Respect is a two-way street

by admin on September 25, 2006

‘Everybody should know by now that all claims about religions’ reconciliation have just been proven to be lies in reality. How can they think of reconciliation while insulting Islam and the Prophet.’
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik

Muslim offense at Pope Benedict’s recent comment on Islam in an academic lecture at Regenburg University in Germany is based on an Islamic belief that the Koran and the prophet Mohammed are infallible and any comment that would undermine that is considered deeply offensive.

Responding to Benedict, Muslims have compared the Pope to “Hitler and Mussolini”, a “stupid pig” while Muslim protestors in London advocated the killing of the Pope. Pakistan’s parliament unanimously adopting a resolution condemning the pope for making what it called “derogatory” comments about Islam.

Shouldn’t respect for a person’s religious convictions also be a reciprocal one? Roman Catholics believe in papal infallibility and Christians, in general, believe in the inerrancy of the Bible therefore derogatory statements about any element of the Christian faith could be viewed as just as offensively insulting to Catholics just as similar comments about the Koran and Mohammed are insulting to Muslims.

Yet in 2001, when Pope John Paul II visited Syria, Egypt and Israel to promote peace and dialog among the religions, he was viewed with suspicion and contempt by some Muslim clerics who viewed his peace mission as a disguised scheme to dilute the Islamic message and vilified as being a “murderous wolf”, a “robber” and descendant of Spanish inquisators who “tortured Muslims most abominably”.

Sheikh Adnan Ahmad Siyami said the following in a sermon at a Mecca mosque:

“The call by [the Pope] – may Allah punish him as he deserves – to the people of the [different] religions in Syria to live in peaceful coexistence is nothing more than an audacious call for the unification of religions, in accordance with the principle of human religious harmony? This Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, and those behind him calling for the unification of the religions, are the descendants of the Spanish inquisitors who tortured the Muslims most abominably? They are the descendants of those who led the Crusades to the Islamic East, in which thousands of Muslims were killed and their wives taken captive in uncountable numbers. They are the perpetrators of the massacres in Bosnia-Herzegovina? in Kosovo, in Indonesia, and in Chechnya? Can we expect compassion from these murderous wolves? What made the Pope go on his visit was his dissatisfaction with the robbing of the Muslims’ lands; he wanted also to rob their religion, so that they lose both this world and the Hereafter?”

Roman Catholics did not unite in large demonstrations to protest Muslim insults on their pontiff and their religion, nor did they call for violent reprisals nor were any mosques vandalized or destroyed nor any peaceable, charitable Muslims shot in the back. In fact, there wasn’t much a reaction at all.

The frustration at this lack of respectful reciprocity was expressed by Jose Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister from 1996 -2004:

“Why do we always have to say sorry and they never do?” Aznar told a conference in the US on Friday.

“It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the pope to apologise for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries.” This was a reference to the Muslim conquest of much of the Iberian Peninsula from the eighth to the 15th century.

Respectful dialog should be a two way street, particularly by those more inclined to be offended at any negative references to their religion. A desire for tolerance and respect should foster a reciprocal respect in return. Taking offense while having no sense of responsiblity for reciprocal respect of others is ill-mannered regardless of ethnicity, religion or politics .

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