22 September 2006

Civility and Civilization

This past week has seen a coalescence of religious thought that is remarkable for its happening and for its instantiation. It is remarkable because it is a call for dialog and open understanding of grievances and admitting to past mistakes. It is even more fully fascinating is that it was not just a single sect or type within larger community, but multiples of them that stood up in support of the original speech.

Let me interject here that I have no stake in any religious viewpoint as my personal beliefs are not defined by anything I have run across in my life. But I do see and understand the multivariate views of religious outlook and find much that is both commendable and questionable in *all* religions. But I honor each individual their dedication and devoutness to understand the larger Universe around them.

That speech, of course, was that by Pope Benedict XVI and was addressing the Islamic world as well as the Christian in its outlook but in a message to SCIENCE! Yes, folks, the Pontiff was addressing science in this message at the University of Regensberg on 12 SEP 2006. A few have picked up on *that* fact, but also set it aside for the supposed 'dig' at Islam. The context of the preceding paragraph was one that looked to the University of Bonn and the fact that it was quite unique in that the department heads were actually held accountable not only to their departments but to each other and the entire student body. He explains it thusly (any bolding is mine):

The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience.
Here the barriers between the great parts of learning of mankind were broken down regularly and continuously so that all of them could come into harmonious contact with each other. Problems were brought up and redress by ALL departments was sought as no particular area of learning was seen as the sole and only solution to such problems that arose. Arts, sciences, humanities and religion were all thusly held accountable for the woes of the University and the entire student body. This is what used to be known as a 'collegial atmosphere' in which NO part of the student body, no department, no mere fragment of the University as a whole would attempt to hijack the entirety of learning. I am sure that they had protests and such, but in that atmosphere the topics of those protests would be examined by all parts of the entire spectrum of learning. The concept here is the civility to let others express themselves, discuss their viewpoints, examine the concepts being put out and come together for a common expression of the University. My guess would be that if they 'agreed to disagree' that the University would NOT back any single viewpoint and let the students and each member of the faculty 'figure it out for themselves'. And discussions would not *stop* until such point as that common civility was reached. The next section points this out and the general foundation of the University and its belief structure:
The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
So even those radicals who denied God had their voice, but the over all communion of the community was not perturbed by them as the community 'agreed to disagree' with them and kept to their faith and outlook. Christianity, as seen via this viewpoint, accepts questions about the universe and the nature of God to better understand the works of that Being. And it was clearly understood that those that differed would get hearing within context of Christianity and that, as good Christians, they would examine these ideas and see how they fit within the foundational structure of their religion.

As the Regensberg meetings is a larger gathering of all the various forms of Christianity, and this is but one piece of the larger whole, the concept of being able to accommodate those with different belief structures and viewpoints, even to those who had NO religion to speak of is clearly heard and demonstrated. The Pontiff, by equating his Bonn experience with this set of meetings is clearly giving voice to a more collegial interplay of ideas that has open-ness and civility within its confines: that which can be common should be Stated and adhered to and that which is not common can be disagreed with in private without becoming disagreeable in nature.

From this backgrounding he then proceeds to the highly contentious section and is doing so within the context of collegial discussion and manner. This is something that more actual Colleges and Universities might want to *try* and require that even vocal majorities not be given over-riding reign upon the student body, but that discussion should represent the highest interplay of the entire spectrum of human affairs. I do digress, but this needs be addressed by the Western World, which is another reason the Pontiff is bringing it up: Where does the modern University system get off by enforcing those standards which require discussions to be curbed and not to be subject to open discussion? This is a sharp and *implicit* statement without being stated in an *explicit* fashion. If you mouth the ideals of 'open discussion and fairness' then *practice it* and do not let campus political correctness mavens hijack the University to their 'speak nothing unallowable' creed.

Now for the next paragraph which I will reproduce in full:
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialog carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialog, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialog ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialog as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
And we see here how the Pontiff examines this collegial interplay idea and the backing of it. We also have here a similar discussion between a besieged Emperor with an individual educated in the religion of those doing the besieging. The Pontiff is *not* bringing up the entire and problematical 'can of worms' between the faiths of Christianity and Islam. He is using the resoning perspective upon it and seeing what that will lead him to. From the basis of his foundational beliefs he is willing to enter dialog and discussion with someone NOT of his belief system and think about what they have to say.

