Saturday, September 16, 2006

When religions clash, or when religious people clash over religion, I watch with little amusement. Yet, there is no question that there is a pattern of Western provocations against Muslim people in matters of their faith although this does not excuse verbal offenses by some Muslims against other religions. The Wahhabi clerics are notorious in that regard. People have been making this point in mainstream US news publications: that Bush seems to be fulfilling the recipe of Bin Laden and Huntington. And just as the late Pope served as a tool for Reagan's foreign policy, this new Pope seems up to the job of hater-in-chief for Bush's policies and wars. I of course read that rambling speech in question. I don't know why I get most offended when people call it "academic" or "scholarly". Why? Because he mentions the "critiques" of Kant? Or does the invoking of the so-called "dialogues" with a "Persian" qualifies as scholarly? It is a speech that contains an element of classical Western medieval polemics against Islam. I can't believe that even the UK's Independent tried to make the Pope--the Pope of all people, and this Pope of all people, a Pope who is opposed to Rock music--look good when it said the other day that when the Pope cited the offending passage he was "[s]tressing that the words were not his own." He did not stress that at all. Read the full text. And he also said some nasty things too, especially when he attributed a certain verse in the Qur'an to Muhammad's powerlessness. I mean if you are a Muslim, are you blamed if you perceive world affairs in terms of a Western conspiracy against Islam and Muslims especially in the age of Bush and Pope? I of course like nothing more than a glorification of reason but certainly not from the mouth of the Pope, any pope for that matter. And this kind of religious bigotry and hostility--it is bigotry when practiced selectively against one but not other religions--only help to contribute to the reduction of the parameters of secular discourse. I can easily see the West and East regressing towards legal changes to prohibit offenses to religions--there are already laws to that effect in Western and in Eastern countries. I can't offend religion in the press in Lebanon, for example, and I would love to. And you can't offend religion in Switzerland. The speech by the Pope and the reaction to it really signal the path ahead. It aint look pretty, as they say. Not pretty at all. I also squirm when I look at the Arab media coverage: this is a story that both AlArabiya and Aljazeera (despite their disagreements) can run away with. This is a story that Arab governments can use to incite and instigate because it does not pose a stress to their delicate client relationship with the US Empire. I read that Morocco protested officially to the Vatican as did other countries--those countries that did not issue such protests against the Israeli war on Lebanon and Palestine. I also get upset when Muslim masses react more strongly to words and cartoons than to wars and aggression.