Pope Benedict is the latest figure who joined the chorus of other self-appointed advisors to Muslims. Some Western analyst call his recent address to Muslims blunt while others consider it as “quite understated.” 
In fact, Pope Benedict’s August 21, 2005 address to Muslim leaders in Germany is no less than the bull of Pius II, in which he announced a new Crusade shortly after ascending the throne of St. Peter, in 1458. There are very strong reasons for that.
First, the Pope serves, at least in Catholic theory, as the final living arbiter of Christian doctrine. Secondly, His words are coming at a time when all Muslims -” from the unacceptable Hizb ut Tahrir to the acceptable Muslim dictators and “moderates,” and “fundamentalist” sheikhs and mufties -” have been relentlessly condemning terrorist acts for the past four years. The only thing they didn’t do is rubbing their noses in the ground, literally and publicly.
Thirdly, lecturing Muslims on the need to put their house in order and castigating them to denounce terrorists has become a vogue. After Blair’s firebrand statements and countless media pundits’ threatening all Muslims, the proverbial straw on the camel’s back are the front page headlines that read: “It’s your job to stamp out terrorism, Pope tells top Muslims. Steer Young Muslims away from ‘barbarism, cruel fanaticism,’ he instructs leaders.”
Fourthly, the dangerous aspect of Pope Benedict’s comments is that it legitimizes actions of those who have already taken lives of at least 150,000 civilians alone since September 9/11. These war lords are now trying the world to forget about their lies and use the same excuses as justification for their slaughter which Pope Benedict highlighted in his recent address to Muslims. Like earlier papal bulls, such words from Pope Benedict carry the potential for a new holocaust.
Muslims’ collective denunciation of terrorism and full page apologies in leading newspapers are clear signs that they have accepted the official stories about all that happened from 9/11 to 7/7. They have pleaded guilty on behalf of whosoever may have committed these crimes. Unfortunately, what Muslims cannot do is to revive victims of the alleged and real Muslim terrorism. Too sad for them!
At this point one wishes how nice it would have been, if Muslims could somehow revive and return the dead, and pay for all the associated damage before making the West listen to understand the root causes and identify the real culprits behind the global mess.
Let us agree that occupation of Palestine is not one of the root causes. Let us agree that occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan came after 9/11, so this could not be the causes of grievances either. Let us agree that the indirect occupation of Saudi Arabia and supporting other dictators in Muslim countries are also mere excuses of Muslim fanatics.
However, let us not forget that so far no evidence has been provided to establish without a reasonable doubt that Muslims are solely responsible for 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. When Pope speaks of the “new barbarism” he must keep in mind that there has been no bull issued by a highest authority in Islam, exhorting Muslim hordes to descend on Europe and America. Still, let’s assume that Muslims are the terrorists. No person in his right senses, however, would agree that there is no other cause and it is simply ‘poisonous interpretation” of Islam that is driving Muslims to become terrorists.
If we keep in mind the background of Pope and others’ courage at directly holding Muslims responsible for the global mess, we may notice that the basis for their allegations hardly goes beyond 9/11. Therefore, we have to compare the turmoil of the last four years with all that has been happening for the past five centuries. It will help us see if the world just turned upside down after 9/11 and now it is Muslims’ responsibility to bring an order to it, or the mess is far deeper and far older than we actually recognize.
Those who are lecturing Muslims today, totally ignore that the state of the world today is the result of a history of colonial atrocities and resultant exploitative systems and structures erected. The story goes back to 15th century, when the colonialists launched their bloody campaign under the grand auspices of Vatican Church.
David Warren of Ottawa Citizen writes that the 1458 papal bull was meant “to check the advance on Europe of ye Infidel Turk.” Let us agree with him as well. However, may we ask, what about the subsequent bulls upon bulls to justify colonialist adventure for civilizing people other than “infidel Turks” in Africa, Asia and America.
According to Steven T. Newcomb, Director of the Indigenous Law Institute, Pope Alexander VI delivered the Inter Cetera papal bull on May 4, 1493. Accordingly, this document, issued shortly after Columbus’ first voyage to the Caribbean, expressed the pope’s earnest desire that "barbarous nations be subjugated and brought to the faith itself," "for the spread of the Christian Empire." Earlier such crusading Vatican bulls called for "perpetual slavery" of Africans, by capturing, vanquishing, and subduing them, and by taking away all their possessions and property.
In the year of the Columbus quincentennial, these papal documents were instrumental in the injustices committed against the peoples of the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia. Such papal bulls directly sanctioned colonization, the slave trade, and bloody campaigns that resulted in the deaths of millions. Scholars have correctly identified the Inter Cetera bull as the historic cornerstone of colonialism worldwide.
