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Islam and the West
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-01-24 09:06:29
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Another survey from Gallop has shown that the division between Islam and the West has dramatically increased over the last few years and I have to admit that this time seeing that written has made me more worried. Did you notice that we put together a geographical destination with religious beliefs? Apparently we have become a part of this division ourselves, even though most of the time we are trying to ignore it and leave it to the media and the theoretic.

The correct wording should be the division between Christians and Muslims because a big percentage of westerners are Muslims and there are Christians even in Palestine and Iran - actually, there's a big and often ignored Christian minority in Iraq. Analysts of the poll mention that the invasion of Iraq and the continuation of the Israel-Palestine problem are largely responsible for the division. I’m sorry to say - I’m sure these people are very intelligent and work hard over these issues - but I find the explanation a bit naïve, if not intentionally provocative for the conspiracy theory fans.

Christianity and Islam have centuries of hostile behaviour and wars. My opinion is that religion has been often used as the excuse to fulfil imperialistic dreams of kings and rulers from both sides and, contrary to what we learn in the west, Christian armies have been equally ruthless as Muslim armies. We should never forget the myth of Count Dracula who was a brutal real enemy of anything Muslim and responsible for thousands of Muslim deaths. The war between Christianity and Islam has been used as an excuse for wars between Christians as well.

The new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, and the rise of the Byzantine Empire (the term historically is not correct) caused the envy of the old empire and the rising feudatory, and it was behind the Crusades; that’s why Byzantine suffered more from the crusaders than the new Muslim neighbour countries. It is for that exact reason that Pope John Paul II apologized to the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Constantinople in 2001 for the crusader attack in 1204. But again, this is not the issue.

I was born and grew up long before bin Laden attacked the Twin Towers and long before the US decided to invade Iraq, a country that neighbours a Muslim country leftover from a Muslim empire that invaded the west and is responsible for the end of the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire. For centuries Greece had to live with the aggressive behaviour of the Turkish rulers, which lasts even today, and who, by the way, believe in a secular governing keeping religion passionately away. Islam, in this case, has nothing to do with the division of the two neighbours. Has religion anything to do with the division between Israel and Palestine? Israel is a secular democracy and the Palestinians ask what is rightfully theirs, while the Kurds ask for exactly the same from the Turks, yet they are members of the same religion and they are in danger of genocide.

More than twenty million Muslims currently live in the 25 EU member countries; they are our colleagues at work, our home neighbours, our friends and sometimes members of our families, and the number increases day after day. They are EU citizens, they have a European identity and they are Europeans by heart, they are westerners in every single sense just with another religion than that of the majority. So, where is the division between the West and Islam?

When I meet a new neighbour my first question has never been 'What’s your religious beliefs?', actually, I have never asked this question of anybody. I find it provocatively prejudiced and very personal, and even though I have often commented upon my atheism I do mind when somebody asks me what I believe. So, where is this division?

I think the division exists in the minds and the interests of fanatics and clerics from both sides. I was very careful not to use the word 'churches' because I strongly believe that both beliefs - in fact, all beliefs from Judaism to Buddhism - teach love and peace, respect and tolerance. This tension between religions should stay at its theoretical level among scholars of all sides and not come filtrated into the people’s faith, such as messages that are full of hate provoking extreme reactions.

Practice has shown that people do believe what clerics say without further investigation and clerics do not always know what they are talking about. Rasputin was a cleric and he used faith for his own agenda, just as the Iranian clerics or the Taliban clerics do nowadays. They actually translate their holy books to their own interest, their opportunistic agenda. You can not condemn religion and beliefs because of few clerics’ actions and preaching. Christianity is not responsible for the actions of a few paedophilias in the USA who happened to be priests, while Islam can never be held responsible for the actions of a few, like bin Laden.

