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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:57 am 
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Muhammad's sword

By Uri Avner

09/24/06

Since the days when Roman emperors threw Christians to the lions, the relations between the emperors and the heads of the church have undergone many changes.

Constantine the Great, who became emperor in the year 306 - exactly 1700 years ago - encouraged the practice of Christianity in the empire, which included Palestine. Centuries later, the church split into an Eastern (Orthodox) and a Western (Catholic) part. In the West, the Bishop of Rome, who acquired the title of Pope, demanded that the emperor accept his superiority.

The struggle between the emperors and the popes played a central role in European history and divided the peoples. It knew ups and downs. Some emperors dismissed or expelled a pope, some popes dismissed or excommunicated an emperor. One of the emperors, Henry IV, "walked to Canossa", standing for three days barefoot in the snow in front of the Pope's castle, until the Pope deigned to annul his excommunication.

But there were times when emperors and popes lived in peace with each other. We are witnessing such a period today. Between the present Pope, Benedict XVI, and the present emperor, George Bush II, there exists a wonderful harmony. Last week's speech by the Pope, which aroused a worldwide storm, went well with Bush's crusade against "Islamofascism", in the context of the "clash of civilizations".

In his lecture at a German university, the 265th Pope described what he sees as a huge difference between Christianity and Islam: while Christianity is based on reason, Islam denies it. While Christians see the logic of God's actions, Muslims deny that there is any such logic in the actions of Allah.

As a Jewish atheist, I do not intend to enter the fray of this debate. It is much beyond my humble abilities to understand the logic of the Pope. But I cannot overlook one passage, which concerns me too, as an Israeli living near the fault-line of this "war of civilizations".

In order to prove the lack of reason in Islam, the Pope asserts that the Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread their religion by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul?

To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine emperor, who belonged, of course, to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus told of a debate he had - or so he said (its occurrence is in doubt) - with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:


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.


These words give rise to three questions: (a) Why did the Emperor say them? (b) Are they true? (c) Why did the present Pope quote them?

When Manuel II wrote his treatise, he was the head of a dying empire. He assumed power in 1391, when only a few provinces of the once illustrious empire remained. These, too, were already under Turkish threat.

At that point in time, the Ottoman Turks had reached the banks of the Danube. They had conquered Bulgaria and the north of Greece, and had twice defeated relieving armies sent by Europe to save the Eastern Empire. On 29 May 1453, only a few years after Manuel's death, his capital, Constantinople (the present Istanbul), fell to the Turks, putting an end to the empire that had lasted for more than a thousand years.

During his reign, Manuel made the rounds of the capitals of Europe in an attempt to drum up support. He promised to reunite the church. There is no doubt that he wrote his religious treatise in order to incite the Christian countries against the Turks and convince them to start a new crusade. The aim was practical, theology was serving politics.

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil". Moreover, the Turks are again knocking on the doors of Europe, this time peacefully. It is well known that the Pope supports the forces that object to the entry of Turkey into the European Union.

Is there any truth in Manuel's argument?

The pope himself threw in a word of caution. As a serious and renowned theologian, he could not afford to falsify written texts. Therefore, he admitted that the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, Verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant Verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith."

How can one ignore such an unequivocal statement? The Pope simply argues that this commandment was laid down by the Prophet when he was at the beginning of his career, still weak and powerless, but that later on he ordered the use of the sword in the service of the faith. Such an order does not exist in the Qur'an. True, Muhammad called for the use of the sword in his war against opposing tribes - Christian, Jewish and others - in Arabia, when he was building his state. But that was a political act, not a religious one; basically a fight for territory, not for the spreading of the faith.

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: how did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.

True, the Albanians did convert to Islam, and so did the Bosniaks. But nobody argues that they did this under duress. They adopted Islam in order to become favourites of the government and enjoy the fruits.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

There no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics reconquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousands of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

Why? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

The story about "spreading the faith by the sword" is an evil legend, one of the myths that grew up in Europe during the great wars against the Muslims - the reconquista of Spain by the Christians, the Crusades and the repulsion of the Turks, who almost conquered Vienna. I suspect that the German Pope, too, honestly believes in these fables. That means that the leader of the Catholic world, who is a Christian theologian in his own right, did not make the effort to study the history of other religions.

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "global war on terror" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.

The speech of the Pope blends into this effort. Who can foretell the dire consequences?

Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, "Gush Shalom". http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:27 pm 
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AAAhmed46 wrote:
Muhammad's sword

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil".