The Indigenous Law Institute (http://ili.nativeweb.org/) wrote a letter in 1993 to Pope John Paul II, calling upon him to formally revoke the Inter Cetera bull of 1493, and to thereby explicitly overturn the Church’s doctrine of conquest and subjugation. But until the last available information, the Institute received only a stony silence from the Vatican.
None of the Muslims went out with a “bull” from a highest religious authority in the Muslim world to civilize the barbarians of the West through complete genocides. On the other hand, Samuel Eliot Morrison, a Harvard historian and Columbus biographer, admits “the cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in a complete genocide”.
We hope that those who do not get tired of lecturing Muslims and holding their faith responsible for all the wrongs in the world, would find out how their co-religionists with the papal bulls decimated an estimated population of 80 million at the time Columbus discovered America “to a low of 210,000 in the 1910 census.” There victims in these places were not Muslim barbarians for sure.
Someone might ask, but what has it to do with terrorism today? The answer is: study the history of the Church-legitimized colonialism and see its fruits in the present world order. You will find that the turmoil is far less than what it should have been or soon will be. Even Pope Benedict himself has acknowledged in a meeting with Rome’s clergy: "We have to confess that Europe has exported not only faith in Christ, but also all sorts of vices, the sense of corruption, and violence that devastates" the African continent. In fact, Africa is not alone, nor is that the end of the discussion.
Previous colonial adventures allowed imperialists to gradually institutionalize their global dominance not only in Africa but everywhere. Despite the apparent decolonization after four centuries, the Western powers have managed to maintain this global dominance and influence on the affairs of non-Western nations. Exploitation of their wealth and resources continues till this day. The interference in the internal affairs of Muslim states in particular has been more intrusive because of the perceived ideological threat.
None of those who are obsessed with Muslim terrorism can deny that today’s international politico-economic structures are the logical culmination of colonial history. The Western academic world and the present day advisors to Muslims totally disregard genocides, plunder of resources, introduction of class system and other legacies of their colonial past. It would be total disregard of the facts to say that colonial adventures did not provide foundations for the building of the contemporary unjust world order.
Pope Benedict’s admission about the link between violence and corruption in Africa and colonialism gives us important clues. One, that what he described as the problem are just symptoms of a deeper malaise and hidden volcano. Second, the Pope is not criticizing or holding all Christian responsible for the deeds of many generations of the colonialists. Instead, if one carefully reads words of Pope Benedict XVI, he gives credit to colonialists for spreading Christianity, yet he clearly separates their misdeeds from their faith.
Pope’s voice adds further legitimacy to the ongoing killing spree in the Muslim world. None of the Popes have been able to condemn ALL Christians for the adventures of their colonialists co-religionists for the simple reasons that they didn’t want to reflect bad on the their faith and also because they didn’t want to expose the fact that it was done with Vatican’s authorization. History is repeating itself with the Pope speaking the same language as the liars who made their way to butchering thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This approach is not only in total contrast to the way, Muslims’ crimes are directly associated with their faith, but it also shows how role of the Church in colonialism is totally taken out of the discussion.
Problems created by the four centuries of colonialism are not limited to corruption and violence, as Pope Benedict acknowledges. An in-dept study shows us that the same problem leads to the present adventures of the US and its allies.
Like the 1458 papal bull, once more the focus is on Islam and Muslim majority areas. Considering Muslims savages and lecturing them to behave and get civilized is nothing new. Deliberate blindness towards the past makes all those who attempt to lecture Muslims make wild statements. They ignore that the seeds for the present destabilization in the former colonial lands were sown centuries ago in the form of imposing highly exploitive trading terms; indulging in undisguised looting; transferring enormous amounts of wealth to Europe; engineering and adapting these continents according to their own interests in extending European hegemony.
As a result, the colonialists not only consolidated economic dominance that continues till this day, but also political and cultural dominance, which is one of the main root causes of unrest and friction within the former colonies and in their relations with the former colonial masters.
To gauge the cumulative impact of colonial adventures, think of a hundred years of continued occupation of Iraq by the US from now. Like the US, the former colonialists also boasted of introducing parliamentary democracies, legal structures, educational systems, and so on. But it is nothing more than mere modeling of a country’s structures upon the West, even in name only, to give the impression that the country has undergone ‘development’.
The sole objective and ultimate result of the colonial escapades has been disfiguring and destroying the original cultures and philosophies, and indeed enslaving them to dependence on, and allegiance to, a self-interested West. Keep this fact aside and you’ll have nothing but Islam or Muslims to blame for the misdeed of those who took hundreds of millions of lives to bring the world to the present state.
Like the present myth of moderating and democratizing the Muslim world, colonialists invented some convincing myths of benefiting the colonies. According to Director of the Africa Business Information Service, Tunde Obadina, observes: Whatever may have been its pluses and minuses, colonialism was a dictatorial regime that denied peoples’ right of self determination. It brought death, pain and humiliation to millions of its victims. The notion that colonialism was a civilizing mission is a myth – the system was propelled by Europe’s economic and political self-interest.
