Yet the conflict between Pope Benedict XVI and the Islamic world over the issue of violence touches on many related touchy topics involving religion, rhetoric and, of course, the title of who really is more violent? Muslims or Christians?
Oh, you didn’t know there is a rivalry on the topic. There is.
Now, in fairness to Islam, the Christians have been around a few hundred years longer than Muslims and have a head start on violence.
I know when the Pope asked his aides to open an inquisition into the Muslim world’s outrage at his references to Islam and the sword, it caused a few skullcaps to slide off a few bald Arab heads.
The 13th Century Inquisition makes an Islamic Jihad look more like a Boy Scout gathering at Camp Owasippe. The Inquisitions were extremely violent.
In 1233, Pope Gregory IX officially launched "The Inquisition" sending a battalion of robed Dominican Monks to spread the word that all the non-believers had one month to confess all their “warped, evil beliefs.”
Those that did not confess enough were tortured. And we’re not talking about water boarding, the sport preferred by President Bush in dealing with captured Arabs in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Beheading a Christian invention
No, we are talking about beheadings, quartering, burnings, dismemberment, and plastic surgery without the benefit of plastic or anesthetic.
But by that time, beheading had taken on a Christian religious connotation, long before it became the punishment of choice for heretics and traitors on the stoop of the French Guillotine, which was a proud Christian European invention that made beheading so efficient.
What the Christian Western world today views as a purely Islamic tradition of beheading was actually started in the year 385 by the Christians.
The very first victim was Priscillian of Avila in Spain followed by six of his pals. They were beheaded by the Christian Church that year because they were declared “Heretics,” which is a Christian word that can be used interchangeably with the one associated most with Muslims, “Infidel.”
In fact, Inquisitions are defined by era and government, too. That was the Dominican Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition, the one most Christians recall but conveniently forget when referring to Islamic religious violence, officially began with a fair in the 15th Century and went on for some 300 years or more.
The Spanish Inquisition didn’t just target ordinary heretics. Anyone who wasn’t a Spanish Catholic was considered a Heretic. No, the Spanish Inquisition focused on the Muslims and the Jews who the Christian Church believed were lying when they claimed to have converted to Christianity.
The Inquisition was launched to determine if Jews and Muslims who converted at the end of a sword, by the way, had really converted or were secretly conducting their religious practices in their homes at night.
In fact, so many victims were beheaded over the years that the Christian Church created a special prayer to accompany the process.
Muslims are especially angered by the Pope’s comments that Islam was spread by the sword because most Muslims view the Pontiff as wearing a skullcap, which to them, reminds them of the Jewish people who also wear Yarmulkes or Kippahs.
Ironically Pope Benedict XVI didn’t intentionally plan to offend Muslims. He was just rummaging through some old Church documents on the topic of Islam when he referenced one that argued that Islam was spread by the sword.
Weak Muslim counter argument
At first, Muslims who heard him thought he had misspoken. The Pope has a lisp and may have meant to say, “Islam was spread by the word.” That S-lisp just slipped in there.
But the Pope continued to elaborate and, as we have seen, the Muslim world has been rioting ever since even without the benefit of graphic caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed waved ahead of the protests.
The real irony is the response of the Muslim World.
The Pope says Muslims are violent. The Muslims deny that, justifiably so, and then go out on the street and, well, become violent. I think the Muslim response to the Pope is anything but a good counter argument.
Worse is the fact that Christians are not like Muslims who basically has two faiths, Sunni and Shiite. Muslims simply are naïve about Christianity, demonstrating a total lack of knowledge of the Christian religion.
Christians have many sects and branches and they all hate each other. Catholics hate Protestants. The Protestants hate themselves and include four warring factions of Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians.
In fact, when someone asserts that the Jews control the American media, as a Lutheran I have to laugh out loud because we all know the Presbyterians really control the media, and the government and the 7-Elevens, too.
The Pope, recognizing the furor that he created, quickly offered a weak apology saying he didn’t mean for Muslims to become crazier than they already are, adding, “I just want to say to my Muslim Brotherhoods, as-salamu-alaikum. I’m just so Jeeeeehad to meet you.”
Like the Inquisition, the Pope’s comments didn’t go over very well, either.
And the Pope was even offended by the response from Muslim leaders who said, “Bobe, you are a bathetic, bitiful, bontificating booboo-head.”
As I said, this misunderstanding all comes down to words, not swords. The Arabs have no “P” sound in their language.
Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com