We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam

Karen Armstrong (3)“Pope Benedict delivered his controversial speech in Germany the day after the fifth anniversary of September 11. It is difficult to believe that his reference to an inherently violent strain in Islam was entirely accidental. He has, most unfortunately, withdrawn from the interfaith initiatives inaugurated by his predecessor, John Paul II, at a time when they are more desperately needed than ever. Coming on the heels of the Danish cartoon crisis, his remarks were extremely dangerous. They will convince more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic and engaged in a new crusade. We simply cannot afford this type of bigotry.”

Karen Armstrong in the Guardian, 18 September 2006

See also Giles Fraser’s piece in Saturday’s Guardian: “the Pope has form on all of this. Just a few months before he was elected, he spoke out against Muslim Turkey joining the EU. Christian Europe must be defended, he argued. It didn’t go down well at the time with Muslim leaders. But what makes his comments from Bavaria doubly insensitive is that Munich and its surrounding towns are home to thousands of Gastarbeiter, many from Turkey, who are often badly treated by local Germans and frequently subjected to racism. It won’t be lost on them that Manuel II ran his Christian empire from what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul. And reference to that time, in circumstances such as these, has the unmistakable whiff of Christian triumphalism.”

Guardian, 16 September 2006