E.J. Dionne thinks the Pope was wrong to slap the Muslims in the face. Of course. For those with a dhimmi mind-set it's always wrong to criticize, even truthfully, one's Islamic masters:
But then why did Benedict take his shot at Islam? And why didn't he pause to acknowledge that at various moments in history, Christians, including Catholics, have themselves been guilty of inappropriate uses of violence?
"Inappropriate uses of violence" by Christians? What the adherents of a religion do was hardly the point of this part of the Pope's message. The words he quoted claimed that the teachings of Mohammed, wherever they offered something not present in the sacred texts of the Jews and Christians, were evil and inhumane. This may be a bit of an exaggeration to be sure, but the Pope's eye was on the means by which Muhammed taught that Islam was to be spread. There can be little disagreement in the West that a religious teacher who countenances violence and murder in order to convert people is indeed countenancing evil. If Mr. Dionne can find in the teaching of Jesus anything that endorses anything remotely similar then I'll grant his point, but failing that, his question as to why the Pope didn't mention that Christians sometimes behave "inappropriately" is absurd.
Dionne then serves up this masterful understatement:
Benedict's defenders have a point when they question whether his comments fully justify the explosion against him in the Muslim world. A significant number of Muslim religious leaders have said some harsh things about Christians, Jews and Western secularists in recent years. Would that all of Benedict's Muslim critics were as critical of anti-Christian or anti-Jewish statements from their own side.
If "harsh" is an adequate synonym for "vile and despicable" then Dionne is correct. Otherwise, his description of the invective to which Jews and Christians are subjected in the mosques and madrassas falls short of conveying the violence of their speech by several orders of magnitude. It is beyond parody that people who can say the sort of things these people say and believe about Christians and Jews can be so incensed by the simple claim that the prophet Mohammed taught some things that were evil and inhumane.
The proper response to the Pope's words, the civilized response, is to try to show that he is incorrect. Instead many Muslims have chosen a response that shows clearly that he is not.
Dionne thinks that rapprochment between the West and moderate Muslims requires more delicate diplomacy on the part of the West's spokespersons. Not at all. What it requires is blunt truth-telling. The best way to persuade Islamic moderates, a group whose size is difficult to assess due to their silence, is to make them see how much of a black eye the extremists are giving their faith and their God. If Christians were prosyletizing at the point of a dagger Mr. Dionne would have no trouble summoning the indignation necessary to call the evil by its name. Nor should he. Why then shrink from identifying that which is similarly evil in contemporary Islam, and why criticize someone, like the Pope, who does have the courage to speak the truth even if Mr. Dionne doesn't like hearing it?