The Arab world fiddles while Darfur burnsI read that Pope Benedict XVI caused a stir by quoting a medieval emperor who trashed the Muslim prophet Mohammad, an Orthodox Christian emperor in fact.
The media reported that the emperor's quote, repeated by Benedict was:
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.
Now, it probably wasn't the smartest thing in the world to invoke a quote invoking the prophet of one of the world's major religions. If the most important leader of the Muslim faith trashed the Christian prophet Jesus, Christians would probably be a little annoyed too.
Benedict's comments seems more odd since Christianity has been just as guilty of spreading its faith 'by the sword.' The Middle Ages, when this quote was made, were dominated by holy wars of Christian armies invading Muslim lands.
However, it's worth remembering that the media did not quote Benedict's entire speech, only this controversial segment. So he may or may not have criticized Christian-inspired violence as well. If Benedict erred, it was in not being explicit about whether violence is inherent in the religion of Islam or if the faith has been perverted by extremist interpretations thereof.
The fury it caused is ironic since the whole purpose of the Pope's speech was to denounce religious-inspired violence, adding that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."
"The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application," he added. "Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today."
The uproar it caused in the Muslim world is reminiscent of the near eruption of World War III over some cartoons of the prophet Mohammad.
There certainly is Islamophobia. There are indeed self-proclaimed Christians who are openly anti-Muslim.
These bigots would roundly reject Benedict's denunciation of violence and explicitly subscribe to the emperor's characterization of Mohammad's tactics.
Take this anti-Muslim bigot who said:
"We must conquer the Muslims not simply with the sword but we must also change their hearts."
Such fanatics do not hide their view that the current tension is nothing less than a battle between Christian extremists and Islamic extremists.
"The reality is that this is a war against the Muslim religion."
No sugar coating it. To the brainwashed, the phrase 'extremist Islam' is redundant.
But there another reality: some extremely hypersensitive people in the Muslim world who are looking for reasons to be offended. Would-be martyrs need to feel angry. Cynical religious leaders and politicians need their flocks to feel persecuted in order to better manipulate them against an exterior enemy. This is as true of America's Theocracy Brigade as of al-Qaedists.
I was listening to the excellent public radio program The World. And before the story on Benedict's comments, they did a story on the ongoing genocide in Darfur, western Sudan. The juxtaposition of these two stories stupified me.
This genocide has not gained a ton of attention in the west, but it's gained more coverage than most African issues. Even the president took a break from encouraging Congress to sanction torture by demanding action to halt the genocide.
The Washington Post editorial page and New York Times' columnist Nicholas Krystof are among those in the mainstream US media who've dilligently tried to keep this genocide in the news.
Now, the Israeli aggression against southern Lebanon caused hundreds of deaths. The numbers vary but even the highest, most partisan estimate says that 1300 Lebanese were killed.
The rape of southern Lebanon provoked a gigantic international outcry against Israel. Not only from the Muslim world, but from most of the western world as well. Not all, but most.
The genocide in Darfur has claimed over 200,000 lives. The genocide is being perpetrated by Aranb Muslims against black Muslims. It's been sponsored by a military regime that was once aligned with Islamists. What has been the reaction fo the Muslim and Arab worlds to this mass slaughter?
200,000 actively murdered in Darfur? The Arab and Muslim worlds play ostrich.
0.6 percent of that number killed as 'collateral damage' in Lebanon? The Arab and Muslim worlds denounce Israel like it's run by Stalin.
A couple of dumb cartoons published? Rioting, boycotts and fatwas.
This is completely irrational behavior for anyone who claims to be interested in humanity.
And in fact, that's one of the most striking observations one can make. Western aggression against Muslims, whether by the US against Iraq or Israel against Lebanon, has been widely attacked in the west itself. Angry editorials. Protest movements. Huge marches. Prime ministers have been kicked out of office.
We've all seen on TV huge marches against Israel's immoral occupation of the Palestinian territories in Riyadh or Damascus, but where are the marches against Morocco's immoral occupation of the Western Sahara? Where are the demands to sever diplomatic relations with the genocidal Sudanese junta?
I guess those don't serve propaganda purposes quite as well or advance the victimhood/martyr syndrome.
I don't argue for one second that the Israeli aggression ought not to have been criticized; I lambasted it myself.
But if one kind of violence should be villified, why is a far greater kind of violence being completely ignored?
It's been demonstrated that some people will riot over cartoons and go apoplectic when the Pope quotes a 14th century monarch in the middle of an academic speech. Maybe now those same people should prove they can get angry about mass murder. Maybe they can show that they can get upset about what is so far the greatest crime against humanity of the 21st century.
Update: Apparently some Muslims are so upset with the Pope's perceived linking of Islam to violence that they have attacked churches and killing a nun. Talk about living down to stereotypes!
Further update: While some of the Muslim anger is understandable to a certain extent, the hysteria around quotatations and cartoons seems a hideous overreaction. To what extent is this accidental and to what extent meticulously manufactured?