Ian Fisher, writing for The New York Times in a summing-up article entitled "Pope’s Regrets Over Statement Fail to Quiet a Storm of Protests," summarizes Benedict's Regensburg address as:
"The speech was largely a scholarly address criticizing the West for submitting itself too much to reason, and shutting belief in God out of science and philosophy.There you have the power of an established culture being conditioned to hear what they expect or want to hear. Benedict's point was exactly the opposite: that Western culture's hyper-secularization in recent decades is fundamentally irrational. Censoring religion out of reality is an act inconsistent with reason as expressed in science and philosophy, and is now so dated a cultural motive that it's time to wake up and move past it by engaging in truly rational conversation with one another.
As I said the other day, most people on the street who don't really work in ideas – professionally or out of personal interest – are usually a few centuries behind reality. Most people going on about the irrationality of religion, and science and philosophy as above it, are still firmly the children of the 18th century Enlightenment. I grew up with that, too, of course, and it was an amazing part of studying history in seeing how such ideas still had a cultural grip long after their actual persuasive power had given out.
But I am ready for folks to move past it, especially when reporting on what someone really had to say about the matter.
Read Benedict's lecture (in an earlier entry of mine). That really was newsworthy and provocative, and I read too much of this stuff to say that very casually!
Pope’s Regrets Over Statement Fail to Quiet a Storm of Protests
By IAN FISHER
Published: September 19, 2006
ROME, Sept. 18 — Many Muslims insisted Monday that Pope Benedict XVI did not go far enough in his apology on Sunday for the offense caused by a speech he gave last week that discussed Islam and holy war.
In the southern Iraqi city of Basra, protesters burned an effigy of the pope, and an Iraqi group linked to Al Qaeda posted a warning on a Web site threatening war against “worshipers of the cross.”
The supreme leader in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the pope’s remarks “the latest link” in the “chain of conspiracy to set off a crusade.”
And, as a Vatican official said its ambassadors would seek to better explain the pope’s statement, a Turkish man with a fake gun tried to storm a Protestant church in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. He was arrested after worshipers trapped him in the church entryway.
Apart from the continuing anger at the pope’s speech, in which he cited a medieval passage that called Islam “evil and inhuman,” the debate on Monday seemed to turn on whether the pope had actually apologized.
Many Muslims — and some Catholics — noted that he had said only that he was sorry for the reaction that fanned out across the Muslim world. He did not say he had been wrong to have used the quotations.
“You either have to say ‘I’m sorry’ in a proper way or don’t say it at all,” said Mehmet Aydin, a state minister in Turkey, which Benedict is scheduled to visit in November in his first trip to a Muslim country.
But other Muslims either accepted the pope’s statement or called it the best they would get.
“The pope has apologized, and that’s enough, so let’s calm down,” said Hasyim Muzadi, head of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama. “If we remain furious, then the pope will be proved correct.”
Turkey’s most senior Muslim cleric, Ali Bardakoglu, who had been among the most strident in his criticism of the pope, said, “His expression of sadness is a sign that he would work for world peace.”
The Muslim Council in Britain called the pope’s words “exactly the reassurance many Muslims were looking for.”
Benedict ignited a firestorm of protest last week in a speech he made at Regensburg University in Germany. The speech was largely a scholarly address criticizing the West for submitting itself too much to reason, and shutting belief in God out of science and philosophy.
But he began by recounting a discussion of Christianity and Islam between a 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian scholar.
“He said, I quote, ‘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,’ ’’ the pope said.
Benedict also briefly considered the Islamic concept of jihad, which he defined as “holy war,” and said that violence in the name of religion was contrary to God’s nature and to reason.
In the speech, Benedict did not say whether he agreed with the quotations he cited. But on Sunday he delivered a rare papal expression of regret, saying, “These were in fact quotations from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.”
He said his address had been “an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.”
Several Christian leaders were quoted Monday defending the pope, saying that his words had been misunderstood by the news media.
“We are faced with a media-driven phenomenon bordering on the absurd,” Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the former archbishop of Paris, told Le Monde. “If the game consists in unleashing the crowd’s vindictiveness on words that it has not understood, then the conditions for dialogue with Islam are no longer met.”
The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, who as archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the world’s Anglicans, told the BBC, “The pope has already issued an apology, and I think his views on this need to be judged against his entire record, where he has spoken very positively about dialogue” between faiths.
Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, Raymond Bonner from Jakarta, Indonesia, and Mona el-Naggar from Cairo.