Today's Blogs

Encyclicals of Violence

Bloggers react to Pope Benedict’s recent speech on Islam. They also see recent history repeating in the showdown between the IAEA and Congress over Iran’s nuclear program and bid a sorrowful adieu to Oriana Fallaci.

Encyclicals of violence: By citing a Byzantine emperor to the effect that the Prophet Mohammed brought only “evil and inhuman” things to the world, a speech by Pope Benedict has sparked rioting and furor in some Muslim countries. But Western Catholics with varying opinions on this pontiff seem to think he was well within bounds.

Catholic conservative Andrew Sullivan comments: “Benedict insists on the Greek ‘logos’ as inherent in the Christian tradition, and ‘logos’ demands a freely chosen faith, and certainly not a faith imposed by violence. What’s striking to me about Benedict’s account of Islam is his suggestion that compulsion and violence are not extrinsic to Islam but intrinsic to its vision of humankind’s relationship with the divine. … In the current climate, it is an inflammatory but courageous one.”

Fellow Catholic The Anchoress is not so shocked by the pope’s speech, which she argues never really deviated from his job description. Nor is she shocked at the outraged response: “I mean, when isn’t the ‘Muslim world’ furious, enraged, raising its sword and setting fire to flags or images? When isn’t some Muslim cleric demanding a retraction of what he perceives to he ‘harsh’ words? When a few cartoons can be turned into worldwide protests, resulting in death to too many and literally cowing the media into relative silence, does the press not understand that a snarky headline or a careless phrase can cost lives?”

But Middle East scholar Juan Cole at Informed Comment thinks the pope owes Muslims an apology because, among other things, “[t]he idea of holy war or jihad (which is about defending the community or at most about establishing rule by Muslims, not about imposing the faith on individuals by force) is also not a Quranic doctrine. The doctrine was elaborated much later, on the Umayyad-Byzantine frontier, long after the Prophet’s death.”

Jacques Lapin at the contrarian Martini Republic wishes Benedict had turned his critical confessional gaze inward: “Had Pope Benedict cited his own church’s violent history in humble contrition and as an example of the evils of violent faith, his message might have reached more ears. Perhaps even Muslim ears. But the former enforcer of church doctrine at the Vatican didn’t choose that option.”

Read more Benedict backlash.

Natanz safety dance: The IAEA is seeing red after a House intelligence committee report rebuked the organization for failing to do its job on Iran’s budding nuclear program. The U.N. watchdog agency said in a letter Thursday that the Republican-drafted report contained “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements,” not least of which was Iran’s present capability to manufacture weapons-grade uranium. Bloggers have the vague sense of being through these motions once before.

Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice strikes a Cassandra note: “Whatever happens between the U.S. and Iran, it is of the utmost importance that history not repeat itself. … The architects of a would-be war with Iran seem to be similar misrepresenters of the truth. … If Iran isn’t an imminent nuclear threat – and the IAEA seems to be asserting that it isn’t – then there is still time for diplomacy, still time to work out a peaceful solution to this alleged crisis.”

However, conservative Daniel Freedman atthe New York Sun’s It Shines for All sides with Congress over the IAEA, “the organization that was supposed to be monitoring Iran’s nuclear program and yet failed to discover that Iran was pursuing a nuclear program and had been lying to the IAEA, and hiding its program, for almost two decades. We only discovered the truth about Iran’s nuclear program through an Iranian opposition group. Without that group, the IAEA would probably be still giving Iran a clean bill of health.”

Lefties Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal and Jonathan Schwarz at Tiny Revolution think that, as with Iraq’s WMD capability, the major newspapers bury the skeptics far behind the alarmists.

Read more about the IAEA/Congress dispute.

Arrivederci, Fallaci: Oriana Fallaci, a firebrand intellectual journalist, has died of cancer at 77. She was a world-famous interviewer who came out of semi-retirement after 9/11 to inveigh against radical Islam. Bloggers remember Fallaci for her fearlessness, which some say came with an unfortunate tendency for rage-and-the-pride hyperbole about Muslim behavior.

Righty Andrew Stuttaford at the National Review Online’s The Corner offers this eulogy:“As we think about the late Oriana Fallaci (who would have had plenty to say about the controversy now engulfing the Pope), it’s well worth remembering that she died facing prosecution in her native land for speaking her mind about Islam. To quote a Danish journalist writing about the cartoons mess, ‘free speech is free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.’ R.I.P.”

Fallaci had taken some criticism for blurring the line between Islamism and Islam. As A. Kvetch, an Italian Jew, at The Armchair View points out: “Her occasional lack of distinction between radical Islamists and Muslims in general, was in my view totally inappropriate, but her critics often fail to note that her vitriolic attacks are quite consistently indiscriminate: the Italian people, the EU etc. also come in for their share of criticism without any distinctions being made.”

Read more obits for Oriana.

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