When Pope Benedict quoted the words of a man 600 years ago that reflect unflatteringly on Islam, what does the Muslim community do?
It does what you see to the left.
Not all of it, of course. Not all Muslims are violent fanatics. But the Muslim community contains far too many such individuals and--fed on a constant diet of hate and conspiracy theories by their corrupt political leaders who want to direct the anger of the masses away from their own regimes--many Muslims are far too willing to throw a public temper tantrum at the slightest pretext.
Basically, Islamic culture is infected with an ethos of rage and hatred, and it needs to grow up and stop being so thin-skinned.
Consider, for example, the irony of the statement I used as the headline for this blog post. It comes from a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman named Tasnim Aslam.
Just what are we to make of this statement? If it were talking about any religion other than Islam, it might possibly bear the meaning that one who portrays the religion as intolerant thereby encourages violence against members of that religion (e.g., fostering anti-Jewish sentiment could stir up violence against Jewish people), but here that reading is scarcely plausible.
It reads instead like a veiled threat: Muslims--or certian Muslims--will commit violence against those who describe them as intolerant.
Which actually appears to be true, but it's an ironic statement nevertheless: "You wrongly accuse our religion of being intolerant and you may end up dead."
Of course, there is a distinction between the religion itself and the people who practice it, and the pope is fully aware of that. He also didn't say that Islam itself is intolerant.
Which brings us to the real tragedy of this situation.
The pope was making a speech to a German university on the subject of faith and its relationship to reason, and he took a detour in the speech to touch on one of his pet subjects--that religion must not be used as a basis for violence.
So in the process of taking a detour to say something meant to help break the link between religion and violence, he happened to quote a particularly inflammatory line from 600 years ago that could and has stirred up the potential for religious violence.
And the line isn't even necessary to his speech! He could have made all the same points without the inflammatory line--and even without bringing Islam into the discussion.
This didn't have to have happened, and it is hard not to see it as the first (or second) major gaffe of Benedict's pontificate (the other one being what happened when he visited Auschwitz).
How serious a gaffe is it?
It could get him killed.
Either when he goes to Turkey or when a fanatical Muslim pulls a gun on him in Rome. All it takes is one, after all, and the Muslim political leaders are as likely to use this as a pretext to redirect their populations' anger as they were when they whipped the Muslim community into a frenzy over the Danish cartoons.
I suggest we all pray about this.