[snip]

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "global war on terror" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.



There is escaping it because it is wrong. Terrorism is NOT synonymous with Muslims, except possibly to the weak-minded and willfully ignorant.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/ramadan/islam.html

The extremely tenuous connection between the pope and the president here in Avnery's article is a tell-tale sign of a left-winger with a one-track mind. They hate George W. Bush above all others, and if anything goes wrong in the world, he's somehow to blame for it.

Of course the fact of the matter is that he is to blame for some things and not others. However, to listen to left-wingers wail on Bush, you'd think he was responsible for all the troubles of the past as well as the present and future. Everything threads back somehow to George W. Bush.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 8:05 pm 
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Nor is Bush on some sort of "evangelical crusade." (not a direct quote--but the essentially the meaning here)

The USA is a largely secular nation--with legally enforced seperation of church and state--often to a ludicrious degree.

(such seperation is precisly one of the things that the fanatics see as being a serious "problem" BTW)

There is no such relgious "crusade" except in the minds of the paranoid.

There is no such plan to "dominate" the worlds oil resources.

The USA has more than enough oil at home that can be tapped.
The cost of fighting over oil is far greater than actually just paying the market price in any case.

In addition, since the USA is not actually taking any oil, the claims that we are doing so rings oddly hollow.

Also missing from this little rant is that China--with a far worse of human rights and far less concern over what "other" people think of its actions is rapidly developing ITS OWN demands for oil.
Soon it will outstripe the USA in its demand for oil.

Oh, the "history" recoutned by the writer is seriously flawed.

Christians and Jews being "people of the book" has NEVER protected them from murder.

Many of the people in the Towers were "people of the book" as were any number of fellow Muslims.

This little work has more holes in it--both factual and logical, than does a pair of my girls fishnet stockings. ;)

Going to enjoy taking it apart--when I can find the time. ;)


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:38 pm 
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cxt wrote:
The USA is a largely secular nation--with legally enforced seperation of church and state--often to a ludicrious degree.


You mean secular in government, or secular in populace? Government wise I mostly agree, though there is plenty of swearing-on-bibles to be found, though that's hardly a big deall. Population-wise last I heard it was something like 80% christian.

Quote:
There is no such plan to "dominate" the worlds oil resources.

The USA has more than enough oil at home that can be tapped.
The cost of fighting over oil is far greater than actually just paying the market price in any case.


Depends on how you mean dominate. It's long been US policy to consider the Gulf Oil a vital resource. As I mentioned in another thread, it goes back to Carter.

Quote:
In addition, since the USA is not actually taking any oil, the claims that we are doing so rings oddly hollow.


We're not doing anything so brash as to simply steal it, but we are showing what happens to countries that want to wean their oil market off the dollar. What do you think the odds are of that happening now that our army is in place? I don't care to rehash yet again what this war is about. Some people believe it has to do with violating UN resolutions or being a threat, other people think it has to do with positioning ourselves in the world strategicaly and economically. Both sides seem pretty resistant to persuasion.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:57 pm 
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Val

With all respect--seriously--those are very nuanced postions that have little to do with the ravings of the author.

1-Its the government itself is secular--regardless of the relgious inclinations of the President--or his supporters.

The seperatiion of Church and State is legally established and enforced to a ludicrous degree in the USA.

There is NO relgious "crusade" going on the part of the USA.

2-Given Bush's "lame duck" status his personal beliefs are largely irrelevent this stage of the game.

3-That very seperation is viewed as a major problem by the zelots of the terror groups.

Yes, it DOES matter how you define "dominate".

1-At least a part of the Gulf belongs to the USA--and the rest is right next door--so I guess the USA does have some legit concerns over what goes on there--esp since some of it belongs to them.

2-The USA has more than enough oil within their own boarders to meet demand--at least for a good long while.

3-Less costly and less dangerous to simply open up ANWAR and other locations than to fight over it elsewhere.

By "less brash than steal it" you mean "pay market price" just like everyone else right? ;)

Now that out army is in place--I guess the USA will simply buy the oil--just like they do everyplace else.

What, you don't think the Chinese are cutting "good deals" with Iran for THEIR oil????? ;)

Why should the USA do less, or be held to different standard than China?????

I see no reason that what the Iraq war is all about can't be a combo of all the reasons you listed--perhaps more besides.

Not really argueing with you here Val--just talking--so to speak.

