Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Room Services: Morny, ruin sorbes.

Guest : Sorry, I thought I dialled room services.

RS : Rye, ruin sorbes! Morny! Djewish to ordor sun teen ?

G : Ah yes. I’d like some sausages, toasts and eggs.

RS : How July dunn?

G : What!

RS : How July dunn? Pry, boy or pooch?

G : Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Scrambled please.

RS : Ow July dee soarass…crease?

G : Crisp will be fine.

RS : Hokay. An santos?

G : What?

RS : Santos. July santos?

G : I don’t think so.

RS : No? Judo one toes?

G : I feel really bad, but I don’t know what ‘judo one toes’ means.

RS : Toes! Toes! Why dju Don Juan toes? Ow bow Singlish mopping we bother?

G : English Muffins? I’ve got it. You were saying ‘toast’ and English Muffins
would be fine.

RS : Copy?

G : Sorry?

Rs : Copy … tea … mill?

G : Coffee please, and that’s all.

RS : One Minnie, asruin torino fee, strangle ache, crease baychem, tossy Singlish
mopping, we bother honey sigh, and copy… rye?

G : We bother what? You mean with butter! Thanks!

RS : Tendjewberrymud!

G : You’re Welcome!

[This blog differs from my usual blogs. Instead of writing my own views on the matter, I have culled from the newspapers viewpoints of these imminent and learned Muslims on the issue”. A common thread in all these viewpoints is the call to challenge a view with reason and not by violence.]

On the 12th of September 2006, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a speech at Regensburg University, Germany. The speech titled Faith, Reason and the University, Memories and Reflection was a prolusion, an inaugural speech, delivered to an assembly of faculty and students at the beginning of the new academic year. By definition, it was an academic exercise, interdisciplinary and the eyes and years of scholars and would be scholars.


“Generally, it was about the convergence of the Christian faith with Hellennistic reasoning of God being tied to Reason, that He would not act unreasonably and “not to act reasonably is contrary to the nature of God”.

Reason was so important that it should even be “necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason”, but three waves of dehellenisation movement in the development in the development of the understanding of religion in the West has brought about a “dangerous state of affairs for humanity… when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it”.

The Pope suggested that to overcome this danger there should be a new coming together of reason and faith by overcoming “the self imposed limitation of reason to the empirically veritable”.

(Tun Hanif Omar writing in his column “Points of View” The Sunday Star 24th September 2006.

In his speech the Pope was trying to show how western society including the church has become secularized by removing from concept of Reason its spiritual dimension ad origins which are in God. In early Western history, reason was not opposed to faith but according to the Pope, but instead fed on it.


Where Muslims have found the Pope’s speech extremely objectionable was when the Pope recounted a 14th century discussion on Christianity and Islam between Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel 11 Paleologus and a Persian scholar. The Pope quoted the dialogue from a recent book by Prof. Theodare Khoury, an expert on Byzantine, who reprinted the text of the dialogue between emperor Manuel 11 Paleologus and a Persian scholar. The Pope recounted what that the emperor had said “ show me just what Muhammad 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”.

The Pope without so much as a sentence to say that he did not hold to this view continued that, “ the emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable… and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature
(Tun Hanif Omar wrting in his column Points of View Sunday Star 24th September 2006).”


Never mind that the emperor had also said violence is something unreasonable… incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of soul and never mind that the Pope no less that five times referred to this sentence, quoting the passage was sufficient to touch off a firestorm of impassioned reaction, protest and violence.

Some are of the view that the Pope ought to have made it clear at the onset that he did not agree with the emperor’s view but the question is, would the reaction be any different had the Pope disassociated with the emperor’s view.

So how have the reaction to the Pope been ?

In Basra, protestors burned an effigy of the pope, an Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda posted on a website threatening war against “worshiper’s of the cross” In Turkey a man tried to storm a Protestant church with a fake gun, in Somalia a nun was shot dead, In Nablus, Israel, two Anglican Churches were fire bombed. Then the usual rent-a mob was out in full force in Afganistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. In Malaysia, it was reported that a small demonstration took place in Kampung Baru and in Johor Bahru there was a call to protest against the Pope.

“But here it pays to take a degree of objective distance from the issue and look at the matter from a broader perspective. While the comments made by the Pope were morally questionable both in its content and intention, one also has to question the logic at work in the reaction of some Muslims to the event. It has been reported that many an Islamist group had reacted to the speech of the Pope with calls of violence and retribution. A stupid and counter productive reaction if any, for it simply reinforces the stereotypical view (repeated bt the Pope) that Islam is a religion of the sword and that Muslims are fundamentally violent.

