In the course
of the second ever visit by a Catholic pontiff to a Jewish Synagogue,
Pope Benedict, in Cologne, Germany, called for "trust and mutual
respect between Christians and Jews". Earlier that day, during
a meeting with leaders of Germany's Muslim community, he "appealed
to Muslims to help combat the 'cruel fanaticism of terrorism'."
A few years ago, following a terrorist act perpetrated in Paris
by North-African Muslims, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, archbishop
of Paris at the time, invited Muslims, i.e. all Muslims, to cast
out the hate that dwells in their hearts.
forces invade Muslim countries, kill innocent children, women
and men by the tens of thousands, and it's Muslims whom Pope Benedict
calls upon to "combat the cruel fanaticism of terrorism"? Are
we still living in the age of the crusades? In the time of the
"Holy Inquisition"? In the period of the Christian pogroms against
the Jews who, upon being expelled from Spain, found refuge amidst
Muslim communities around the Mediterranean and in Mesopotamia?
wants trust and mutual respect to reign between Christians and
Jews. Trust and mutual respect are the hallmarks of a relationship
between equals. However, when it comes to Muslims, the Pope wants
"them" to combat the "cruel fanaticism of terrorism." No mention
of trust, respect and equality here. As if "terrorism" was endogamous
to Islam. As if Muslims were collectively responsible for criminal
acts perpetrated by a small minority of people with a political
Ratzinger never intimated that Catholics possibly were collectively
responsible for the murderous acts of Catholic Irish terrorists.
He never called upon "them" to excise the evil of terrorism from
their collective hearts when the IRA planted bombs and waged a
terrorist war that led to the deaths of more than 3,500 people.
a few fanatic white anglo-saxon Protestants detonated a truck
bomb that destroyed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma city
in 1995, killing 168 people, including 19 children, led to the
wounding of more than 800 people, and destroyed or seriously damaged
more than 300 buildings, Cardinal Ratzinger did not call on all
Protestants to look into their hearts and cleanse them of hatred
that begets hatred and leads to barbarism.
Muslim countries, kill innocent children,
women and men by the tens of
thousands, and it's Muslims whom
Pope Benedict calls upon to "combat
the cruel fanaticism of terrorism"?
When a state
that calls itself officially a "Jewish Democracy" uses the Bible
to justify its very existence, kills thousands of Palestinians,
dispossesses them of their land, their dignity, and their means
of earning a decent living to feed their families, Cardinal Ratzinger
never called upon all Jews to wash their souls of some unspecified
darkness of evil. Nor did he suggest that Judaism as a religion
was responsible for the state-sponsored violence that Israel is
meting upon the Palestinian people.
Ratzinger was, of course, absolutely right in not blaming individual
Christians or Jews or their religion for the violent actions of
a few extremists. Why does he think that he can now, as Pope Benedict,
burden Muslims around the world with collective, guilt-ridden
responsibility for the impending "darkness of a new barbarism"
unless "they" do something about it?
a Western leader blames the victims for the mistakes of their
tormentors. Let a person of the Muslim faith perpetrate a violent
or terrorist act, Christians will point their collective fingers
at Islam and Islamic society as the repositories of violence and
barbarism. An atavistic fear grips Catholics and Protestants alike
when Muslim terrorists cause a few dozen civilian victims in London.
Meanwhile, in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is Muslim societies
that have borne the greatest brunt both of Islamist terrorism,
as in Algeria and Pakistan, and of Christian and Jewish state-sponsored
and executed terrorism, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.
Islamist violence as excuse and justification, Western leaders
have embarked on a revolutionary societal transformation that
ditched centuries of hard-earned human-rights gains and liberties
paid for with the blood and unimaginable suffering of an uncountable
multitude. What is it that turns these same leaders, and many
of their followers, blind to the causes of the "Islamist" terrorism
they fear so much?
What is it that makes them believe they can, with impunity, launch
raids that destroy whole countries and civilisations without taking
the time to ponder that maybe, perhaps, possibly, their actions,
according to the inexorable laws of physics, will produce an unavoidable
reaction? What makes them believe that they are not directly responsible
for the terrorist, murderous acts of a few fanatics? Can't Western
people discern that it is their own politicians who are actually
aiding and abetting the terrorists who are targeting their societies?
Had the politicians actually meant to do so, they wouldn't have
hypocrite, first cast out
the beam out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly to cast
out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
possible answer to the above questions: it is not Muslims alone
who are "living in the past" as many Western critics of Islamic
societies often intone. Christian cultures have been equally unable
to advance morally and ethically beyond the mindset of the 16th
to the 19th centuries that led to the brutal colonisation by Western
powers of such a multitude of nations around the Earth. Zionist
Jews are similarly stuck in the past, using religious propaganda
to justify and underpin their neo-colonialist political agenda.
Christian and Jewish cultures are no more advanced than Muslim
cultures, or no less developed if you prefer. The only difference
seems to be that technology and relative wealthy comfort have
served to mask the West's moral under-development that leads Westerners
to believe that their lives are infinitely more valuable than
those of their darker skinned brethren.
of course, is that this same technological advance contains within
it the seeds of self-inflicted destruction. Prominent among them
is the accelerating process of global warming. It should be called
the Samson Warning. For just as Samson brought the temple down
upon him and his foes, so Western governments, who refuse to recognise
the seriousness of the peril represented by their societies' carbon-based
energy profligacy, are in danger of bringing the whole biological
edifice crashing down upon them and upon life on Earth. Other
seeds are obscene income and wealth disparities, chronic poverty
in lands of plenty, and unsustainable economic systems
that prosper only through consumption and plunder of the Earth's
is one moral to this narrative, directed at the attitude implicit
in Pope Benedict's comments to Germany's Muslim leaders: "Thou
hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then
shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's
eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)"
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article first appeared on Counterpunch, August 24, 2005.