Invitation to Think


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Muslims everywhere are angry at The Pope for some comments he made about Islam and demand an apology. He suggested that early Muslims spread their religion by violence. According to The New York Times:

The Pope on Tuesday repeated criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Mohammad brought was evil "such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Now I don't know what The Pope is talking about, because the crusades weren't called "holy" for nothing. It's not as if Christianity and the Catholic Church were innocent... And we all know what it did in many other parts of the world. The Church wasn't exactly friendly in its bloody proselytizing in South and Central America.

At the same time, this kind of a response by Muslims --
Two churches -- neither of them Catholic -- were fire-bombed in the West Bank, although no one was hurt.
-- only serves to indirectly support The Pope's suggestion. Are Muslims so blind as not to see that? Did not the Prophet Mohammed say "The pen is mightier than the sword."? I believe I am right. What happened to that strength of knowledge and respect the Muslims commanded for so many years in the past?

Secondly, if The Pope used the word evil in his criticism of The Prophet, that is wrong. There are ways to express disagreement without wounding the sensibility of a people whose respect for someone is so great as it is for The Prophet.

Having said that, Muslims, and people of other religions, should be open to criticism of their religion and even of their religious leader or God if there is some common agreement about its possible validity. Commanding one's followers to spread the word by the sword may have been important in the circumstances that existed at that time (Unfortunately, I need to read more about different religions, so I can't add or verify any information here), but for it to be made as part of the fundamental tenet is a different matter.

Should such criticism come from someone like The Pope? That's a question to ponder. Perhaps he could have posed his doubts and criticism in the form of a few questions, rather than the way he did. These will always be deeply sensitive topics...

-Rajul Parekh



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