The Pope and ancient prejudices

An excellent, thoughtful piece in The Guardian from Karen Armstrong, noted historian of religions, that helps put the Pope’s recent remarks on Islam in perspective. In the process, she makes their import even more alarming. It’s worth remembering that Benedict’s “faux pas” wasn’t off-the-cuff – as Bush’s may well have been in his infamous “Crusade” comment – but considered and deliberate. Armstrong helps us to understand the ignoble genealogy of that deliberation, and along the way provides some very useful history lessons:

Until the middle of the eighth century, Jews and Christians in the Muslim empire were actively discouraged from conversion to Islam, as, according to Qur’anic teaching, they had received authentic revelations of their own. The extremism and intolerance that have surfaced in the Muslim world in our own day are a response to intractable political problems – oil, Palestine, the occupation of Muslim lands, the prevelance of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, and the west’s perceived “double standards” – and not to an ingrained religious imperative.

Karen Armstrong on Islamophobia and the West

(thanks mom)


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