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September 20, 2006

"Don't you dare say that Islam is an aggressive and violent religion - and if you do, we'll kill you" - Peter Mullen considers the Muslim reaction to the Pope's speech at the University of Regensburg

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - considers the response of some Muslims to the Pope's speech at the University of Regensburg.

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.
I don't know what the long-term consequences will be of the Pope's quoting these lines from the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manual II Paleologos. Certainly there will be much tighter security around the Holy Father from now on. The point is that the Pope used the words "I quote" twice in order to make it plain that he did not necessarily agree with the Emperor's views. And last weekend he said explicitly that he did not share those views.

But the Pope need not have quoted Manual II at all. His point would have been made with even greater forcefulness if he had gone to the fountainhead and quoted Mohammed himself. As Efraim Karsh shows in his recent book Islamic Imperialism, the Prophet commanded his followers:

Fight all men until they say, "There is no God but Allah".
Osama bin Laden quoted those words immediately after the attacks on the twin towers.

The British press and the BBC continually upbraid European nations for their history of conquest and imperialism, but make no criticism of Islamic imperialism. And while the slave trade is a favourite topic in schools' history syllabus, Muslim involvement in the slave trade is rarely mentioned. Heathen Africans counted as less than human for these Muslims. British colonial rule actually replaced the Muslim slave trade in Africa. Islam was imperialistic from its origin.

The most disturbing aspect of the controversy over the Pope's words is the implicit consequence that there are things you are not allowed to say, even if they are true. The Pope has not misrepresented Islam. The Prophet was a warrior and he was proud to be so. What is it that his followers are now ashamed of and so hypocritically offended by? Truth is truth even - especially - when it is unpalatable.

In his lecture in Germany, the Pope also criticised irrationality in religion. But now we see Muslims burning effigies of him and firebombing churches in Gaza and West Pakistan. And that's nothing new: the torching of churches is a regular feature in many Islamic lands. Where's their rationality? Where's their tolerance? Christianity is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. If I were to try to walk down a street in Riyadh wearing my dog collar - worse, a cross round my neck - I'd be thrown into jail. Yet in Britain we allow Muslims to build mosques in every town and city.

Benedict XVI called for a dialogue between religions and instead he has been rewarded by this hysterical reaction on the part of some Muslims, most of whom have not read the lecture itself but have merely ignorantly quoted phrases taken out of context and splashed in newspaper headlines. The only hope we have of mending relations with Islam is for the hierarchies in both faiths to speak to one another in a calm and scholarly way with tolerance and mutual understanding the main objective.

Fat chance. An African Mullah's incitement has led to the murder of a nun, and a prominent Imam has called for "a day of anger". What I find most bizarre of all is the irony. Muslim extremists are effectually saying, "Don't you dare say that Islam is an aggressive and violent religion - and if you do, we'll kill you".

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange. He is the author of The Politically-Correct Gospel.

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