Don’t pick on the poor pontiff

“Poor old Pope Benedict XVI (not a description I thought I’d ever use) seems to have inflamed some excitable sections of Muslim opinion around the world with his ruminations to scientists at Regensburg University during his trip to Germany this week.

“He’s not the first elderly academic inadvertently to stir up outrage with what he thought were innocent remarks and, in the modern digital age, he certainly won’t be the last, but on this occasion at least I think he’s innocent of the charges of stirring up hatred against Islam being made against him.

“It is difficult to believe that those making the claims, who include the Muslim Brotherhood, the Pakistan parliament, Sheikh Youssef al-Qardawi (a fine one to feel insulted, given what he says about Jews), the Organisation of Islamic Conferences and a senior religious official in Turkey, can possibly have read the remarks in full or in their proper context.”

The Guardian religious affairs correspondent, Stephen Bates, rallies to the defence of il papa.

Comment is Free, 15 September 2006

So does Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who blames the fuss on whingeing Muslims and implies that they would be better occupied putting their own house in order.

Carey said: “The Pope is a distinguished scholar and one unlikely to say offensive things. If he quoted something said 600 years ago we should not assume that this represents the Pope’s beliefs about Islam today. But Muslims as well as Christians must learn to enter into dialogue without crying foul. We live in perilous times and we must not only separate religion from violence but also not give religious legitimacy to violence in any shape or form.”

Scotsman, 15 September 2006