His Holiness then goes on in his review of this series of discussions:
In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) 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...".
That is a very pointed paragraph in many ways. It is foundational to Christianity that those who have not come to it openly cannot practice it: understanding and accepting Christ is something done with open heart AND open mind and the closure of either is the beginning of Evil. Coerced conversion is mere brutality and threat and has no part of the understanding that each individual must come to so as to reconcile themselves with God. Submission is NOT acquiescence, only external gesturing to appease those imposing tyranny. That was summed up by Kahlil Gibran and repeated with variations by the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps:
“You may chain my hands, you may shackle my feet; you may even throw me into a dark prison; but you shall not enslave my thinking, because it is free.”
And it is through that freedom that each must accommodate themselves with God, not through submission via the sword. The Pontiff then continues with this wonderful paragraph, which is so very pointed towards those who close their minds to reason, refuse to hear denunciations, and continue to carry on attacking others that do not believe as they do:
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God 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 practise idolatry.
This is something that needs to be addressed by Muslims the world over. This cannot be done from outside of their community. The Pontiff addresses this very clearly, openly and without rancor or hatred in the following:
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the λόγος". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
Notice the viewpoint of the Pontiff on this? To speak one must have will and thought and reason. Thus the silence *before* the Word is the time of reasoning OF the Word. The Word itself is the reasoned action and has meaning in being spoken and implications by being spoken: this is not the natterings of Chaos or the changing of the Void with a sea of the impossible possibilities. Reason is given into that silence before the Word and the decision to speak the Word then accepts the Destiny that comes thereafter. By speaking and silence thereafter the light of Reason is brought upon the Creation so that contemplation of the outcome of the Word can be sought.

The Pontiff then cites that this Reason and the Word speak in a voice of the Deific set apart from all other Deities. It is simple in its statement but complex in the enaction of it. That simplest of mysteries that is formulational to the Abrahamic religions is given with the meaning of that single word: "I am". By setting itself apart via the use of the Reason given by the Word that means Existence, this religion needed to find a way to still *exist* even when pressed by other religions around it that did *not* express that simplicity. That is the nature of God: Reason to Exist. When a religion steps away from that and allows the Deity to give rise to contradiction and Chaos, Reason is lost and so is the point of existing.

To speak with Reason one must have Restraint upon themselves and understanding of their actions and be willing to be held accountable for them. This clear and unmistakable synthesis is something that Judaism and Christianity hold as foundational underpinnings of the Universe. We are the creatures of creation and God is held accountable and TO that Word of Creation. Our hard job is to UNDERSTAND that single Word and learn exactly what it means, even if latter teachings contradict what we find. The Reason the Universe is here is so that we may understand its Glory and the Word behind it, even when what we learn requires us to rethink later verbiage given and find continuity in harmony with the whole of Being around us.

This is actually quite a harsh indictment not only against Islam, but to ANY that decide that the later words given override the first Word of Reason. If there is contradiction between the outcomes of the first Word and later teachings, the first Word is Primary: we must accept the universe as it IS not as we are taught it to be. In that acceptance we can come to greater harmony with All of Creation given from that Word. This is the contemplative Silence after the Word, no matter how much else is spoken, that Word was the stepping from the Cross Roads of unreason and chaos to open up the vistas of the Light and the Dark and the Waking and the Dreaming. That Word of Reason is given to us so that this new vista will allow us to understand it in its entirety.

Consider this first Word to be the Constitution for the Universe. If later words given contradict how the Universe actually IS, then those words must fall by the wayside for this Universal understanding. Because of the nature of that Word and great actions it gave rise to, it is the Primary Force of the Universe. If later words contradict that Word, then there must have been some failure of communication somewhere as the single Word speaks clearly and unequivocally by all that Exists. For THAT is the meaning of the Word: "I AM".

