Monday, September 25, 2006

NewU: Reut R. Cohen: Radical Muslims Overreacting

To be discussed later as time permits. For now:

Link To Op-Ed

Radical Muslims Overreacting
By Reut R. Cohen

On Sept. 12, while visiting Regensburg University in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI quoted a Byzantine emperor during an academic speech and caused an uproar.

The pope quoted Manuel II Paleologos, the 14th-century Byzantine emperor, who 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.” The Vatican has issued a statement that the pope was giving a speech in an academic setting with the intent to create more open dialogue between different religions.

The following Sunday, the pope issued his own apology. “I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect,” Benedict said.

The apology was obviously unsuccessful in reducing the anger of many Muslims in countries ranging from Iraq to China, who were insulted that anyone would dare to suggest Islam is not a peaceful religion. To make the point that Islam is not violent, radical Muslims burned down dozens of Christian churches and allegedly shot and killed a 65-year-old nun in Somalia.

It was only a few short months ago that a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims all over the world became incensed, suggesting in many cases, “to hell with freedom of speech.”

The reactions to the cartoons led to more than 100 killings so that radical Muslims could drive home the point that Islam is a peaceful religion.

Therefore, should we really be surprised that the pope’s quotation of Paleologos, initially intended to create more open dialogue between Catholics and Muslims, drove many fanatical Muslims to commit crimes against innocent civilians as they have done over and over again?

The fanatical Arab world is once again looking for yet another excuse to attack Western culture and attract freedom fighters to their morally reprehensible cause. The president of Iran constantly calls for the slaughter of the Jews and the elimination of Israel, suggesting that the Holocaust was nothing but a hoax. Al-Qaeda repeatedly declares its hatred for America and the West, recruiting more terrorists for the sake of holy war. It seems to me that radical Muslims can criticize, spurn and attack, but we must be wary of uttering a single thought about Islam for fear of being insulting.

Any other religion, race and culture can be attacked without fear of fundamental revolt.

The “New York Times” even went as far as to recommend that we ought to never insult Islam, but proposed that a picture of Jesus in a tank of urine is “art.” We should compare the reactions of Christians to such depictions of Jesus to the reactions of the Muslim world to the pope’s speech.

Much of the Arab world bestows virtually no rights to their people. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to practice any religion besides Islam and completely legal for a husband to murder his wife if he suspects she is cheating. In many respects, the education afforded to citizens of the Arab world is one of brainwashing from infancy.

Although we may believe that every individual is entitled to his religion so long as it does not interfere with another’s ability to live, radical Muslims will not abide by other religions and will continue to perceive non-Muslims as infidels.

Radical Islam is not Islam.

Moderate Muslims have a duty to speak out against such violence, as it is the moderates who practice the most peaceful and purest form of Islam. It is the moderate Muslims who are educated and entitled to free thinking while the Arab world continues to place deadly restrictions on its citizens.

I can fully understand and sympathize with Muslims when they suggest that the pope should have been more respectful in his discussion of religion. I cannot, however, abide by violent uprisings which, sadly, are seen frequently in the Muslim world. Instead of burning down churches, Muslims should participate in creative dialogue so that non-Muslims can understand their culture and empathize with their hurt.

Reut Cohen is a third-year English major. She can be reached at

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