Holding a New Line

Pope Benedict, Islam, and the Media

At the time of his election to the papacy, many thought that Pope Benedict XVI’s approach toward Islam would be, by and large, no different from that of his predecessor, the late John Paul II.  But Benedict’s now-famous speech at the University of Regensburg and the ensuing reactions in the Islamic world have shown that this will not be the case, for the very simple reason that John Paul II seemed incapable of quoting anything that would so clearly expose what many (including Srdja Trifkovic and Robert Spencer) have described as the real nature of Islam.  Subsequently, Benedict apologized for having unintentionally and unwittingly offended the “sensitiveness of Muslim faithful,” adding that the quotation did not reflect his opinion and that his speech “in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect.”

For those unfamiliar with the details, in a lecture to 1,500 university professors and students in Regensburg on September 12, Benedict cited Manuel II Paleologus (Byzantine emperor from 1391 to 1425), who, in a dialogue with a Persian Muslim, said, “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.”

Some Muslim leaders believed that Benedict’s apology was sufficient to defuse the row; others thought...

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