I don't mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon: I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology (and to my colleague Christopher Hitchens). But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech—surely the pope is allowed to quote medieval texts—and of the press. And we can also unite—loudly—in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies, and elderly nuns. By "we" I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde, and Fox News. Western institutions of the left, the right, and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary—"we're pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence"—but in the days since the pope's sermon, I don't feel that I've heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or ought to have said if he had been given better advice.I couldn't agree more. I've spent days reading and listening to news reports about how the Pope should have known better than to use such an inflammatory quote. In different circumstances, such discussions might have some relevance--though they'd still be indescribably boring--but not now.
Because it scarcely matters what the Pope says regarding Islam; if he says anything at all he's sure to be attacked. These people are spoiling for a fight. Let's recall the Danish cartoon incident, shall we? The riots began well after the cartoons were published. They began after a publicity campaign by a group of officially offended Danish Muslim, who sent them round the Middle East, with a few additions, with the specific intent to stir up trouble.
Al Qaeda "threatens jihad" over the Pope's remarks? Big deal. They're just using the Pope story as a news hook to get their message out. They already wanted to kill or convert "worshippers of the cross." They've told us so before.
These people want to censor us. They want to dominate us. They want a return to an idyllic utopian caliphate, for crying out loud. Let's not give in to them.
ADDED: TONY DANIEL'S WORLD RELIGION APOLOGY ROUND UP!
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