And the reason this is given in an address to Science? The Pontiff is clearly stating that the Will of God is something that can be reasoned WITH. He is not going to let science over-ride the traditional teachings of the Church. The Church, itself, is an institution that needs to bat ideas around for a few centuries before it can come to some sort of conclusion on things, especially those that would hurt the overall community of believers if not given in a way that formulates the spiritual being of man with the understanding of the Universal. Science, however, by asking direct questions OF creation and accepting those answers are finding out the nature of the Word and THAT is seen as just as spiritual, just as meaningful and just as valid as the spiritual approach on its own. They must work together, especially when the findings of the Word directly contradict what is taught as the later words given by the Deity. The Deity does not lie, but humans are often poor vessels as translators for things they cannot comprehend. The role of the Pontiff is to reconcile Reason with Faith and form a continuity that is unbroken so the entire glory of the Universe may be manifest for EVERYONE to see.

His Holiness recapitulates the history of the Reformation and Enlightenment and the changes in religious teachings with the liberalization influences of the 19th and 20th centuries. He looks at some of the major problems of reconciliation in this passage:
I will return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science", so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate."
In this he is quite correct: that ethics do not derive from science but in the understanding of science and man's place in the Universal Whole. Science is not *aimed* at that goal and is ill-suited for it. He recognizes this in the following:
And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvelous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is - as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialog of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.
And closes later with this passage:
The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialog of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.
Science is *not* separate from religion, but is in the process of asking direct questions OF creation. We have to deal with those ANSWERS which are as valid as the Universe and THAT is the Word of Reason spoken by God. When one tries to force unreasonable and unreasoning viewpoints on the actual Universe, no matter how ancient the teaching or viewpoint, it must become reconciled with the actual measurement of the Word in that area. The later words given do NOT override the first Word. And if we cannot understand what was handed to us with later words, it is best to find a way to reconcile them without denying the first Word its Primacy. Mankind, as a tradition bound creature of habit finds *that* hard to do, but necessary.

This understanding, however, cannot come at the point of a sword or by sheer denial of factual information. To do *that* is unreasoning and denying the study of the first Word. By citing the dialog of Paleologus the Pontiff puts forward this construction and gives rise to the furor that followed. Inflicting religion via violence or forced conversion was something that was actually done by the Roman Catholic Church via Divine Right Monarchies. Over time, however, the Church saw its role as taking on the entirety of the physical world in addition to the merely spiritual. This came in direct conflict with the secular rulers that, while practitioners of religion, needed to cope with the actual realities of ruling their lands. When technology allowed for multi-imprint copies of books to be made with high fidelity, the spread of literacy and understanding forced the Church to start having to defend its actions based on the follow-on words given in the Scriptures. The question, then, was not about the primacy of the first Word, but the accountability of the actions of the Church in this realm of the real world. And as movable type and presses spread, the Bible itself was translated into local languages and re-interpreted as the understanding of that Word was spread.

The period of the Reformation, spread of variants of Christianity and the breaking away of secular States from the Church was one of the bloodiest warfare seen in Europe since the last Roman Imperial Armies swept through. These long and variegated struggles brought a small but not negligible portion of the world population to death. Although the Black Plague would be far worse, these losses were wholly and completely attributable to the conflict between the Roman Catholic Church seeking power in the physical realm and the secular States moving from that power to separate understandings of the Word and practice in accordance with those views. Ecclesiastical law saw harsh application for some centuries, but that only served to harden the attitude of the States that were put to such law and widened the rift between the Church and those States. The Peace of Westphalia would finally end that and give unto each State the autonomy of religion and practice.

By giving the citation, the Pontiff has given implication that Islam, in its current formulation, is not only given to actions that are based contrary to Reason, but that it is also in a similar position of the Roman Catholic Church of using secular sympathizers and religious persecution to enforce adherence to belief. One of the major goals of the inter-Faith conferences held by this Pontiff and his predecessors, was to establish dialog on how to adapt faith, in general, to the modern world and ensure that the original, spiritual meaning is kept intact, but releasing destructive notions of temporal rulership and dominance. The vituperation of various Muslims and their temporal death threats are seen as a confirmation that this dialog needs to progress further, but that inter-Faith work has its limitations. Reformulation of Islam must come from inside the Islamic Faith community for it to be valid, and other Faiths can only show what they did to help reconcile themselves with the greater world around them.

