Many, many voices have criticized the Pope for quoting a 14th Century Byzantine Emperor who called Islam a violent religion. The church bombings, riots, and death threats which have followed have been blamed on Benedict. This is a perspective which can be called "Don't poke the snake!" (h/t)
You see, the paramedics at our local fire department here on the front range of the rocky mountains treat a number of snake bite cases every summer. The story fronted by the cyclist/jogger is always that they were peaceably cycling/running past and said snake just jumped out and bit them.However, the bite wound is always on the hand or arm, implying that the venom recipient had picked up a stick and was poking at the snake.
My point is, people can very be very touchy about their religion, xians and muslims alike. I am not validating the riots and the murder, those are so wrong. But perhaps they were avoidable, not in the sense that we should let others dictate what we say, but in the not-poking-the-snake if the act of snake-poking has little intrinsic value.So, perhaps benedict's comment was rather ill-advised?
This seems to be the basic argument that Joel Thomas is making in this comment thread. Jockeystreet, in this long and thoughtful comment seems to advance a similar position:
You lose me, though (and I may be responding in part to the next post you put up on the topic, it's kind of a two for one here), with what I would call your "broad strokes." While I certainly agree with you that there are barbarians and murderers out there, you seem to too often be too quick to apply that tag to everyone who belongs to a certain faith or culture.
Understood. My rhetoric has been heavy handed when talking about Islam:
I really don't care if clitoris-slicing, adulteress-stoning, homosexual-hanging, hostage-beheading medieval barbarians like us. In fact, I take their hatred as a mark of pride. If our civilization was actually admired by such people, it would be a sign that something had gone gravely wrong. As far as Islamofascists go, oderint dum metuant.
The Pope's speech, however, is very tame. It is merely an academic lecture about the relationship between reason and theological exploration. So Jockeystreet's analogy of pissing off the disgruntled ex-coworker with the bomb on his chest doesn't apply. In any reasonable interpretation, this speech does not poke at any snakes.
Not that it would matter if the Pope's speech was inflammatory. He could have stated my comment and not poked at any snakes. Why? Because Muslims are not snakes.
This argument launched against the Pope presupposes that Muslims are subhuman; that they are unthinking, reactive animals that respond instinctively to certain stimuli as a snake will instinctively lash out at a perceived predator hovering above it. One may not like being bitten by a snake; one might get angry at snake for biting, but one cannot blame a snake for doing so because it is incapable of moral reasoning. Those who wish to place the responsibility on Benedict must, logically, conclude that Muslims are incapable of moral reasoning. Joel Thomas and those advancing similar arguments are necessarily dehumanizing Muslims by freeing them of moral responsibility.
Can we then say that the Pope's comments are ill-advised? No. His rhetoric is in no way, shape, or form, inflammatory. Nor should the West even consider restraining inflammatory rhetoric, such as the Danish cartoons because free expression is one of the crown jewels of Western civilization that make living in it worthwhile. We should not make this radical accommodation to suit the tastes of the Islamic culture. We have learned to live on the same planet with their bizarre rhetoric; they are capable of doing the same with ours.