Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Pope's visit
I'm finding it tough to decide on whether the Pope's current trip to Turkey is a good thing or not. On the one hand, he is making a brave move to embrace and nurture dialogue between the two great faiths, but on the other hand he is inflaming radical Islamic sentiment so soon after his rather abrasive comments on Islam in October.

His statements then were aimed at doing just that - opening a debate and challenging the current politically ideological Islam that seems to be dominating the religion at present. At the time, I thought it was an incredibly courageous thing for the Pope to do, at great risk to Catholics around the world. It has since done much in terms of opening dialogue for more moderate Muslims, who needed such a hook to be able to freely debate the meaning of violence in religion. One hopes that it gives these Muslims the opportunity to reclaim their faith which seems to have been largely hijacked by the more radical elements in the community.

However, I can't help feel that the Pope's current Turkey tour may be giving the radical Islamic elements the methodology to close that opportunity, by further whipping up Muslim communities against what they claim is a religion hell-bent (if you'll excuse the rather obvious pun) on the destruction of Islam. In emotive debate, he who shouts loudest often wins, and so it seems here, that Al Qaeda and other radical fringe elements have been able to use the Pope's visit to shut down any debate by castigating the Catholic faith and the Pope through the use of blunt statements and propagandist positions. This serves them well.

I would postulate that the Pope should probably have given the debate some time to air and develop in the moderate Muslim communities, not just in the West. When this gained some momentum and knee-jerk (over)reactions to the Pope's comments gave way to real discussion and introspection, then would perhaps have been a better time to visit a Muslim nation. As always, history will be the judge...