Now, as to this current dustup with Islam, there has been a slow response from the Christian community that is non-Roman Catholic. That is to be expected with all the divisions and suspicions that are *still* around between the actual organizational structures of the various sects of Christianity, though I would guess it is not all that heartening to Christians that their leadership really is quite sluggish on such things. Thus we have the Archbishop of Canterbury coming out in a way that is as gently pointed as he can make it. From this 18 SEP 2006 IHT article we find the following:
LONDON The leader of the world's Anglicans said Monday that Pope Benedict XVI's controversial remarks about Islam needed to be judged in the context of his record.

"The pope has already issued an apology, and I think his views on this need to be judged against his entire record, where he has spoken very positively about dialog," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said.


Williams, speaking on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, said there were "elements in Islam that can be used to justify violence, just as there are in Christianity and Judaism."

"These religious faiths, because they are held by human beings who are very fallible, can be distorted in these ways, and we all need to recognize that," he said.

"There is always a temptation for Christians to say to Muslims 'I will tell you what your history is about,' just as Muslims sometimes say to Christians. Sometimes they get it deeply wrong," Williams said.

"The example the pope took from the Middle Ages shows in its phrasing how in the Middle Ages people got it wrong on both sides, and Muslim distortions of Christian history are just as laughable as Christian distortions of Muslim history.

"The big question that comes out of this for me is how much are we prepared to listen to the other person telling their story and how much are both sides prepared to be self-critical in discussing aspects of their history that are not pretty and not edifying," Williams said.
Here we see the nub of the problem: Islam as practiced in many parts of the world is so thin skinned that mere dust motes puncture the skin and cause the irrational need to make others bleed. The Roman Catholic church has been leading the way amongst Faiths to hold itself accountable for past wrongs, find ways to right them and *continue* finding continuity in their faith. That, alone, is a highly laudable goal and reaching out to help others join the modern age of Faith is even more impressive. Blaming the Pope for bringing up YOUR past misdeeds and threatening because of it demonstrates that the lessons of those misdeeds have not been learned nor even approached.

From Clarence Page writing in the Baltimore Sun comes this:
We need to have reasoned dialog, not war, between faiths, cultures and civilizations. That puts a burden not only on Westerners to reach out but also on responsible Muslim leaders to step up and show their support for free speech, even when it is provocative and aimed at something so cherished as one's religion.

That doesn't mean you should bite your lip and remain silent when someone attacks your faith. It means the proper response to objectionable speech is not violence, but more speech. That's how dialog is established and differences are examined in the hope that mutual understanding will result.

Eventually it does. America is hardly perfect, but our hard-won atmosphere of freedom, tolerance and mutual respect, despite our periodic uproars over immigration, has enabled this nation of immigrants to assimilate Muslims and countless other faiths with more visible success than Europe's ethnic hotbeds are showing.
In point of fact the United States has viewed religion as a personal matter that, by enacting its ideals, uplifts all of society. By building on this inter-Faith acceptance and accommodation, the entirety of the Nation is made stronger by it. Unfortunately for Islam to be open to criticism it must open ITSELF to that criticism and admit that no matter how Supreme the Divine actually *is* one is held accountable for their ACTIONS in this life.

Then we come to Mohammed from Iraq The Model with this:
Ok, let’s suppose the pope criticized the Muslims' way in spreading their belief, can anyone prove that wrong??

This question pushed me to review some recommended books of Islamic history, books that are held high and considered cornerstones in the documentation of Arab-Islamic history. I started to review these books looking for facts as to whether Islam was spread peacefully.

Yes, many entered in Islam voluntarily over history but I want to shed light on a certain part of history when the sword was used. That's the stage that must be studied and revisited. And there must be no shame felt in criticizing or renouncing it if that's necessary and it should not be treated as a divine story that cannot be questioned.

