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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Excerpts: Pope Benedict XVI University of Regensburg address (references to Islam)

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO MÜNCHEN, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG
(SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)
MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF SCIENCE
LECTURE OF THE HOLY FATHER
Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg
Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections
www.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060912_university-regensburg_en.html

Your Eminences, Your Magnificences, Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

...I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor
Theodore Khoury (Munster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in
1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor
Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity
and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who
set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and
1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail
than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the
structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals
especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning
repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws"
or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It
is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I
would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the
dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and
reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for
my reflections on this issue.

In the seventh conversation (...... - controversy) edited by Professor
Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must
have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion".
According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when
Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor
also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an,
concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference
in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he
addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central
question about the relationship between religion and violence in general,
saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will
find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the
sword the faith he preached". The emperor, after having expressed himself so
forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith
through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with
the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not
pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (....) is contrary to God's
nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone
to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without
violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a
strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a
person with death...".

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this:
not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The
editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by
Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching,
God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our
categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted
French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to
state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would
oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have
to practise idolatry.

....

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