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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Kick the Pope

"It's Hard To Be Loved By Fools"   

Can a civilised nation tolerate a crowd of people who let themselves be led by the nose by sheiks, dervishes and the like, and who entrust their faith and their lives to fortune-tellers, magicians, witch-doctors and amulet-makers? - Kemal Atatürk

Anthony McIntyre • 18 September 2006

The French magazine Charlie Hebdo, when it ran the contentious Danish anti-theocratic cartoons, emblazoned its front page with an image of Mohammed which had him saying 'it's hard to be loved by fools.' It was the first thought to come to mind when I learned that it was 'here they go again' time.

Over recent days in those places where the Islamic theocrats feel strong enough there has been the spectacle of 'knees up Mohammed Brown' as religious zealots, faces contorted by hate, danced the totalitarian two-step in fulmination against something they don't approve of and have not yet managed to suppress. The anti-pope demonstrations have seen effigies of Pope Benedict being burned, while one senior Al-Qaeda figure is reported as having said: 'we are certain that the infidelity and tyranny of the Pope will only be stopped by a major attack.' The pope has been likened to Hitler and Mussolini. A bit rich when the accusers themselves are theocratic fascists. Catholic churches have been attacked in the Middle East while a nun was shot dead in Somalia, believed to be the victim of theocrats enraged by others not seeing things as they do. One senior cleric has called for a new day of anger, the 365 other angry days each year seemingly not enough for them to vent their spleen.

It is not that the pope has been stoning women for adultery, throwing acid in their faces for not wearing a veil, murdering them in defence of macho honour, sentencing Hans Kung to death for apostasy that has provoked the latest round of hate fests. These practices are the type of thing that would certainly enrage people who genuinely valued other human beings and recoiled at their brutalisation. But it was none of that which gave rise to the latest hideous outburst of Islamic angst. Rather it was something as anodyne as a theological-cum-academic lecture delivered by Pope Benedict at the German university of Regensburg.

The lecture titled 'Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections' sought to explore the relationship between faith and reason in the modern world. Given that the pope was critical of the secularist 'exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason' there were excuses in abundance for non-believers to jump up and down, scream obscenities and threaten death to all who insult atheism. They chose not to. But per usual the mullahs and muftis had done their work, spotted their opportunity and were soon goading the simpletons into action. Not all that difficult when it is considered that, according to Lebanese Jesuit, Samir Khalil Samir, many people phoned in to Al Jazeera to complain about the pope's comments without even knowing what the Vatican boss had in fact said.

Moreover, as always within the superstitious world of the theocrat, there are those who want reason to be wholly usurped by faith. More anti-intellectual than theological, for them the Pope's lecture was offensive because it did not go far enough in seeking the abolition of reason.

Yet this was not the chosen ground for the hate battle that was to follow Regensburg. Deliberately homed in on was the pope quoting the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus who challenged a Muslim: 'show me just what Muhammad 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.'

Pretty much the type of terminology that characterises modern discourse on the world and nothing to go ballistic about. It is also how many human beings view Mohammed, not all of whom hail from the West or Christendom. He was after all a warrior who waged war. Not all that different from quite a number of popes throughout the ages.

In Ireland, responding to the protests, the Bishop of Achonry said:

Muslims appear very sensitive about issues when it suits them. This was a lecture given to the staff and students at the University of Regensburg. It was a very intellectual, in-depth analysis of the situation in the world today. I am not quite sure that, if it was studied, there would be any offence found in it.

While true, the point is not about some in the Muslim world finding gratuitous offence. If those howling for the crucifixion of the pope were unable to find offence they would have dug deep into the pages of the Koran in search of some way to claim offence. And dare anyone, at the risk of fatwa, challenge their right to feel offended. A round of stoning or amputation would always be on hand to demonstrate theocratic peaceful intent.

This permits the current brouhaha to serve as a useful prism through which to revisit the rumpus manufactured earlier this year in response to the Danish cartoons controversy. It is now even clearer that this was an artificially induced crisis and was never about Muslim sensibilities being trodden over by supposedly racist sentiment lurking behind images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

Then the theocrats and their apologists claimed that criticism of Islam was acceptable but publishing the image of Mohammed was a step too far. The current outrage against the pope's comments on Mohammed demonstrates such a defence as a falsehood. The images of Mohammed were the pretext for launching an attack on free expression and inquiry. It matters little in what form the critique comes, the theocrats want no discussion of Islam, merely submission to it.

Joseph Ratzinger, the current pope, is not known for his tolerance of other faiths. Conservative and authoritarian he has displayed tetchiness and resentment towards Islam as a competing belief system rather than its disposition towards totalitarianism. His extended audience to one of the outstanding modern journalists, Oriana Fallaci, indicted by a judge in Italy because of her book criticising Islam, has stoked the embers of antipathy. Moreover, he was behind the 1999 Vatican document that alleged all religions but Catholicism were impaired.

Nor is modern Christianity free from the malignancy it so often finds in Islam and the pope should be reminded of this. One need only look at the malevolence of 'Christian nationalism' in the US today, the hate spouted by Pat Robertson, or the attempts by the creationist lobby to smother science. Both Islam and Christianity have committed atrocities to enforce their writ.

Theocratic fascists prompted by whatever god should never be allowed to have their way. The Islam faithful think it is daft that others have a certain negative view of Mohammed. Many outside that faith think it is equally absurd that anyone could believe in either him or Allah. Each has the right to believe of the other what they will; but no right to behead those who think differently. For people so ostensibly religious the reaction to the pope's lecture has more to do with this world than matters of the next one. The power to evade critique is one of the most valuable weapons an oppressor can lay hands upon. To forego critique in the interests of some spurious harmony designed to appease the despot is the surrender of reason to superstition. And the theocrats and their domination theology will have dragged us back into their make believe world of the 7th Century.

A two word apology for the pope's speech will suffice. Get lost.








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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

18 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Kick the Pope
Anthony McIntyre

When Saying Sorry Isn't Enough
David Adams

"The third camp is about real lives": Interview with Hamid Taqvaee
Maryam Namazie

John Kennedy

Sympathy for the Victims
Mick Hall

For The Victims of Britain's Holocaust in Ireland
Brian Halpin

Dreary Eden
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Legalize the Irish
Frank [Name Supplied]

Careful What You Wish For
Dr John Coulter

The Peace Process — A Children's Fantasy
Tom Luby

John Kennedy

Upcoming Events

10 September 2006

It's Good to Talk
Dr John Coulter

Bye-Bye Daily Lies
Geraldine Adams

Peelers Give You Trouble
Martin Galvin

If You Cannot Organise a Meeting, How Can You Expect to Organise a Revolution?
Liam O Comain

RSF not involved in proposed 'Front'
Republican Sinn Fein Press Release

Renaissance Republicanism
Mick Hall

Goulding, the Provisionals and the Current Political Process
Roy Johnston

Puppet Show
John Kennedy

Fr. Mc Manus on His Visit to Garnerville PSNI Training Center
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Irlande du Nord: Interview With Anthony McIntyre
André Poulin

Sectarian Interfaces: Glenn Patterson's That Which Was
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 9
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 10
Michael Gillespie

A Curious Snub
Fred A. Wilcox

Con Artist
John Kennedy

Against Civilisation
Seamus Mac An tSaoir

Blanket Coverage for All
Carrie Twomey

5 Years
Brian Mór



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