Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Pope, The Condescending, and Closet-Intolerance

Now that the Pope is trying to rebuild "bridges" with the Islamic world, I think that one can reflect on his now-infmaous speech without eliciting angry responses. I would like to draw analogies between the Pope's remarks on the one hand, and what appear to be very different but are in fact very similar remarks on the other: As reported recently by BBC UK Chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown expressed his desire to make his country the global "gateway" for Islamic finance. The latter is a combination of ratinoalist desire to enrich one's own country (fat fees for investment bankers and lawyers), and the typical condescending attitude that "politically correct" and "tolerant" non-Muslims exhibit toward Islam.

Parsing Chancellor Brown's message, one cannot but conclude that acceptance (on face value) of the ludicrous claim that Islamic finance can do finance without interest is simply to say that Islam does not have to make sense (or even use coherent language). That is no different from the Pope's ahistorical claim that Islam favors dogma over rationalism. The Pope's charge is historically inaccurate, and -- depending on the particular historical period -- may be applied to his Church or any other form of organized religion during its dark ages. It just so happens that the Pope's remarks may be very applicable to Muslim societies today: he merely stated what others (who are condescending and closet-intolerant) dare not say.

For my money, I appreciate the Pope's remarks more than the Chancellor's.