Friday, September 29, 2006

What He Said

The issue of Moderate Muslims (who are they and what can we do to help them?) continues to puzzle me. Read Father Neuhaus' latest blog entry for some perspective. (We're leaving for the ship in an hour or so and I should be getting ready. Procrastination: I'll write about it another time.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

This Looks Interesting

If you like Venn diagrams, that is. John DaFiesole at Disputations has his own take on the Pope and Islam controversy.

It does seem to me that there are some questions that should be answered before we can draw conclusions about what happened and what it means (Other than the first question, my answers are still very tentative):

1. Did the Pope intend to insult Islam or Muslims? (He says no and I accept this.)

2. Did he anticipate the reaction?

I'm not sure. Did any of the Vatican "apologies" express surprise?

3. Why did he cite this particular quotation and not some other?

There's been some speculation about this. I'm not aware of the Holy Father has
addressed this directly himself. The fact that he hasn't withdrawn or amended
the citation (yet) might be salient. His overarching purpose in the address was
to direct attention to the crippling of dialogue between the West and the rest of
the (religious) world. And that, he argues, is because the Western tradition has
divorced reason and faith, thus rendering conversation with believers
increasingly impossible. In that context the citation just shows the opposite error
(fideism in contrast to rationalism), in this case imputed to Islam by the
penultimate Byzantine Emperor.

4. Would some other citation have achieved the Holy Father's intention without
lending itself to manufactured rage?

That would depend on the answer to the previous question, wouldn't It?

5. Was this citation imprudent (in the old fashioned sense of being an error of
judgement, even if no malice was involved)?

First, what were his goals? Were they necessary? Does walking on eggshells
when dealing even tangentially with the Moslems make things better or leave
more possibilities for real dialogue eventually? Or did this incident
open up the space for at least some Moslems to discuss some of the basic
issues that separate the fanatics from the rest of us? Gee, the more I look into
it, the less I know.

6. Did the citation and subsequent furor make matters materially worse for
Christians worldwide?

Yes, but against the relentless backdrop of threats, legal (Sharia) harassment,
assault, rape, murder and forced conversions it hard to tell if this is numerically
significant. What was the percentage or fraction increase, compared over time,
of such incidents before and after the Regensburg address? We won't know
that for a year or so.

7. If so, is the Pope responsible for this?

Christians and others have been held hostage in Islamic lands for centuries.
What is the best way for us to help them? Is there a danger we will simply
assume their status in trying to spare them further violence? What are the
prospects that the fanatics won't simply keep raising the ante each time we
find a way to accommodate them? (Are these questions ever going to end?

8. Under what circumstances, if any, may a Catholic speak publicly in a way that
she might anticipate some violent reaction that causes suffering for others,
even if she clearly speaks truthfully and intends no insult or harm?

I'll need to read up on Moral Theology, but my first guess would be that only
a morally necessary statement would be justified in the abstract. But
suppressing the truth to avoid violence doesn't seem like a good long-term
strategy. Are there alternatives?

More questions? (Doh!) Forget it. I'm going on a trip. I expect this to be all sorted out when we get back. (You have a week.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Just a quick note before I leave for work. We've abandoned plans to cruise the Okanagan Valley during the Fall Wine Festival. Instead a last-minute bargain on a mini-cruise to Los Angeles couldn't be resisted. We leave Friday and arrive in L.A. Tuesday morning. We'll then rent a car and drive back. Maybe we'll even get a chance to visit a winery or two in the Napa-Sonoma area.

As for the whole The Pope and Islam thing. I have been following it with interest, but don't have much original to say. But I did add a couple of banners to the blog (one on the side and one at the bottom) which sum up my thoughts and feelings at the moment. More later, if the Muse inspires.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reading is Good For You

but don't forget to have some fun.

So I finished Salvation is From the Jews by Roy Schoeman. I can readily recommend it. The author considers a wide range of issues vis-a-vis Catholicism, Anti-Semitism and Judaism. A tiny detail that intrigued and delighted me was the story about the Miracle of the Scarlet Thread.

Once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to offer Atonement for the sins of the people (Yom Kippur). The Talmud relates that a thread, normally scarlet, would change to white if the sin offering was accepted. The thread, whether changed or not, would be fastened to the outside of the Temple door for all to see. The Talmud relates that starting forty years before the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70 minus 40 = A.D. 30) the thread stayed scarlet. Thus Jewish tradition is that the sins of the Jewish people weren't forgiven for the last forty years of the Temple. The traditional date for Jesus' death is A.D. 30. Fascinating.

Then I picked up Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics by Daniel Ali & Robert Spencer. This has a question and answer format, so you don't necessarily need to read it straight through. But that's what I did. This book has a specifically Christian and Catholic perspective, so ideas for evangelizing Moslems (and the pitfalls thereof) are sprinkled throughout. It's a good book, overall.

Now, however, I'm less intellectual in my reading: the Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord manual (CMBO for the gamers). The game, from 2000, was on sale for US$15, shipping included. Yikes! The shipping costs took the bulk of the $15. You can't get a better deal. So I'm ready to start battling the Germans across France and Germany, June 1944 to May 1945. Incoming!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What's In a Name?

Let us now consider whether or not there is a them that we need to name (as in Islamist Jihadi or whatever). Because if there isn't a them we make a serious mistake by giving them a single name. Hmmm...

Great Minds Think Alike

"and small minds seldom differ" my old boss used to say. Anyway, I'm 3/4's through Salvation Is From the Jews and, lo and behold, Insight Scoop cites a review of it. I'll wait to finish the book before I read the review, but there's nothing stopping you. The wife and I will go wine touring tomorrow (there's several wineries here in the Lower Mainland). So maybe I'll get a review in by Sunday. A votre sante!

Friday, September 01, 2006

What One Muslim Thinks

about moderation: you're driving us to mass-murder by your negative attitudes. While I don't believe beauty-contest winners are a reliable source of public opinion, the reaction of the Muslim Community to these statements should be enlightening. Will her assertions be vilified and condemned?

Thanks to little green footballs for the link.

On the Other Hand...

Mark Shea keeps looking for and cheering on signs of Moderate Muslims.

I want to join Mark in his hopeful quest, but I'm still troubled by questions I have not yet found complete, satisfactory answers to:

1. When Moderate Muslims oppose Islamist-Jihadism (or whatever-you-want-to-call-it) are they doing so on the grounds that it is un-Islamic (contrary to the Koran, the Hadiths, the example of Mohammed) or because it's imprudent at this time? The answer, I suspect , is both right now. And it's the latter answer that makes me uneasy. It certainly changes the nature of their moderation: "Not now brothers, this is not the opportune time!"

2. Which school of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes and is compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The answer, I suspect, is none. If the theological structure of Islam is (currently) incompatible with Human Rights as classically formulated, what relationship can we expect with present and future Muslims? (Oriana Fallaci has a rather gruesome section in The Force of Reason about Italian (?) Muslims advocating using Italian hospitals for infibulation [female castration]).

3. If the culture that breeds Islamist-Jihadism is metaphorically considered a swamp, how can it be drained and who is going to drain it? Moderate Muslims? Do the Koran, the Hadiths and the Model Muslim (Mohammed) provide a basis for defeating the Jehadi philosophy? Is there an existing version of Islam that can replace the literalist and long-established reading of the Koran and Mohammed's life? If not, what hope for Moderate Islam?

I suppose that, in the end, only a Moderate Muslim can really answer these questions satisfactorily