Let's take a look at the campaigns led by the first set of Caliphs who ruled the Islamic state after the death of the prophet and see in which of these campaigns the faith was spread peacefully and in which ones other means were implemented and which of the peoples of the region entered in Islam voluntarily….
Iraq? Persia? Spain? Egypt?

Which of those nations embraced the Islamic call voluntarily?
I will start from Iraq to state my thoughts about the Islamic invasion of Iraq and I will try to find which statement is closer to the truth; with sword, or through a peaceful invitation?

Anyone with the slightest knowledge about the ancient Middle East knows the enormous difference in riches between green Mesopotamia and the deserts of Arabia. This difference makes it natural to expect that early Muslims who lived in the desert looked ambitiously to the rich lands of their neighbors in Mesopotamia.

I will provide historical texts from some of the most respected books in Islamic history such as al-Tabari, Seerat Ibn Hisham and Tafseer Ibn Katheer. These books show that the questionable motives behind invading Iraq were not secret but were rather mentioned boastfully every time our historians celebrate the achievement of adding Iraq to the young Islamic state.
He then goes on a point by point review of the destruction, carnage, rampage, pillaging, looting, and a literal diversion of a river to make it flow with the blood of those killed... by those forces representing Islam. My highest praise and thanks to Mohammed for starting this dialog in the blogosphere on the english-text side off! I hope we can get reports from the arabic-text side that similar is going on there, too. And he then concludes with this:
Now let's see, the chief cleric of the al-Azhar university accused the pope of ignorance about Islamic history, right? Let's hear what another history scholar from al-Azhar said in one of his books about the same stage of Islamic history as the one the pope was referring to.

Sheikh Khaleel Abdul Kareem in his book "Shadu al-Rababa fi Ahwal al-Sahaba" (first edition 1997) said:

"Did the invaded people take the belief of the invaders voluntarily? What were they expected to do after seeing with their own eyes their men being slaughtered even after they surrendered and raised the white flag? Or when they saw their houses burned down, women taken slaves, belongings purged and taxes imposed, where they expected to keep their religion or move to embrace that of their invading masters to get away from the punishment?"

I believe this testimony which comes from one of al-Azhar scholars is way more critical than the words the pope quoted…

By the way, Khaleel Abdul Kareem was prosecuted more than once but was never pronounced guilty because of his factual and objective approach in which he used examples and proofs taken from the history texts approved by al-Azhar and the like.
His prosecutors backed off when they realized that denouncing him would mean renouncing the history the live by and that's what none of them dared to do.

Some accuse the pope of bad timing but I wonder what is going to be the best time to accept criticism and accept questions? Next year? a decade from now? When?

There will be no such time for our clerics who derive their power from this history, and to them, questioning or criticizing this history is a threat to their holiness and power.
That is the sort of thing the United States is working for in Iraq. Understanding, tolerance, some amount of introspection and a change of viewpoint to help move that understanding outwards. To end the major Islamic portion of the Transnational Terrorist threat this open-ness and understanding must be encouraged and PROTECTED. We cannot force understanding at the point of a gun: to those whining about 'how long it is taking' or 'how much money has been spent' you have YET to put forth ANY option that FIXES THE PROBLEM. Protecting these people until they can hold a mirror up to themselves and say that 'these are problems with our religion and we will join you in ENDING THEM' the entire structure of the Nation State system will be at grave peril from those that openly support destructive religions and give them aid, shelter and violent assent.

That is a massive part of the problem and has given rise to means and methods to attack Nations and end the Westphalian Peace that has given rise to Nations that can be constituted on freedom, liberty, religious diversity and common justice for all. That greater problem requires a dedication of Citizens beyond all that their governments provide for them... but to get a way to finally end the largest and most violent portion of it, religious dialog and open-ness must be defended.

So that civil dialog and civility may be enshrined, no matter what religion, nationality, race or creed the individual has.

It is unfortunate that those common ideas are uncommon in this day and age, and have so few supporters globally.

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