See news story http://uk.news.yahoo.com/15092006/325/muslims-deplore-pope-speech.html.
On Tuesday Pope Benedict gave a rather academic speech in Regensburg University, where he once lectured. In it he quoted a 14th century Byzantine Emperor's comments on the spread of Islam.
This is what he actually said in the course of a long lecture:-
"APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MÜNCHEN, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG (SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)
MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF SCIENCE
LECTURE OF THE HOLY FATHER
Aula Magna of the University of RegensburgTuesday, 12 September 2006
Faith, Reason and the UniversityMemories and Reflections
..................The university was (in the late 1950s when he started teaching there) also very proud of its two theological faculties...... It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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". The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably ...................................'
The Emperor could speak with knowledge of the gradual conquest of the Byzantine or Roman Empire in the East by Islamic forces over the previous seven or so centuries. Readers of this can judge the Pope's words for themselves and in the context in which they were given.
I a nutshell, what Pope Benedict is asking for is 'Jaw, jaw, not war, war' between religions and mutual tolerance and honesty. This should give offence to no-one, unless they are either (a) looking for something to be offended at or (b) not in agreement with the propositions that 'spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable' and that 'God is not pleased by blood - and acting unreasonably.'
The National Assembly of Pakistan and others please take note.