As you know, I take advice in matters spirtitual and religious from the ghost of Archbishop Cranmer. Several readers have suggested I should comment on the Pope's comments on the Prophet Mohammed, so I naturally turned to Cranmer's site as the first (and admittedly only) piece of research. I should from the outset declare my own religious views. I don't have any. There, that was quick, wasn't it? Although I perhaps should say that if I were ever to be persuaded out of my state of agnosticity it would be to head in the direction of Rome. Miss Widdecombe's influence is greater than she imagines. This view is based on the view that at least the Catholic Church still believes in something and unlike the C of E doesn't just tack with every prevailing wind.
Let's just clarify what the Pope said...
"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."
In the interests of balance he might also have said the very same things about many of the early Popes or many other religious leaders. However, as Cranmer points out, these weren't even the Pope's words, he was quoting someone else in an academic paper, which I imagine sent most of the audience to the land of zzzzzz.
Cranmer's view is simple...
Instead of hurling insults, therefore, it would be more illuminating if Muslim leaders could enlighten the kafir of the justifiable reasons for Mohammed’s murderous and violent actions, or tell us why the Pope has misunderstood the Islamic concept of ‘holy war’. They might even consider a little restraint, since their own words are now edging towards justification of violence against ‘the West’, on whose behalf they seem to think the Pope speaks. They might even consider reading the entire speech.
Mine is even simpler. We cannot allow anyone to deny freedom of speech in this way. We have seen a dangerous tendency among more fanatical muslims to edge in this direction already this year (remember the publication of a cartoon of the Prohet in a Danish newspaper?). It's a shame that the Vatican has already got a little jumpy and already rushed to a semi-apology. In the end, any reasonable person should acceopt that the Pope has a point of view and even if you don't aree with it, as a democrat and believer in freedom of speech, you must accept his right to give it. If not, do you accept the right of Islamist fanatics to walk around with placards calling for the destruction of Israel or all Jews to be killed?
This issue highlights the problems caused by the Governments Incitement to Religious Hatred legislation. It's fundamentally anti-democratic. In theory, if the Pope had made the remarks in Britain he could have been arrested (correct me if I am wrong). But how many extreme Muslims have been arrested for waving the kind of placards I describe above? Very few, I suspect. It's becoming one law for one and one for another. And in the long term that can only damage our democratic freedoms.
One way or another we in the west have to stand up against Islamist fanataics without appearing to brand all muslims as extremists. They are not. It's yet another case of a tiny minority giving the overwhelming majority a bad name. So it's time for the majority of Muslims to stand up and be counted. They could start by making it clear that although they fundamentally disagree with the Pope, they accept his right in a democratic society to say what he did.
Glad I got that off my chest. Click HERE to buy the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam.