The recent attempt to demonize the Holy Prophet(ASWS) and all of Islam as having brought “nothing but evil”, by the latest pope no less, is based on the most garish of mythical prejudices perpetrated throughout history by self-proclaimed enemies, orientalists, and war profiteers. Still, one may assume, ignoring all reason and common sense, that this latest episode is the result of a combination of both malignant ignorance, or senility, both of which equally assume that the pope is solely responsible for the choice of ‘holy’ words which sprang forth from his ‘blessed’ mouth. Such a view provides maximum benefit of doubt to Mr. Benedict and the think tank of the Catholic Church, and is one which many sympathizing catholics and professional finess’ers are using right now- to grapple themselves out of any and all responsibility. But logic and intelligence must follow the facts – Why, oh why, did (t)His Holiness, the head of the (Roman) Catholic Church, quote a Middle Age Byzantine king of the rival Orthodox Church in order to paint the world’s second largest religion, it’s followers and its most revered figure – as villanous heathens? And why now?-when the entire world is propagated-to as beset on all sides by “Islamo-fascist” terrorism and the ringmasters cannot stop bellowing of the ineffable link between it and Islam, maneuvering all ties to regional politics and geo-history in favor of embracing ‘lunacy’?
Orchestrated opportunism is the word alarm for the times. To all who may come to read this – if you are sincere in knowing the ‘Truth’, search and use intelligence. Faith is supported by it. Sincerity is key for divine support. I cast a cautious eye to Pope Benedict and the entourage who drummed up such a stance, to War-mongerering barons and their claim of monopoly on the Truth, to power weilders and their selfish polemic, and to all those who would profit from abandoning reason for mob mentality – even as I send ‘Fatiha'(the opening chapter of the Qur’an) to pray for Pope John Paul II, may Allah bless him.
Those interested in investigating the legitimacy and honesty of Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church’s statement may like to read the following essay(s). May Allah bless us and bring us to His presence for the sake of His most beloved one. Ameen.
THE WISDOM FUND News & Views
CONTACT information at bottom of page
September 23, 2006
Gush Shalom (Israel)
by Uri Avnery
[Uri Avnery, founding member of Gush Shalom, was a
member of the Irgun, wounded as an Israeli commando,
elected three times to the Knesset, publisher of
Ha’olam Haze, and the recipent of several awards.]
Since the days when Roman Emperors threw Christians to
the lions, the relations between the emperors and the
heads of the church have undergone many changes.
Constantine the Great, who became Emperor in the year
306 – exactly 1700 years ago – encouraged the practice
of Christianity in the empire, which included
Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an
Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In
the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title
of Pope, demanded that the Emperor accept his
The struggle between the Emperors and the Popes played
a central role in European history and divided the
peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some Emperors
dismissed or expelled a Pope, some Popes dismissed or
excommunicated an Emperor. One of the Emperors, Henry
IV, “walked to Canossa”, standing for three days
barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope’s castle,
until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.
But there were times when Emperors and Popes lived in
peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period
today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the
present Emperor, George Bush II, there exists a
wonderful harmony. Last week’s speech by the Pope,
which aroused a world-wide storm, went well with
Bush’s crusade against “Islamofascism” , in the context
of the “Clash of Civilizations” .
IN HIS lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope
described what he sees as a huge difference between
Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on
reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the
logic of God’s actions, Muslims deny that there is any
such logic in the actions of Allah.
As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray
of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities
to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot
overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an
Israeli living near the fault-line of this “war of
In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the
Pope asserts that the prophet Muhammad ordered his
followers to spread their religion by the sword.
According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because
faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can
the sword influence the soul?
To support his case, the Pope quoted – of all people –
a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged, of course, to the
competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th
century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a
debate he had – or so he said (its occurrence is in
doubt) – with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In
the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to
himself) flung the following words at his adversary:
“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
These words give rise to three questions: (a) Why did
the Emperor say them? (b) Are they true? (c) Why did
the present Pope quote them?
WHEN MANUEL II wrote his treatise, he was the head of
a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a
few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained.
These, too, were already under Turkish threat.
At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached
the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria
and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated
relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern
Empire. On May 29, 1453, only a few years after
Manuel’s death, his capital, Constantinople (the
present Istanbul) fell to the Turks, putting an end to
the Empire that had lasted for more than a thousand
During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the
capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support.
He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt
that he wrote his religious treatise in order to
incite the Christian countries against the Turks and
convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was
practical, theology was serving politics.
In this sense, the quote serves exactly the
requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II.
He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against
the mainly Muslim “Axis of Evil”. Moreover, the Turks
are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time
peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports
the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the
IS THERE any truth in Manuel’s argument?
The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a
serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford
to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that
the Qur’an specifically forbade the spreading of the
faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256
(strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257)
which says: “There must be no coercion in matters of
How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The
Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down
by the prophet when he was at the beginning of his
career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he
ordered the use of the sword in the service of the
faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur’an.
True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his
war against opposing tribes – Christian, Jewish and
others – in Arabia, when he was building his state.
But that was a political act, not a religious one;
basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading
of the faith.
Jesus said: “You will recognize them by their fruits.”
The treatment of other religions by Islam must be
judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers
behave for more than a thousand years, when they had
the power to “spread the faith by the sword”?
Well, they just did not.
For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the
Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize
them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the
highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The
Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other
European nations lived at one time or another under
Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith.
Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of
them remained devoutly Christian.
True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did
the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this
under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become
favorites of the government and enjoy the fruits.
In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and
massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants
indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At
that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine
by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in
the country. Throughout this long period, no effort
was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the
expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the
majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic
language and the Muslim faith – and they were the
forefathers of most of today’s Palestinians.
THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to
impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under
Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like
of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until
almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in
Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain,
Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim
Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked
together and translated the ancient Greek
philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed,
the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had
the Prophet decreed the “spreading of the faith by the
What happened afterwards is even more telling. When
the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims,
they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews
and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to
become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And
where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who
refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of
them were received with open arms in the Muslim
countries. The Sephardi (“Spanish”) Jews settled all
over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to
Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the
Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south.
Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like
the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the
auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions
that took place in almost all Christian countries, up
to the Holocaust.
WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any
persecution of the “peoples of the book”. In Islamic
society, a special place was reserved for Jews and
Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal
rights, but almost. They had to pay a special
poll-tax, but were exempted from military service – a
trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has
been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt
to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion –
because it entailed the loss of taxes.
Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people
cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam,
which has protected the Jews for fifty generations,
while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and
tried many times “by the sword” to get them to abandon
THE STORY about “spreading the faith by the sword” is
an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in
Europe during the great wars against the Muslims – the
reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades
and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered
Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly
believes in these fables. That means that the leader
of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian
in his own right, did not make the effort to study the
history of other religions.
Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?
There is no escape from viewing them against the
background of the new Crusade of Bush and his
evangelist supporters, with his slogans of
“Islamofascism” and the “Global War on Terrorism” –
when “terrorism” has become a synonym for Muslims. For
Bush’s handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify
the domination of the world’s oil resources. Not for
the first time in history, a religious robe is spread
to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for
the first time, a robbers’ expedition becomes a
The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who
can foretell the dire consequences?
THIS ARTICLE and more at
http://www.twf. org/News/ Y2006/0918- Pope.html