Benedict XVI’s quote about Islam in Regensburg

Source: FSSPX News

What Benedict XVI said about Islam during his conference at the University of Regensburg, on September 12, 2006, was the cause of many polemics with the Muslims. In a conference on the relation between faith and reason, we give here below the passage, which was the source of all the polemics:

“(…) I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian – perhaps when wintering near Ankara – on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Koran, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (dialexis – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Koran, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (sun logô) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death..."

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the “logos.” This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist.”

 

There is not the least caricature nor the least offence against anyone.

 In the Italian daily Il Giornale of September 16, Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, (a Jesuit and founder of the Center of Documentation and Research at the St Joseph University in Beirut), expressed his regret that the mob took to the streets and demanded apologies for what had been said. “What is a shame is that most of the demonstrators (if not all of them) have not even read this academic conference. And even had they read it, they would have been quite at a loss to grasp its deep meaning. That is what we are confronted with. We get the impression that it is just a rerun of the scenario for the cartoons of the prophet of Islam, which we had in January and February. With this difference, however, that now there is not the least caricature, nor the least offense against anyone. On the contrary, it is a consideration addressed to any thinker to lead him to reflect on the relation between faith and reason. And all of us, Christians and Muslim Arabs, we badly need to reflect on this.”

The Jesuit believes that the responsibility of the Western press is very heavy in this affair. “They wanted to take advantage of the document to provoke the Muslim world. They put this academic text on the level of the confrontation between the West and the Muslim world, as if the pope approved and supported the theory of the “clash of civilization” advocated by Samuel Huntington! While in reality, the subject of this academic conference was intercultural and interreligious dialogue.”

The paragraphs, which dealt more or less with Islam, made up about 10% of the whole text, stated the priest of Egyptian origin. The pope quoted a verse from the Koran: “There is no compulsion in religion” (2, 256). It is probably the verse most often quoted in the Western world in order to underline that the Koran supports freedom of conscience, he observed. If the pope meant to attack Islam on this score, it would have been easy for him to quote other verses, to begin with the verses 190-193 of the same surah: “In the ways of God, fight against those who fight against you, and do not transgress. God does not like transgressors! Kill them all, wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places from which they drove you out: sedition (fitna) is more serious than murder. (…) Fight against them until there is no more sedition (fitna) and until religion is entirely to God alone. If they stop, then there will be no more hostilities, except against the unjust.”

Fr. Samir Khalil Samir recalls that we do not dialogue by hiding the truth but by telling it. “We must acknowledge that in the Koran we find passages open to tolerance, but there is also an instigation to violence. We must acknowledge that terrorism is not only born of socio-political motives but also of a certain interpretation of unequally violent passages from the Koran, he stressed. And he concluded: “the solution was suggested by the pope, it is the use of reason.”