Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels," [Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, ca. 1391] turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: "Show me just what Mohammed 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."He continues...
The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably ("syn logo") is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...."The suggestion that Islam was violent so offended Islamic groups that they took to the streets and threatened violence.
For example, here, here, and here.
Ironically, the Pope was making the point that using violence to win converts is antithetical to the nature of God. I think it's reasonable to ask if those who commit violence in the name of their religion – whatever religion that may be – are truly following the will of the Divine.
Those who riot, burn churches, kill nuns, and exhort fellow Muslims to kill the Pope because of some alleged slander ironically prove the words to be rather less than slanderous.
In a piece in the Times, London, we see:
The question is not whether the quotation from the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus is offensive: it is.Here's a perspective by Sam Harris, an avowed liberal:
The question is whether the emperor is justified in what he said. His main thrust was at least partly justified. There is a real problem about the teaching of the Koran on violence against the infidel. That existed in the 14th century, and was demonstrated on 9/11, 2001. There is every reason to discuss it. I am more afraid of silence than offence.
But my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world — specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.And...
On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.
This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that "liberals are soft on terrorism." It is, and they are.
Given the mendacity and shocking incompetence of the Bush administration — especially its mishandling of the war in Iraq — liberals can find much to lament in the conservative approach to fighting the war on terror. Unfortunately, liberals hate the current administration with such fury that they regularly fail to acknowledge just how dangerous and depraved our enemies in the Muslim world are."All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."