In the course of the second ever visit by a Catholic pontiff to a Jewish Synagogue, Pope Benedict, in Cologne, Germany, called for “trust and mutual respect between Christians and Jews”. Earlier that day, during a meeting with leaders of Germany’s Muslim community, he “appealed to Muslims to help combat the ‘cruel fanaticism of terrorism.'” A few years ago, following a terrorist act perpetrated in Paris by North-African Muslims, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, archbishop of Paris at the time, invited Muslims, i.e. all Muslims, to cast out the hate that dwells in their hearts.
Western-Christian forces invade Muslim countries, kill innocent children, women and men by the tens of thousands, and it’s Muslims whom Pope Benedict calls upon to “combat the cruel fanaticism of terrorism”? Are we still living in the age of the crusades? In the time of the “Holy Inquisition”? In the period of the Christian pogroms against the Jews who, upon being expelled from Spain, found refuge amidst Muslim communities around the Mediterranean and in Mesopotamia?
Pope Benedict wants trust and mutual respect to reign between Christians and Jews. Trust and mutual respect are the hallmarks of a relationship between equals. However, when it comes to Muslims, the Pope wants “them” to combat the “cruel fanaticism of terrorism.” No mention of trust, respect and equality here. As if “terrorism” was endogamous to Islam. As if Muslims were collectively responsible for criminal acts perpetrated by a small minority of people with a political agenda.
Erst Cardinal Ratzinger never intimated that Catholics possibly were collectively responsible for the murderous acts of Catholic Irish terrorists. He never called upon “them” to excise the evil of terrorism from their collective hearts when the IRA planted bombs and waged a terrorist war that led to the death of more than 3,500 people.
When a few fanatic white anglo-saxon Protestants detonated a truck bomb that destroyed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma city in 19995, killing 168 people, including 19 children, led to the wounding of more than 800 people, and destroyed or seriously damaged more than 300 buildings, Cardinal Ratzinger did not call on all Protestants to look into their hearts and cleanse them of hatred that begets hatred and leads to barbarism.
When a state that calls itself officially a “Jewish Democracy” uses the Bible to justify its very existence, kills thousands of Palestinians, dispossesses them of their land, their dignity, and their means of earning a decent living to feed their families, Cardinal Ratzinger never called upon all Jews to wash their souls of some unspecified darkness of evil. Nor did he suggest that Judaism as a religion was responsible for the state-sponsored violence that Israel is meting upon the Palestinian people.
Cardinal Ratzinger was of course absolutely right in not blaming individual Christians or Jews or their religion for the violent actions of a few extremists. Why does he think that he can now, as Pope Benedict, burden Muslims around the world with collective, guilt-ridden responsibility for the impending “darkness of a new barbarism” unless “they” do something about it?
Once again, a Western leader blames the victims for the mistakes of their tormentors. Let a person of the Muslim faith perpetrate a violent or terrorist act, Christians will point their collective fingers at Islam and Islamic society as the repositories of violence and barbarism. An atavistic fear grips Catholics and Protestants alike when Muslim terrorists cause a few dozen civilian victims in London. Meanwhile, in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is Muslim societies that have born the greatest brunt both of Islamist terrorism, as in Algeria and Pakistan, and of Christian and Jewish state-sponsored and executed terrorism, as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine.
Using recent Islamist violence as excuse and justification, Western leaders have embarked on a revolutionary societal transformation that ditched centuries of hard-earned human-rights gains and liberties paid for with the blood and unimaginable suffering of an uncountable multitude. What is it that turns these same leaders, and many of their followers, blind to the causes of the “Islamist” terrorism they fear so much? What is it that makes them believe they can, with impunity, launch raids that destroy whole countries and civilisations without taking the time to ponder that maybe, perhaps, possibly, their actions, according to the inexorable laws of physics, will produce an unavoidable reaction? What makes them believe that they are not directly responsible for the terrorist, murderous acts of a few fanatics? Can’t Western people discern that it is their own politicians who are actually aiding and abetting the terrorists who are targeting their societies? Had the politicians actually meant to do so, they wouldn’t have acted differently.
Here’s one possible answer to the above questions: it is not Muslims alone who are “living in the past” as many Western critics of Islamic societies often intone. Christian cultures have been equally unable to advance morally and ethically beyond the mindset of the 16th to the 19th centuries that led to the brutal colonisation by Western powers of such a multitude of nations around the Earth. Zionist Jews are similarly stuck in the past, using religious propaganda to justify and underpin their neo-colonialist political agenda. Christian and Jewish cultures are no more advanced than Muslim cultures, or no less developed if you prefer. The only difference seems to be that technology and relative wealthy comfort have served to mask the West’s moral under-development that leads Westerners to believe that their lives are infinitely more valuable than those of their darker skinned brethren.
The irony, of course, is that this same technological advance contains within it the seeds of self-inflicted destruction. Prominent amongst them is the accelerating process of global warming. It should be called the Samson Warming. For just as Samson brought the temple down upon him and his foes, so Western governments, who refuse to recognise the seriousness of the peril represented by their societies’ carbon-based energy profligacy, are in danger of bringing the whole biological edifice crashing down upon them and upon life on Earth. Other seeds are obscene income and wealth disparities, chronic poverty in lands of plenty, and unsustainable economic systems that prosper only through consumption and plunder of the Earth’s resources.
There is one moral to this narrative, directed at the attitude implicit in Pope Benedict’s comments to Germany’s Muslim leaders: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)”
RACHARD ITANI can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org