Friday, September 22, 2006

A struggle over Europe's religious identity

Written by Dr. Tariq Ramadan

PARIS A few sentences spoken by Pope Benedict XVI were sufficient to touch off a firestorm of impassioned reaction. Throughout the Muslim world, religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices with protesting masses angered by a perceived insult to their faith. Most did not read the pope's speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the pope had linked Islam and violence. But all railed against what they saw as an intolerable offense.

Whatever the judgments of these scholars and intellectuals, one would have hoped that they adopt a more reasoned approach in their critical remarks, for two reasons.

First, the reverence that Muslims have for the Prophet Muhammad notwithstanding, certain groups or governments manipulate crises of this kind as a safety valve for both their restive populations and their own political agenda. When people are deprived of their basic rights, it costs nothing to allow them to vent their anger over Danish cartoons or the words of the pontiff.

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