Despite the fact that I am of Irish and Mexican extraction, I am not Catholic. I am allowed to eat steak 365 days out of the year. I can make jokes about Pope Palpatine I and not feel bad. Prophylactics are fine with me, communion bread is merely a metaphor, and my religious leaders don't have to be gay, because they can marry a wife and sire as many self-destructive children as they want.
As a non-Catholic, I can live my life as objectively as I want, and this is why I find myself objectively siding with the Pope after reading the news this morning.
Last week, the Pope made some remarks about Islam. Now everyone knows that saying anything about Islam that is not a gushing endorsement is asking for trouble, but this did not deter him from quoting the anti-muslim remarks of a Byzantine emperor to some German professors. In case you don't know anything about the Byzantine Empire, it was the Greek half of the Roman empire, and it crapped out in the 1450s when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. In case you don't know anything about the Ottoman Turks, they were Muslims who conquered and held onto big chunks of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, who crapped out in the 1920s after the Central Powers lost WWI. These facts are more than mere trivia, because they offer a shade of explanation as to why someone would say such a thing about Islam.
Now, if you read the news, you'll discover that the sorts of Muslims who get fired up about things such as editorial cartoons or US invasions of Iraq have little appreciation for context and wouldn't recognize irony if it came and shit in their mouths. The quote that has elicited death-threats and firebombed churches has to do with Islam being "evil and inhuman," spreading its faith "by the sword."
Not a nice thing to say about Islam, especially when the followers of your own religion have spread their faith by sword, virus and bullet all over the world for almost a thousand years. But still, if you consider the context, making such remarks about a faith that's knocking on your city's gates with torches and scimitars is not all that crazy. If Ottoman Turks were massing to conquer my empire, I think I'd be a little testy myself.
But never mind that. Islamic extremists have no use for history when it doesn't serve their purposes. If they bothered to read a little further, they'd discover that Pope Palpatine (by way of an emperor who has been dead for like 700 years) was pointing out historical fact: Islam was spread regionally via military campaign. If not for Muhammed's army, pilgrimages to Mecca would be a lot harder. But moreover, why would this even bother a fundamentalist? Are they mad because someone implied that they are violent? If the Pope's remarks are untrue, then why does their official response assert that "God will help Muslims conquer Rome"? That sounds like spreading faith by the sword to me.
Having grown up in a Christian church, I am well aware of the compartmentalization of dogma. A lot of times, books of faith tend to be treated as a sort of idealogical buffet table--eat what you want, ignore what you don't. Obviously, Islam is no different, because from what I have always understood, Muhammed never rejected Judaism or Christianity, but instead thought of them as complementary faiths. Clearly, this is lost on a few.
Note: In case you missed the link up there, you can read the story here.