Response to Pope Bendedict's Speech
I have read the full text of the Pope's lecture that you kindly sent
My understanding is that the Pope wanted to bring to the fore the
question of rationality and faith. I think he rightly criticizes the
Western concept of (scientific) rationality as too narrow to exclude the
perennial human experince of the Divine. He also wrongly interprets
Islamic rationality as also defective, drawing his support from Ibn Hazm,
without quoting him. I would not censure him too much for this, as this
important question has not been satisfactorily trashed out in Muslim
The Pope seriouly erred on the question of the Quranic "freedom of
religion" verse, which was revealed in the early Medina period when
Muhammad and his followers had constituted a state power, with a written
constitution and a voluntary army that won the strategic Battle of Badr.
He erred again when uncritically quoting the Byzantian Emperor
Manuel Paleologus about Muhammad's evil and violent teachings and his
so-called "holy war" to spread his religion at the point of the sword.
There is no such term in the Quran. Austrian philosopher, Prof Hans
Koechler, has correctly criticised the Pope for this. Also Chandra's
excellent article in the NST. The Pope, at this time of history, should
His reference to Ibn Hazm's view of (so-called) of God's irrational
rationality (!) is suspect.
It transpires that his bringing in Manuel is to use his important
idea about the congruence of faith and rationality.
I also happen to think that the Pope's speech is quite profound. His
criticism of Western rationality I agree with. What a pity that he mixes
that up with an old outworn Western (Judeo-Christian) prejudice against
Islam! He should have apologized unconditionally for that part of the
However, I have to revise my opinion about the value of
inter-religious dialogue to find out the truth about religions. The
Quranic advice for mutual respect and tolerance between religious
communities is the best way forward. Most of us cannot face the truth!
This should not exclude scientific rational discourse to arrive at the
truth in all fields of knowledge, that has been going on since time