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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Michael J. Gaynor
Bio: Michael J. Gaynor
Date:  September 17, 2006
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Pope Benedict Did Not Insult Islam

When The New York Times is not misadvising the United States Government what to do, it is telling His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to apologize (and lending any respectability that it still somehow retains to terrorist thugs tantruming (or much worse) as a result of misconstruing (or deliberately misrepresenting) a recent papal speech (or, much more likely, a tiny part of it) decently deploring violence in the name of religion.

When The New York Times is not misadvising the United States Government what to do, it is telling His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, to apologize (and lending any respectability that it still somehow retains to terrorist thugs tantruming (or much worse) as a result of misconstruing (or deliberately misrepresenting) a recent papal speech (or, much more likely, a tiny part of it) decently deploring violence in the name of religion. A sanctimonious New York Times editorial demanded that Pope Benedict issue a "deep and persuasive" apology for quotes used in that speech: ""The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly."

Pope Benedict's duty is to do God's work.  He does it.  Sometimes it causes pain.  Jesus did not say that His path is painless. Pope Benedict does not need authorization or approval from The New York Times. 

Sometimes the truth causes pain.  That does not mean that the truth should be suppressed.   The concept of jihad and violence in the name of religion to which Pope Benedict referred in an erudite speech that became controversial needs to be examined, not avoided, and examining it deserves to be applauded, not assailed. 

Pope Benedict referred to a 14th century discussion between an emperor and a Moslem scholar, read a quotation gleefully taken out of context by fanatics and fools, described it as "brusque" (hardly an endorsement), and then went on to say: "The emperor 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." The controversial quotation provided context for Pope Benedict's point, astutely articulated by the Emperor in the words "[v]iolence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul."

Does The New York Times deem violence compatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul"?

In hindsight, less context would have been better, but Pope Benedict XVI did not call for a crusade against those who believe in Islam.  His speech (an academic speech in which full context is appreciated) was intended to be "a clear and radical rejection of religiously motivated violence, wherever it comes from" (as the Vatican secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone later explained).

Reverend Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokeman, confirmed that Pope Benedict was not presenting Islam as "something violent."  In addition, he (Reverend Lombardi, not Pope Benedict) opined that Islam contains both violent and nonviolent strains.

It obviously does.  Violence in the name of religion is an important issue.  Pope Benedict XVI addressed it boldly, correctly and directly.  The violent reaction confirms the importance of the issue and the need to address it.

Sme Islamic terrorists (the kind of folks whom the secret terrorist surveillance program revealed by The New York Times was designed to monitor) chose to misinterpret Pope Benedict's words as an excuse for attacking churches and exalting themselves and other followers of Mohammed chose to stand with them instead of stand up to them. 

Read Pope Benedict's speech.  As German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained, "[it] was an invitation to dialogue between religions."

Those who don't want Islam to accept that invitation resorted to violence, lest the invitation be accepted by the responsible members of the Islamic world. 

Emperor Manuel Paleologos II, a Byzantine Christian emperor during the fourteenth century, and a Persian Muslim scholar discussed Christianity and Islam, and the Emperor said: "Show me just what Muhammad 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..."

During his recent visit to his native Germany, Pope Benedict read the Emperor's words to an assembly of professors at Regensburg University in Germany,  without expressing his own opinion about them (beyond characterizing the statement as brusque).  The words constituted historical context to Pope Benedict's message, not his message.

Pope Benedict preaches peace.  Spreading the Catholic faith by the sword is contrary to Catholic Church teaching.  Of course, spreading Islam by the sword is disapproved by the Catholic Church too.

Some thugs used Pope Benedict's quotation of the Emperor as cause to take up arms and firebomb churches, Catholic and non-Catholic.

Reprehensible rhetoric plumbed the depths (example: Turkish paper Vatan quoted a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party saying that Pope Benedict "will go down in history in the same category as leaders like Hitler and Mussolini").

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone announced that Pope Benedict  "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful" and explained that the quotation had been taken out of context and Pope Benedict does not view Islam as violent: "The Holy Father thus sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful."

But thugs who DO think of Islam as violent became violent, demonstrating Islam's violent strain.

Of course, there IS an unreconcilable difference between Pope Benedict and the opportunistic thugs claiming to champion Islam: Pope Benedict rejects "religiously motivated violence: and the thugs revel in it.