I'm much more concerned with the seriously jacked "logic" of the author and his equally warped and error filled posits on ahm........"history."


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:43 pm 
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The article i think was actualy published in isreal and i think is targetted for isreali's.

Thus his mention of Bush's religion i think is significant considering how active evangelical christianity is within this conflict.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:34 am 
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AAAhmed46 wrote:
Thus his mention of Bush's religion i think is significant considering how active evangelical christianity is within this conflict.


Significant in what way? Revealing his nonexistent logic connecting the pope to Bush? Bush's religion is merely prejudicial here. Besides, the vatican was very much against the invasion of Iraq, remember? And evangelicals hardly have warm feelings towards the vatican, generally speaking. Please, the supposed connection between the pope and Bush is just ignorant, yet another example of how easy it is to fabricate a conspiracy theory. The stuff about Islam in the article was interesting, however, but you'd have to tell me how accurate it is.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:58 am 
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Agree with most of what's said but minor detail:

There is separation of church and state, although largely one has to accept church to get to state power. And there are large segments of our society who would like to see that separation ended. Evangelicals are a large, politically influential, opinionated group (none of that to their discredit) and they would love, among other things, to put creationism and religious organizations in our schools, outlaw abortion and many of them mean that under any circumstances, including when there are serious health risks to raped pregnant women. They've been influential with the comprised FDA's groundless decision to not sell Plan B over the counter. Some are straightforward about recreating a wife-works-in-the-home norm. It's hyperbole with a grain of truth that some get called Christian Taliban. And it does matter what our President believes up until he leaves office.

Can't wait to see "Jesus Camp" when it comes out.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 4:10 am 
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mhosea wrote:
AAAhmed46 wrote:
Thus his mention of Bush's religion i think is significant considering how active evangelical christianity is within this conflict.


Significant in what way? Revealing his nonexistent logic connecting the pope to Bush? Bush's religion is merely prejudicial here. Besides, the vatican was very much against the invasion of Iraq, remember? And evangelicals hardly have warm feelings towards the vatican, generally speaking. Please, the supposed connection between the pope and Bush is just ignorant, yet another example of how easy it is to fabricate a conspiracy theory. The stuff about Islam in the article was interesting, however, but you'd have to tell me how accurate it is.


Im talking about the fact that this article was targetted toward Isrealis....

SOME evangelical christians believe that if Masjid Al-Aqsa is destroyed and a temple is built on top, the second coming of christ will occur. IE a very heavy interest between evangelical christianity and isreal as well as Masjid Al-Aqsa.

Search it up, I think that is what he is talking about, and that is why he is relating bush to it.

I dont believe he is purposly being misleading, i do think he is jumping to conclusions about Bush.

BUT bush being an evangelical chrisitian, he MAY let me repeat MAY not view the whole 'destroy the mosque and create a temple so christ will come again' as not such a bad thing.

That said, by saying this i am being very general and steriotypical so i really say that reluctantly. But perhaps this is the perspective he wrote this article from.

Uri is an ex-soldier and fought in WW2, and is an isreali cetizen.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 4:19 am 
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mhosea wrote:
AAAhmed46 wrote:
Muhammad's sword

In this sense, the quote serves exactly the requirements of the present Emperor, George Bush II. He, too, wants to unite the Christian world against the mainly Muslim "Axis of Evil".

[snip]

Why did he utter these words in public? And why now?

There is no escape from viewing them against the background of the new Crusade of Bush and his evangelist supporters, with his slogans of "Islamofascism" and the "global war on terror" - when "terrorism" has become a synonym for Muslims. For Bush's handlers, this is a cynical attempt to justify the domination of the world's oil resources. Not for the first time in history, a religious robe is spread to cover the nakedness of economic interests; not for the first time, a robbers' expedition becomes a Crusade.



There is escaping it because it is wrong. Terrorism is NOT synonymous with Muslims, except possibly to the weak-minded and willfully ignorant.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/ramadan/islam.html

The extremely tenuous connection between the pope and the president here in Avnery's article is a tell-tale sign of a left-winger with a one-track mind. They hate George W. Bush above all others, and if anything goes wrong in the world, he's somehow to blame for it.

Of course the fact of the matter is that he is to blame for some things and not others. However, to listen to left-wingers wail on Bush, you'd think he was responsible for all the troubles of the past as well as the present and future. Everything threads back somehow to George W. Bush.