In the beginning of this article I called the results of the analysis naïve, but I have to add that surveys and analysis like that can be provocatively dangerous, as well as prejudiced, because they manufacture war between religions. A war made from opportunists with dark aims and the victims are innocent people just like it happened with the attack on the Twin Towers.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 10:55:42
Some musings on the above: Christianity and the three Abrahamitic religions did not originate in Europe but in the Middle East. So, where is the division? As those reflections correctly hint at, the Christians in Iraq are not so because they were converted by European missionaries coming along with the imperialists as the caricature goes (making a misguided parallel with the 4th crusades’ devastation of the “Christian” imperialists of Byzantium and Latin America and other parts of the world) but because they go back to apostolic times and were later cut off from the rest of Christianity from the spread of Islam which drove a wedge between them and the Western Church. Where is the division? There isn’t any. There is no division between them and the rest of Christianity. They are united by faith and the same origins. For a good three centuries till the conversion of Constantine it was the Christians who received persecution and oppression. Those who caricature the whole phenomenon of Christianity and brand Christians as persecutors and oppressors from the very beginning are not only ignorant of history but also do a disservice to democracy tolerance and solidarity among all people and all faiths. After all democracy demands freedom of religion and even non religion. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 10:56:43
Indeed, crucial distinctions have to be made beyond shallow caricatures and the painting with a wide brush. Dante, that most religious and Christian poets, does not hesitate to place thee Popes in hell for having confused their spiritual mission with temporal political power. But Dante does not make the mistake of throwing out the principles and the beliefs of his faith thus throwing out the baby out with the dirty water. He laments and condemns clerical corruption and the scandal and bad example it sets, but does not throw the faith out the window because of it and remains a Christian. He also does not make the mistake of Machiavelli who consigns being a Christian to an hour in church on Sunday, a sort of private in the closet religion, but then advises that their faith should be bracketed for the rest of the time. As the American pragmatist philosophers (James, Dewey, Peirce) have well taught us: until one puts into practice one’s beliefs, one remains in the realm of theory and may even be an hypocrite. So, you quite right, if people put into practice the genuine teaching of their religions and respect democratic principles of freedom of religion, there would not be any conflicts. On the other hand, to say that eliminating religion will automatically make peace and harmony spring up on earth is also doubtful and perhaps delusional. After the 20th century experiments of the atheistic states of Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union, we ought to know better.

Sand2008-01-24 14:52:14
Nazi Germany was not atheist.
See: http://atheism.about.com/od/adolfhitlernazigermany/Adolf_Hitler_Nazi_Germany_Christian_Nationalism_AntiSemitism.htm

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 15:27:57

For a more nuanced and less biased view of the issue of connecting Nazism to Christianity see the above link.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 15:43:54

See also above link to the enciclical of Pope Pius XI (March 14, 1937) on the Church and the German Reich (Mit brennender Sorge)where the pope unequivically condemns Nazism as unchristian and atheistic.

Sand2008-01-24 15:59:57
I do not intend to smear many Catholics who indeed aided the Jews during Nazi times but the clear record is there that Pope Plus XII refused to denounce the Hitler regime. That cannot be denied

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 16:46:45
What can be cavalierly and easily asserted can easily be denied and imputed to bias,ignorance and prejudice, especially when it procedes from those who refuse the wisdom of history, contemptously burn the books of those by far wiser than themselves, and then try to get credit for re-inventing the wheel. Usually they manage to get a few high fives from like-minded fools. Unfortunately, they will be utterly forgotten as soon as they are "deactivated," to use their own dihumanizing language of technology parading as poetics. But the emperor remains naked and a charlatan, with or without a tail.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 16:57:12
For the full record rather than smears, innuendos and half truths: Pius XII never repudiated the encyclical of his predecessor condemning Nazism and his thousands of Jew in the Vatican during the occupation of Rome by the Nazis. The chief rabbi or Rome subsequently converted to Catholicism and took the pope's name Eugenio.

Those who spit to the sky usually have their spit return to their face.

Sand2008-01-24 17:34:12
Vatican defenders cloud Papal guilt in the Holocaust by incessantly reminding that the Nazis murdered thousands of Catholics in and outside of Germany who aided the Jews. They also remind critics that Pius XII poured millions into relief for war refugees, gave sanctuary to Jews inside the Vatican, and played a huge role in post war recovery efforts and the restoration of democracy in Western Europe.

In 1998, the church made a mild stab at public atonement for past injustices when it formally apologized for centuries of Catholic anti-Semitism and the failure to combat Nazi persecution of the Jews. But the Vatican made no mention of Pius XII's stone silence on Nazi atrocities. And it's this continuing blind spot that riles many Jewish and church scholars.

