If this is Friday, there must be riots

Chip. Shoulder. Islam. Some history required.

I'm getting a bit tired of people who are so unable to tolerate the slightest hint of criticism that they riot in the streets and burn people in effigy.

The violent anger this time is directed not against Danish cartoonists but the Pope, because he quoted from a Byzantine emperor:

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," the pope said. "He said, I quote, '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."'
Gee. Forget about cartoons. Now you dare not quote Byzantine emperors.

Anyone know what the moderate Muslims are saying? Here's Jonah Goldberg:

Globally, Muslim leaders seem to all operate on the CAIR model, mumble stuff about how extremism is bad, but shout from the rooftops about how insulting Islam is outrageous and creates an atmosphere where the religion of peace becomes violent. In the meanwhile, moderates let the extremists speak for them by doing nothing. We have seen nigh upon infinite examples of Muslims saying, doing and hoping for horrible, evil and violent things in the name of Islam. I am of the opinion that these examples come from a minority of Muslims (but a significant number of them in absolute terms). These people are insulting Islam, it seems to me, far more than the Pope allegedly did.
We're the religion of peace, God damn it!

And if you say we're violent, we'll kill you!

MORE: Apparently very few of the protesters have bothered to read the text of the pope's speech, which is online here. Far from endorsing the quotation from the Byzantine emperor, the Pope used it as a starting point for a long discussion in which he specifically pointed out the Koranic proscription against religious compulsion. Further analysis here:

In the speech Pope was trying to show how western society—including the Church—has become secularised by removing from the concept of Reason its spiritual dimension and origins which are in God. In early Western history, Reason was not opposed to faith, according to the Pope, but instead fed on it.

During the speech Benedict XVI quoted from a recent book by Prof Theodore Khoury, an expert on Byzantium, who has reprinted the text of a late Middle Ages dialogue between a Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian Muslim.

The Holy Father chose this text because it contained a “key sentence” in which the emperor criticises the Muslim for Islam’s violence as exemplified by the command to spread the faith by the sword. No historian can deny the fact that Muhammad and, after him, the caliphs often used violence to convert conquered peoples. This does not mean that Muhammad liked violence but it does mean that he was a man of his time. Fighting among Arab tribes was widespread, including over grazing land.

The first biography of Muhammad written by a Muslim was titled “Book of [Military] Campaigns” (the term is Maghāzī which has been transliterated as razzias).

Certainly, one can criticise Emperor Manuel for Islam did not spread by violence alone. In Indonesia, Malaysia and some African countries Islam was brought by Muslim traders. In other countries it arrived via Sufi mystics (who could also be warriors as was the case in Morocco).

But for the emperor, “violence is something unreasonable [. . .] incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”. It is this sentence that got the Pope’s attention, so much so that he repeated it five times.

Basically then, the message is that anyone who engages in violence ceases being a believer; anyone, Christian or Muslim, who goes along with violence goes against Reason and God, whose is the source of Reason.

That's supposed to be comparable to Hitler?

At the risk of offending Muslim sensitivities, I think it's a good idea to read before rioting.

MORE: For reasons I cannot explain, I think the attacks on the Pope will help the Republicans in the Fall election. This makes no sense, I admit. Just one of those irrational hunches.

UPDATE (09/16/06): McQ at QandO has an excellent analysis, and catches the BBC in selective editing. Good work!

UPDATE (09/17/06):Ed Morrisey's open letter to the Pope (via Glenn Reynolds)is brilliant. I'm not a Catholic, so I'd feel out of place writing to him, but Ed touches on the numerous problems posed by apologizing in this context. First, the Pope had nothing to apologize for as he was misinterpreted and taken out of context. Even though an apology between civilized peoples would be superfluous and unneccesary, there would normally be no harm in doing so anyway to smooth ruffled feelings and avoid misunderstandings. However, the "misunderstandings" here are quite calculated and deliberate, and stirred up by vicious demagogues. What that means is that any apology would be too much, and at the same time no apology would ever be enough. The Pope's mistake is in trying to be reasonable with people who are incapable of being reasonable.

MORE: Also via Glenn Reynolds, here's the incomparable Jeff Jarvis:

the Pope’s point was not to attack Islamic jihad but to use that as an illustration of fundamental differences. Still, he did attack violence in the name of religion. And I believe he should have stood by that firmly, for that is the discussion we must have. But instead, he wimped. And I believe that Islamic leaders should be standing firmly in the same spot, condemning violence — political violence, let’s be honest — in the name of their religion. But instead, they whine.

posted by Eric on 09.15.06 at 02:44 PM


The Pope is half right. Much of Muhammed's original work was (and is) evil and inhuman. The rest, however, is just silly. Nobody with a sense of humor can read the Qu'ran and refrain from dissolving in mirth at some of it.

Bleepless   ·  September 15, 2006 5:40 PM

Yeah, some of that stuff makes me take pride in my dissolution!

Eric Scheie   ·  September 16, 2006 8:04 AM

Would somebody who knows mind telling the rest of us where the texts of these dialogues can be found. I found a lot of references to Professor Khouri, but nothing stating which book of his contains the dialogues mentioned.

Lon Hacker   ·  September 16, 2006 2:11 PM

I think it would all be in German.

No idea which book.

Eric Scheie   ·  September 16, 2006 10:17 PM

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