Eh, just as there are idiot conservatives, idiot liberals are just as loud.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 5:30 am 
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AAAhmed46 wrote:
SOME evangelical christians believe that if Masjid Al-Aqsa is destroyed and a temple is built on top, the second coming of christ will occur. IE a very heavy interest between evangelical christianity and isreal as well as Masjid Al-Aqsa.


I think you're right about that belief existing. I know the prophesies say that the temple will be rebuilt (again), and this is one of the signs of the end of the age. However, apocalyptophiles (I just made that word up ;-)) aren't really mainstream evangelicals, and after having him as a governor in Texas and obviously as a president for several years, I have accumulated zero reasons to suspect that Bush is into end-of-the-age prophecies. The mainstream evangelical point of view would be that God has a plan, only He knows the timeline, and this plan will unfold on its prearranged timeline no matter what anyone tries to do about it. The evangelical's goal is not to see the temple rebuilt or to spend their time contemplating the Second Coming, rather to convert as many people as possible before that occurs. It's the project deadline, if you will.

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Last edited by mhosea on Thu Oct 05, 2006 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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AAAhmed46 wrote:
Eh, just as there are idiot conservatives, idiot liberals are just as loud.


Yes, more or less. Right-wingers were irked to the point of irrationality by dislike of Bill Clinton. However, because the US is now more polarized and relatively evenly divided than in recent history, and because republicans control both houses and the executive (and arguably the judicial), the democrats have taken shrill obstructionism to a new level. This is why I think it will be good for the country if the republicans lose the house or the senate or both. Then maybe the democrats will calm down and try to get something done for the country instead of defining their "I have a scream" platform implicitly as simply anti-Bush and anti-republican (anti-war, anti-NSA-wire-tapping, etc., etc.). The two-party system doesn't work as well, IMO, when one party has control of every part of government and the other is melting down with frustration, not only that, but the republicans have accomplished almost nothing with their control of congress in the last few years.

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IJ

First let me say that I can't oppose the Christian fundametalist strongly enough.

But calling them the "Christain Taliban" is not only wrong, they are not even close to the Taliban and its murderous actions.

By calling them such you establish a sort of mental "equivilence" between the 2 groups.

What ever BS they have been pushing about "plan B"--and other nonsense--they are not running around cutting off people hands, executing adulters, stoning homosexuals, makeing it illegal to teach women to read or drive cars. And making not wearing the burka a death penalty offense.

They are NOT the Taliban.

Whatever they may or may not be thinking---and I agree with you that I don't care for what they have done/are doing.

Directly comparing them to the Taliban cheapens the crimes of the Taliban--and overly conflates the stance and powers of the Christain fundamentalist.


Last edited by cxt on Thu Oct 05, 2006 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I just had to jump in on a couple of things...

First, no matter how "religious" any of them are, I don't think it is in the best interests of any politician, lawyer, judge, or other of the too numerous to count rogue agents in the U.S. to desire the building of such a temple in order to accomplish the second coming of Christ. If they have read the scriptures they should all know that there is a special place reserved for each and every one of them in the Inferno!

Second, we simply don't live in a two-party system... We have a one-party system with some "bones" thrown in to appease those who have decided that they don't want to vote for one of the two candidates running under the one ruling party. Half of the ruling party calls themselves Demopublicans and the other half calls themselves Republicrats, but they are unfortunately way too alike in their willingness to sell the beliefs of their constituents out.

In truth, anyone who desires control over your life is exactly the type of person who shouldn't be given (elected or otherwise) control over your life simply because it isn't about your life, but their lust for control! In fact, anyone who gets elected, appointed or hired for any of those types of jobs should never be allowed to hold those jobs! Politicians, Lawyers, Judges and other Rogue Agents all belong to the very same class and political party... the Lizard party!

...the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.

'Odd,' said Arthur, 'I thought you said it was a democracy?'

'I did,' said Ford, 'It is.'

'So,' said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, 'why don't the people get rid of the lizards?'

'It honestly doesn't occur to them,' said Ford. 'They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.'

'You mean they actually vote for the lizards?'

'Oh yes,' said Ford with a shrug, 'of course.'

'But,' said Arthur, going for the big one again, 'why?'

'Because if they didn't vote for a lizard,' said Ford, 'the wrong lizard might get in.'


- Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (NOT "The Hitchiker's Guide")


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 8:14 pm 
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Panther

Could not agree more.

Its all to often a choice between "bad" and "bad."

Voters deserve better---but we won't get it until we demand better.


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