Consider the following statements that were issued by one radical Islamist group in Iraq said to be linked to Al- Qaeda : In a press statement the Mujahideen Shura Council stated bluntly that “ We shall break the cross and spill the wine.. God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome… God enable us to slit their throat and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen”. In bellicose terms bordering on the hysterical the statement then proceeded to “tell the worshippers of the cross (the Pope) will be defeated and that “you will only see our swords until you go back to God’s true faith Islam”. If the pope’s speech had done damage to inter-religious dialogue, then such a reaction was calculated to ensure that the final nail would be hammered into the coffin.

It remains an oddity till today that many Islamist groups react to provocation at a drop of a hat and that their reaction often follow the predictable path of rhetoric and pyrotechnics. Fiery speech may gain a group some precious minutes on TV screen, but in the long run they do untold damage to the understanding and image of Islam (both in the eyes of Muslims and other faith communities) that will take ages to heal.

It would be hypocritical for some of these Islamist groups to demand an apology from the Pope while remaining blissfully oblivious to the venomous speeches and tirades that issue forth from their own ranks, be it in the form of mosque sermons, videos, pamphlets, recordings or death threats. Muslims cannot and should not demand respect for our faith as long as we are not prepared to show respect to the belief of others.

Yet how many Muslims have criticised the extremist and the conservatives in their midst who continue to ply the crown with sordid stories of “Christian conspiracies against Muslims, or with lurid account of the alleged “decadent, immoral lives and values of the so called “infidels”.

Stupid, insulting and even destructive comments from either community should be met with rational voice tempered with logic and morality and not the threats of violence couched in filmsy rhetoric of victimhood.

If Muslims felt insulted by the Pope’s comments, then we need to realize that many non Muslims likewise feel insulted by barbed accusation and slander that have come from some self appointed spokesmen of Islam.

Muslims need to remember that in our reaction to abuse and slander we are nonetheless guided by a moral principle that is higher. One cannot react to slander with even more slander; anymore than one can react to racism .

If the moral compass has been lost by the Pope, our duty as Muslims alike is to restore this balance and not let the ship of humanity flounder even more.
(Dr Farish Ahmad Noor from Centre for Modern orient Studies in Germany writing in the SUN September 25, 2006 “Slander Cannot Be Met With Slander”.

“Throughout the Muslim world religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices to protesting masses angered by perceived insult to their faith.

Whatever, their judgements, they should adopt a more reasoned approach in their critical remark for two reasons.

Firstly, certain parties manipulate crises of this kind as a safety valve for both their restive population and their own political agenda.

Secondly, what we are witnessing is mass protest characterized primarily by an uncontrollable out pouring of emotion providing proof that Muslims cannot engage in reasonable debate. Some arguing, that the Pope had offended Muslims, demanded a personal apology.

(Pope Benedict)… the questions he asks Muslims are those of the day : questions that should be answered clearly with solid arguments. To start, we must not accept that “jihad” be translated as “holy war”. Our priority should be to explain the principles of legitimate resistance and of Islamic ethics in conflict situations, not encourage people to protest violently against the accusation that they believe in violent religion.

The Pope’s reductionism has done nothing to help the process of reappropriation : a critical approach should not expect him to apologise but simply and reasonably to prove him that historically, scientifically and ultimately spiritually, he is mistaken.”
(Tariq Ramadan president of European Muslim Nettwork, Brussels writing in the September 25th, 2006 edition of the Star, “Understand the real reason why Pope was wrong”.)

Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Professor of Law, UITM, Shah Alam writing in New Straits Times cautioned “Muslims must not react to Pope’s Benedict’s inflammatory comments in a way that provides fodder for Islam-haters. Instead, they should exhibit tolerance and patience.”

Hashim Muzadi, head of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdiatul Ulama “ If we remain furious, then the Pope will be proved correct”.


The Pope has said that he was deeply sorry for the offence caused by his remarks and has also delivered a papal expression of regret saying ‘These were in fact quotation from a medieval text which do not in anyway express my personal thought”.

My own honest view is that the Pope could have chosen to express his thoughts without necessarily referring to the said objectionable dialogue. Infact the speech and its message could have been presented without reference to the dialogue. Perhaps, it would have been wiser had the Pope at the onset of the quote made it clear that the quote was not in any way reflective of his own opinion.

Still, the truth is that the feelings of the Muslims have been hurt and it has to do not with the speech but by recounting the offending dialogue.

But at the end of the day, the Pope is the father of my faith and however wrong the Pope is, I cannot and will not condemn Him but express my regret.