Monday, October 02, 2006

The Pope Debate

With the latest outrage and delight, for and against, the remarks of Pope Benedict VII, by far the most intelligent and enlightening response in my opinion has come not from media pundits or commentators but a Muslim scholar. Here is Shaykh Jaafar Idris's reply in relation to the concept of logos. You can read the entire thing on Austrolabe:

...the nature of God becomes contrary to unreasonableness only if, with the help of Greek philosophy, God is identified with Logos, Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: “In the beginning was the ‘logos’."

In the beginning was the Logos, and Logos is God, says the Evangelist.

This means that the God whose nature is compatible with reason is not the traditional God of Christianity. It is not God the Father, or God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost, or a combination of the three. The Pope must have had to resort to this understanding of God that identifies Him with reason because he cannot say about the traditional God of Christianity that unreasonableness is contrary to His nature. He cannot say so because he knows that unreasonableness characterizes the traditional conception of the nature of that God. This has always been Islam’s main objection to Christianity. The Qur’an tells them that the claim that God has a son is not compatible with reason and cannot therefore be compatible with God’s true nature.

But this is not necessarily a point that is being investigated. And we must also seek another discourse, a non-theological discourse, because I believe the issue can be resolved just by studying Manuel II, the source whom the Pope quoted when dealing with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Gary Leupp writes of this medieval figure:

Crowned co-emperor by his father, in 1373, he lost his throne to his bother, who seized it in 1376. How’d he get it back? By calling for help from the Muslim Turks! I suppose that was reasonable.

Back on the throne in 1379, no doubt acting in accordance with logos, he paid tribute to the Turkish Sultan and actually had to live as a vassal at the Turkish court!

Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc) brilliantly deconstructs the myth that Islam was spread by force, contrary to what has been discussed by the Pope, in Muhammad's Sword:

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.

Islam in truth was spread by Arab traders and preachers. A typical example is the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, which is surrounded by water on all sides.

I think we have to forget the past and move on for the sake of tolerance and peace between each other. This sentiment has also been expressed by the New York Times. We don't need angry words or words that divide, at this time we don't! Most Catholics have disagreed with the Pope's comments.

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