to swallow, for the past few days have been filled with violent cries for revenge; yet again Muslim leaders have failed to deliver any systematically reasoned response to the Pope's actual arguments, instead preferring to let angry mobs answer for them.
In a stunning living testimony to the words of a centuries-dead Byzantine emperor, the millions who make up the holy armies of the "Religion of Peace" will march yet again; men pitifully left to their own devices -- murder and subjugation -- by a transcendent Allah who remains largely unknown to them, for their rigorous faith condemns any attempt to question Him.
Islam indeed has a problem. Let's hope that Christians and the Pope are not forced to pay for this problem with their lives.
(Cross-posted at Mike's Noise)