Pope Benedict’s lecturing Muslims today to hold their “fanatics” for a peaceful world is in a way paving the way for brining back to the Muslim world the scenes, which Mark Twain described in these words: “In many countries we have chained the savage and starved him to death… in many countries we have burned the savage at the stake… we have hunted the savage and his little children and their mother with dogs and guns… in many countries we have taken the savage’s land from him, and made him our slave, and lashed him every day, and broken his pride and made death his only friend, and overworked him till he dropped in his tracks.” In fact, worse than this sort of inhuman treatment is meted out to Muslims today. A proof of which lies in the fact that the US government is not releasing new pictures from Abu Ghraib because before them Mark Twain’s description of man’s inhumanity to man would pale by comparison.
The colonial legacy has left Muslim populated regions with a legacy so entrenched that the people there find it hard to extricate themselves from the legal and economic bondage. Self-rule has become an impossible-to-realize dream for them. For example, if they want to live by Islam, they find it almost impossible to say no to Riba because the prime legacy of colonialism was the integration of colonies into the international capitalist economy. Dictator Musharraf had to go to the Supreme court to make Riba permissible.
The social, political and economic institutions which the colonialists left behind and the continued interference since their strategic withdrawal in the name of giving independence never let Muslims in particular live independently. Self-rule remained a dream for them.
We need to stop talking about Muslim terrorism and holding all Muslims responsible for crimes against humanity without proper investigation. We should objectively compare the extent of the alleged Muslim crimes and the proven record of the West.
It is too sad that those who are lecturing Muslims do not see that according to Dr. J. W. Smith, even after the direct colonialism, the West “violently” killed “12 to 15 million people since WW II” alone and caused “the death of 100s of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people.” He adds: “Unknown as it is, and recognizing that this has been standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990-¦.One hundred and fifty thousand to 300,000 of these were tortured and killed by death squads set up by Western intelligence agencies, primarily the CIA.”
Those who are lecturing 1.2 billion Muslims better to dig the root causes of present turmoil and realize that Muslims are not responsible for the present unjust global order. The political, economic and cultural processes that began with colonialism, culminated in the institutionalization of an international global political economy dominated by the Western powers at the expense of the rest of the world, which as Marc Ferro observes, began “replacing a visible presence by the invisible government of the big banks: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and so on”: a system which Ferro describes as “multinational imperialism”.
All the problems that we set aside in the beginning, Palestine, occupations, dictators, US presence in Saudi Arabia, all come back as logical corollaries and outputs of the darkest age of colonialism.
If Muslims are guilty at all of anything, they are guilty of not living by Islam. That led to their fall since centuries. That negligence is responsible for their touching the depth of humiliation today. If they were colonized and exploited in the past, it was due to their own weakness of faith and if they are facing their historic humiliation today, it is because of their following others’ way of life and running away from Islam.
The reactive movements and violent elements are the direct product of Muslims staying away from Islam and colonialists’ never-ending adventures in the Muslims world. Pope and company would do Muslims a favor if they could ask their co-religionist, neo-colonialists, to leave Muslims alone and give them an opportunity for real independence and self-rule.
David Warren of Ottawa Citizen complains that there is no one who could say, he speaks for all Muslims. He believes the reason is that Khilafah was abolished in 1924. So, instead of criminalizing Islam, let’s give Muslims a right to self-determination and self-rule. Let there be Khilafah and a Khaleefa, so that he could say, I speak for all Muslims and this is our stand on different issues.
Notes:. David Warren, “Islam lacks a final authority,” Ottawa Citizen, August 24, 2005. . Ottawa Citizen, front page, August 21, 2005. . Ibid. David Warren. . See “The Bull Inter Caetera (Alexander VI), May 4, 1493 for the background and other details of the Inter Cetra bull: URL http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/indig-inter-caetera.html . See text of the letter: http://ili.nativeweb.org/ricb.html . cited in Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, Harper & Row, New York, 1980 . figures cited in Dorris, Michael A., ‘Contemporary Native Americans’, Daedalus, Spring 1981; also see Zinn, Howard, A People’s History of the United States, op. cit., for more on the glorious roots of the United States and the global system largely under its control. . “Pope: Europe corrupts Africa,” News 24.com URL http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1704837,00.html . Obadina, Tunde, ‘The myth of Neo-colonialism’, Africa Economic Analysis, viewed 6 September 2000, http://www.afbis.com/analysis/neo-colonialism.html . Smith, J. W., ‘The Grand Strategy of Western Security Councils: Suppressing the Former Colonial World’s Break for Economic Freedom’ in Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century, M. E. Sharpe, New York, 2000. . Ferro, Mark Colonization: A Global History, Routledge, London, 1997. p-349.