Pope Benedict XVI has sent Islam into a fury matched only by the Danish cartoons. The Pope has now apologised twice, the second time stating that he had used “a quotation from a medieval text, which does not in any way express my personal thought.” This is disingenuous – of course he meant it.

So what did Pope Benedict say at Regensburg? Pope Benedict spoke of the relation of Reason and Religion. Most of what he said involved Hellenic reasoning and Christianity (that is, nothing to do with Islam). But at one stage he refers to Sura 2:256 of the Koran (which he possibly wrongly describes as from the earlier Suras) which states “There is no compulsion in religion” and points to the contradiction that Islam was subsequently spread by the sword.

Benedict quotes with approval a passage from Emperor Manuel (the Christian Byzantine Emperor) in 1391. Benedict suggests that the “central question on the relationship between religion and violence” is correctly dealt with by Manuel in these terms: “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” and “God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature.”

The Pope describes this last passage as “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 Pope’s propositions must be these: (1) The Koran states that there is no compulsion in religion; (2) Contrary to the Koran’s teaching, the Prophet Mohammed commanded (and in fact did) spread the religion of Islam by the sword; (3) This involved “violent conversion”; (4) That the violence of the sword was not acting with reason and was “contrary to God’s nature”; (5) The conquests of Islam and its “violent conversions” were contrary to God and, in the contemporary context, (6) The modern violence of Islam is contrary to God.

In my opinion, all Pope Benedict’s historical allegations are correct and, in that event, if you believe in (a) God (which I do not) the conclusions either drawn or inferred by Benedict follow.

Peter Fray

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