Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Response to Pope Bendedict's Speech
Kassim Ahmad


I have read the full text of the Pope's lecture that you kindly sent
to me.

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
theology.

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
know better.

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
speech.

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
immemorial.

2 comments:

Pezze said...

I strongly agree that the Pope has to apologise for his statement and retract. But has he actually done so?
The thing is he can't. Simply because in the Catholic's doctrine, the Pope is infallible. Thus, once a man is elevated to the position of a Pope, he is infallible. So, if a Pope doesn't make a mistake, how does he apologise for a non-mistake.
Yes, it's a peculiar concept, and the Pope himself knows it (at least that's what I'm led to believe from reading some books). But it's not easy for him to change certain doctrines as he has the council of the Bishops and Archbishops to contend with.
The only thing he can do is refrain from making such statements in the future or choose his speech writer carefully.

Pezze said...

The inter-faith dialogue can swing either way, depending how one approaches it. If the participant have an open mind and approaches it to really understand other religions and open on the way that the faithfuls practice their religions it's good.
I have a niggling feeling however that quite a few, will approach it with a zealot's point of view. They will want to know about other religions and than thrash the other party. And all he wants is to assert that his way is the right way.
Thus, it's tricky.