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Apologize for What?

By David Warren

The BBC appears to have been quickest off the mark, to send around the world in many languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, and Malay, word that the Pope had insulted the Prophet of Islam, during an address in Bavaria.

He had not, of course. Pope Benedict XVI had instead quoted, carefully and without approval, remarks by the learned 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaeologus, in debate with a 14th-century learned Persian. He was trying to provide a little historical depth to present controversies about the meaning of "jihad", and his very point was that on their own respective theological terms, Muslims and Christians were bound to talk past each other today, in the same ways as they did seven centuries ago. But in the most conscientious media reports I have seen, even the Byzantine emperor is quoted out of context.

Here is the point Pope Benedict was making, also in the words of that learned Byzantine emperor, speaking on the eve of one of the many sieges of Constantinople:

"God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death."

It is a point the Greek-educated and Christian emperor takes as self-evident, but which is not self-evident to a theology that holds God entirely beyond human reason, and says He may command whatever He commands, including conversion by force should He so will. As the Pope said, it is a conflict that stabs us once again today: Does God act with "logos"? (This is the Greek word for "reason" as well as "word") How do we defend this very Catholic (and Orthodox) idea outside the Church, where our own theological assumptions are not shared?

This was not a crude anti-Islamic polemic; nor was it so at the end of the 14th century. It was a quest for peace and amity, then as now.

By turning the story back-to-front, so that what's promised in the lead -- a crude attack on Islam -- is quietly withdrawn much later in the text, the BBC journalists were having a little mischief. The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world. Either the writers were so jaw-droppingly ignorant, they did not realize this is what they were abetting (always a possibility with the postmodern journalist), or the malice was intended. There is no third possibility.

From the start, the BBC's reports said the Pope would "face criticism from Muslim leaders" -- in the present tense. This is a form of dishonesty that has become common in journalism today. The flagrantly biased reporter, feigning objectivity, spices his story by just guessing what a man's enemies will say, even before they have spoken.

While I don't mean to pick especially on the BBC, when other mainstream media are often as culpable, they are worth singling out here to show the amount of sheer, murderous evil of which this taxpayer-funded network is capable. As I write, the BBC website has just posted an "interpretive" piece by their religious affairs correspondent, one Rahul Tandon. He does an unconscionably brief review of publicity the Pope had previously received, as Cardinal Ratzinger and since his elevation, touching upon Islam. By extracting the context from each item on his list, Mr Tandon creates the utterly false impression that the Pope is, as the media persistently dub him, "God's Rottweiler", with an especially vicious hate-on for Muslims.

Now watch Mr Tandon pose as the objective reporter:

"However, since his consecration, Pope Benedict has surprised many with his attempts to improve dialogue with the Muslim world. He is due to visit Turkey in November as part of that process.

"But there have been signs of his earlier views."

Note the dripping condescension in the trailing line, as if the Pope is barely able to contain himself. But more significantly, note the implicit assertion that the views of Cardinal Ratzinger changed when he became Pope. This is not true, but insinuated as if it were fact.

From now on, the reporting will be about the Muslim rage, and whether the Vatican has apologized yet. That is the "drama" the media will seek to capture -- the drama of the cockfight -- because they know no better kind. That the Pope said nothing intrinsically objectionable will be overlooked, in deference to the Muslim rage, just as the media hid the Danish cartoons from their viewers -- preventing them from discovering how mild they were.

But again: even without the BBC doing the devil's work, with unbecoming enthusiasm, the story could have carried to the Muslim world, where a new wave of anti-Western, and specifically anti-Christian hysteria is now rising, similar to what was enhanced by tendentious misreporting after the Danish controversy. There are enough other agents provocateurs both in my business and outside it; and surely, enough radical Muslims digging for grievances to extend their own power.

The manufacture of grievances, to justify strident demands for their redress, is the tyrant's stock-in-trade. It is what took Adolf Hitler to power over the Germans, and it is what today's Islamic fanatics depend upon to control the Muslims, and push them towards an apocalyptic jihad against the West. Moreover, the basic tactic of bullying is to demand apologies for exaggerated or imaginary offences. It is to make the decent kneel before the indecent.

Already the parliament of Pakistan has voted unanimously to condemn the Pope, without showing the patience or courtesy to find out what he actually said. This showed the power of the fanatics in Pakistan, for once one of them had tabled the lying motion, not one paliamentarian had the courage to resist it. It is worth adding, that in expressing their blind rage thus, they were illustrating not the Pope's, but the Byzantine emperor's caricature of Islam from 1391.

It is cowardly to apologize for imaginary transgressions. Let those who demand the apologies stick it.


N.B. The piece above is somewhat dilated from the newspaper version, for I re-inserted an explanation of Pope Benedict's remarks for which there was no space in the "deadtree" wraps. I would add here that the Pope's allusion to the issue of forced conversions will prove quite prescient. I would also add that an incredibly ignorant editorial appeared in the New York Times ("The Pope's Words"), demanding a "deep and persuasive" papal apology, for words he never uttered. Like so much that comes out of the New York Times today, it manifests the logic of the loony bin.

© Ottawa Citizen

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