Al Jazeera predictably poured oil on the fire, by reporting in incendiary fashion that Pope Benedict was "facing increasing criticism" from the Muslim and Arab world as a result of making "radical comments" in which he "repeated anti-Islam remarks" that Prophet Muhammad taught was "only evil and inhuman".

The Islamic Conference "regret[ted] the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Muhammad, and what he referred to as 'spreading' Islam 'by the sword.'"

"The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is 'incompatible with the nature of God' is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history."

That's mostly, but not entirely, true.

The jihad directive in the Koran is as follows: "And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds [in this fighting]. God does not love the transgressors. Kill them wherever you find them and drive them out [of the place] from which they drove you out and [remember] persecution is worse than carnage. But do not initiate war with them near the Holy Kabah unless they attack you there. But if they attack you, put them to the sword [without any hesitation]. Thus shall such disbelievers be rewarded. However, if they desist [from this disbelief], Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Keep fighting against them, until persecution does not remain and [in the land of Arabia] Allah’s religions reigns supreme. But if they mend their ways, then [you should know that] an offensive is only allowed against the evil-doers. A sacred month for a sacred month; [similarly] other sacred things too are subject to retaliation. So if any one transgresses against you, you should also pay back in equal coins. Have fear of Allah and [keep in mind that] Allah is with those who remain within the bounds [stipulated by religion]." 2:190-194. 

The Koran does not call for the bombing of churches in retaliation for a Pope quoting an Emperor.  To the contrary, the thugs appear to be violating the teaching of the Koran by "transgressing bounds."

Jihad commonly is understood as "holy war," but the concept is complex and that simple understanding DOES reflect "deep ignorance."

Wikipedia helpfully discusses jihad:

"Jihad has been classified either as al-jih?d al-akbar (the greater jihad), the struggle against one's soul (nafs), or al-jih?d al-asghar (the lesser jihad), the external, physical effort, often implying fighting.

"Muslim scholars explained there are five kinds of jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God):

  • Jihad of the heart/soul (jihad bin nafs/qalb) is an inner struggle of good against evil in the mind, through concepts such as tawhid.
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is a struggle of good against evil waged by writing and speech, such as in the form of dawah (proselytizing), Khutbas (sermons), et al.
  • Jihad by the pen and knowledge (jihad bil qalam/ilm) is a struggle for good against evil through scholarly study of Islam, ijtihadi (legal reasoning), and through sciences (such as medical sciences).
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) refers to a struggle of good against evil waged by actions or with one's wealth, such as going on the Hajj pilgrimage (seen as the best jihad for women), taking care of elderly parents, providing funding for jihad, political activity for furthering the cause of Islam, stopping evil by force, or espionage.
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God, or holy war).
  • Jihad of peace refers to the struggle to make peace in the world, everywhere and anywhere.
On September 17, in his Sunday address to pilgrims, Pope Benedict clarified that the words he attributed to the Emperor "were in fact a quotation from a medieval text which do not in any way express [his] personal thought."

Pope Benedict added: "At this time I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims."

Despite Pope Benedict XVI's statement that he was "deeply sorry" about the angry reaction to his recent remarks about Islam, protests and violence persisted across the Muslim world, with churches set ablaze in the West Bank and a hard-line Iranian cleric saying that Pope Benedict is united with President Bush to "repeat the Crusades."

An Italian nun was gunned down (from the back) in a Somali hospital where she worked, and the Vatican expressed concern that the attack was related to the outrage over Pope Benedict's  remarks.

Would Mohammed have praised the gunmen as heroes or condemned them as cowards and killers?

Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the leader of  the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic political group, said that "while anger over the pope's remarks is necessary, it shouldn't last for long."

Mohammed Mahdi Akef: "While [Pope Benedict] is the head of the Catholic Church in the world, many Europeans are not following (the church) so what he said won't influence them. Our relations with Christians should remain good, civilized and cooperative." 

Of course, bombing churches and killing a nun, her bodyguard and a hospital worker are not civilized acts appropriate in the circumstances, but precisely the kind of acts of violence condemned in both the Bible and the Koran.

Yet, some insist the Pope Benedict insulted Islamic belief and must do more.

Examples:Mahmoud Ashour, the former deputy of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Arab world's most powerful institution, told Al-Arabiya TV that Pope Benedict "should apologize because he insulted the beliefs of Islam. He must apologize in a frank way and say he made a mistake."

Mohammed al-Nujeimi, a professor at the Institute of Judicial and Islamic Studies in Riyadh: "The pope does not want to apologize. He is evading apology and what he said today is a repetition of his previous statement."