The Vatican continues to keep mute on its Holocaust involvement for a painful reason. Its silence was not due to the moral lapses of individual Catholics, or that the church was ignorant of, or duped by, Hitler's aims. It was a deliberate policy of appeasement crafted by church leaders. Before he ascended to the papacy in 1939, Pius XII was the Vatican's ambassador to Germany and secretary of state during the crucial period when Hitler rose to power, and knew full well what Hitler was up to.

Hitler's religious beliefs and fanaticism (quotes from Mein Kampf)

Hitler wrote: "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." As a boy, Hitler attended to the Catholic church and experienced the anti-Semitic attitude of his culture. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler reveals himself as a fanatical believer in God and country.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 18:41:42

For a less biased, less ideologically driven and more truthful account of the issue of the slanderous nexus between Nazism and Catholicism see the above written by a Jew.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 18:51:53
Here is an excerpt from the article with a Jew's view of the continuing slander of people intend on grinding an ax against the Catholic Church:

"U.S. Rabbi David G. Dalin -- whose book, "The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis," takes aim at what he says is the smearing of Pope Pius -- said he has documented dozens of instances where the pope spoke against Nazism and helped save Jews from deportation."

"Pius XII was not Hitler's pope, but a protector and friend of the Jewish people at a moment in history when it mattered most," he said.

He said this was a commonly accepted fact among Jews after the war and for many years afterward. In 1955, for example, on the 10th anniversary of the liberation of Rome, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra came to play a concert in tribute to Pope Pius, he said.

"Israeli public opinion would never have accepted the Israeli Philharmonic traveling to play a concert for 'Hitler's pope,'" he said.

Sand2008-01-24 19:05:49
The facts are there and not denied. How other people reacted to the facts do not deny them.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 19:11:48
Emanuel Paparella 2008-01-24 19:01:27

See the above link for Rabbi David Dalin book "The Myth of Hitler's Pope."

Sand 2008-01-24 19:07:43
Whatever a rabbi or anybody else may say about the facts they are there and not to be denied.

Emanuel Paparella 2008-01-24 19:08:20

The above is a scholarly and balanced assessment of Rabbi Dalin's book which leaves no doubt at what the slanderers and the smear mongers' agenda is.

It is unfortunate that such slander should be propagated in the pages of this magazine with many just keeping silent, so far, even if they look upon it as a sort of entertaining Punch and Judy show.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 19:21:40
"Nazi Germany was not atheist"

Aside from the fact that the above is gramatically incorrect (the adjective atheistic should be employed), that is not a fact but an assertion. To know the difference between a fact and an assertion is to be able to distinguish between a scholar and a ciarlatan bent on grinding personal axes.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 19:42:08
"The following review of Hitler's Pope by Wendy Smith illustrates the gullibility or ignorance of many of Pope Pius XII's detractors and puts in context the valuable service that Rabii Dalin performed in writing The Myth of Hitler's Pope for those willing to examine the facts instead of to blindly accept what passes as the conventional wisdom in the secular extremist media."

The above is an excerpt from the review of "The myth of Hitler's Pope" which may encourage those who wish to get all the facts to read the book together with "Hitler's Pope" and then make up their mind without the aid of the selected facts of slanderers and charlatans. Always look at both sides of the coin or the ciarlatan will put on over.

Emanuel Paparella2008-01-24 19:45:04
The last sentence should read "the charlatan will put one over."

Emanuel L. Paparella2008-01-24 20:52:26
To go back to the an original point of Thanos' article which unfortunately did not get a chance to be frankly discussed, it seems to me that, as this boorish unconvivial exchange well exemplifies, the division is not between Jews and Christians or Christians and Moslems, at least those who take seriously and practice the ideals of their faith (the others unfortunately are pseudo Christians and Jews ans Moslems just as Hitler was a pseudo Christian together with his cohorts...)but rather the division occurs among those who insist on the Socratic examined life--the life of virtue--and the nihilists who insist that there is no meaning and purpose in the universe and the best one can do is create one's own subjective values. I submit that there resides the real fault line, not in the practice or non practice of a religious faith.

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