Benedict – talking to Muslims

Richard Neuhaus at First Things (On the Square 18th September) offers a variety of views on what Pope Benedict said last week at Regensburg. Neuhaus himself says this:

“Pope Benedict … is a man of great gentleness and deliberation and extremely careful to say what he means. What he said at Regensburg he has said many times before. Contrary to many reports, he has not apologized or retracted his argument. He has indicated sincere regret that many Muslims have reacted to his statement as they have. The response of those who are properly called jihadists is, “If you don’t stop saying we’re violent, we’re going to bomb more churches, kill more nuns and priests, and get the pope too.â€? In short, the reaction has powerfully confirmed the problem to which Benedict called our attention.â€?

The very reverse of inflammatory or careless, Benedict appeals with very great courtesy and encouragement to beleaguered moderate Muslim, anxious to help them win the argument against extremists. There is no great difference between Benedict and John Paul II here.

And here is part of a longer excerpt from Benedict himself speaking to Muslims:

It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.
I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.
Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, plunging people into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.

Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims.
There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.

You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.

Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.

Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.

I don’t see how you can get more gracious or encouraging than that. “I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.” That is certainly how I feel about Benedict, and only wish he could say it to me and my lot.

For more good sense on this issue, see Amy Welborn and Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.