Pope Benedict "sincerely regrets" that his speech was misused as an excuse for violence, but an apology is not in order.

Let's look at the controversial words in the papal speech: "The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war. He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad 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."'

Pope Benedict quoted the comment to support his case for peaceful dialogue, NOT in calling for a crusade against Islam.

Islam has nothing to fear from Pope Benedict or the ancient quotation, but it should be concerned with what Reverend Federico Lombardi referred to as "this wave of hate" in expressing the hope that "it does not lead to grave consequences for the church in the world."

In the West Bank, two churches were set on fire. One attack destroyed the interior of a 170-year-old church in the town of Tulkarem; the other partially burned a church in Tubas. Neither church is Catholic.

It seems that some terrorists are looking for a war with all Christendom.

 In Qom, the religious capital of Iran's 70 million Shiite Muslims, hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami said that Pope Benedict and President Bush are "united in order to repeat the Crusades."

That's news to each of them, and more evidence that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

In sharp contrast to The New York Times, James White, in " The Amazing and Utterly Irrational Islamic Response to Benedict XVI" (September 16), put reaction to Pope Benedict's speech in context:

"In an amazing display of utter hypocrisy leaders in the Islamic world are demanding an apology from Pope Benedict XVI. What did the Pontiff do? He dared read a quotation from a conversation that took place in the fourteenth century. And what was the horridly offensive statement? He quoted, not as his own words, but accurately, the words of Emperor Manuel Paleologos II speaking to a Persian scholar on the conflict between Christianity and Islam. The words were, 'Show me just what Muhammad 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.' That's it! He dared quote such a statement! It was in the context of eschewing violence in matters of religion, I might add.

"Now, consider the response to this simple citation of a historical source:

"Pakistan's legislature unanimously condemned the Pope. (I wonder if a single one of them had a clue what he said, or the context in which it was said? Probably not).

"According to this story, the deputy leader of the ruling Islamic party, 'said Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet or, worse, a deliberate distortion.' He said, 'He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world. It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades. Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words. He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini.'

"Protests broke out in Gaza City, and a Hamas spokesman said the Pope had offended Muslims everywhere.

"Now, of course, every single one of these people know that in Islamic countries Imams regularly preach death to the West and death to Christianity. They well know the hatred expressed toward Jews on a daily basis. So it simply is not possible for them to not realize the gross hypocrisy in pretending outrage over the Pope quoting a conversation that took place hundreds of years ago. The few who have even read the comments and noted the context are guilty of knowing hypocrisy. But they are the minority. You can bet without question that the vast majority of these folks have only heard either a completely a-contextual version, like, 'The Pope said Mohammad (pbuh!) was evil and inhuman! Take up arms!' or worse, as in the 'cartoon' saga a few months ago, they have been given a full-blown lie and some other outrageous 'quotation.'

"Now, I do not want anyone to faint upon reading what I am about to say, but for the sake of all that is good and right and just, I hope Benedict XVI refuses to apologize. Clarify the statement? Fine. Provide the context? Great. But do not apologize for claiming the freedom to quote a historical source! I could quote dozens and dozens of Islamic writers whose words I find deeply offensive. Would I be given the right to demand apologies from the entire Islamic world? Surely not!

"Finally, one of the most amazing statements in the above linked news article was this one: 'Many Muslims accused Benedict of seeking to promote Judeo-Christian dominance over Isla'." Anyone with the slightest idea of what militant Islam is all about knows it seeks the establishment of Islamic law throughout the world. That is what the current world situation is all about: the consistent application of Islamic beliefs to the political systems of all nations. See the writings of Sayyid Qutb, who greatly influenced Bin Laden, for examples of this on almost every page. So when I read this kind of complaint, my hypocrisy meter pegs and starts smoking. But will almost anyone in the West point out this hypocrisy? No, because our ability to think, and speak, clearly has been seriously compromised by political correctness. Yes, Islam seeks world domination, by force and death and destruction. And therein lies another major difference between us: Christianity boldly proclaims that it, in fact, will someday see Jesus Christ enthroned as the King of kings, and He will rule over all the earth. But how does He rule and reign today? He does so by changing hearts and minds, not through the barrel of an AK-47. Those who bow the knee to Christ today to do because their natures have been changed. It is a supernatural conversion, not a violent one."


Michael J. Gaynor

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Biography - Michael J. Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.

Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.

The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.

Gaynor currently contributes regularly to,,, and and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.

Gaynor's email address is

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