Pope Benedict XVI proved himself to be another George Bush on the religious front of a war to sustain the existing unjust world order. As he spoke his mind more clearly, both Muslims and non-Muslims are demanding his “a deep and persuasive apology.”
The question, however is: Would Pope’s apology mean he has changed his belief that the teachings of Prophet Mohammed are “evil and inhuman”?
The answer to this question lies in deep analysis of what is going on both on the religious and political fronts in the West to preserve the status quo of a global, imperial order–”a rule of law which the former colonial powers have established to perpetuate de facto colonization of the weak nations. At present, if anything can pose a real challenge to this order, it is Islam. Hence Islam and its followers become enemies by default.
Muslims and Islam are presented as evil because the concept of "evil" contains ambiguities and evokes fear. By employing the term "evil," Western political and religious leaders generate fear of Muslims and Islam to manipulate people’s attitudes and behaviors. Associating Islamic sources, Prophet Mohammed and Muslims with evil is especially powerful for summoning support for violent or militaristic action.
When the events of September 11 unfolded, many people were deliberately forced to feel that they were witnessing evil. With statements upon statements, people were made to feel angry, fearful and sad. Without presenting any concrete evidence thus far, people have been bombarded with messages that there were evil Muslims who were responsible, and if we could just find them and kill them, the world would be safe again and life could return to normal.
The rhetoric of Bush and Blair’s speeches and news conferences shows the construction of the kind of ideology of good versus evil that is meant to justify a violent, militaristic response. Furthermore, together with the corporate media and religious sector, they employ clever rhetorical strategies that play on both public wishful thinking and fears in order to persuade by emotion rather than logic.
Bush, for example, explains why the United States was targeted for attack: "America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world." In subsequent speeches, he adds to this list: they hate our democratically elected government; they hate our tolerance of openness and
our creative culture. While it is possible that all this is true, the question of whether it is the full answer to the question of who really attacked and why Americans were attacked remains open. Such language makes "the enemy" seem monstrous and irrational, incomprehensibly hating what the Western public regard as unquestionably good.
In his first speech after September 11 attacks, Bush described the terrible events of that day as evil, and tied evil into human nature. The idea of evil people was then made more explicit in later speeches. For example, in a news conference on October 11, Bush said, "I think it’s essential that all moms and dads and citizens tell their children we love them and there is love in the world, but also remind them there are evil people." Specific evil people were then identified during this news conference: Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Any subsequent attempt to call someone evil or his religious beliefs as evil evokes the same images of “evil” Osama bin laden and Saddam Hussein.
Pope’s attempt to directly or indirectly link the Prophet of Islam and his teachings to “evil and inhuman” becomes an icing on the cake. This puts a seal of confirmation on the political attempts at showing just how horrible the “evil” Muslims are. Bush on the political front says, they are trained in tactics of terror and are "sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction." They are directed "to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans and make no distinctions among military and civilians, including women and children." Not only do they kill, they do so with satisfaction: "We have seen the true nature of these terrorists in the nature of their attacks; they kill thousands of innocent people and then rejoice about it. They kill fellow Muslims, many of whom died in the World Trade Center that terrible morning, and then they gloat. They condone murder and claim to be doing so in the name of a peaceful religion." But: "We’re not deceived by their pretenses to piety."
And it is not just the terrorists themselves at fault. All other Muslims as well become guilty by association, and sharing the same faith and following teachings of the same prophet. Because the enemy is so clearly evil, a military response is required and Pope has no problem extending legitimacy for this mission to “democratize” the Muslims world. This connection was made explicit when Bush spoke with reporters at the White House following his November 6 satellite speech to a summit in Warsaw, Poland. Referring again to bin Laden, Bush said, "This is an evil man that we’re dealing with, and I wouldn’t put it past him to develop evil weapons to try to harm civilization as we know it. That’s why we work hard to keep our coalition bound together, and that’s why we’re going to keep relentless military pressure on him in Afghanistan." In an earlier speech, he spoke of directing "every resource at our command" to this task, claiming that "the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows." The response is thus one of vengeance and violence, expressed in unambiguous terms of elimination and destruction.
Pope and Bush’s goal are as much ambitious as they are scary. Pope believes the Prophet of Islam has brought nothing new other than “evil and inhuman.” On the other hand Bush says, this war on evil "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated." Stating the goal this way is disturbing, as the very impossibility of determining whether Bush and company have actually succeeded suggests that they may be forcing public to live in fear and in this state of war not just for a long time, but forever. Pope’s attempt to link the roots of evil to the message of Prophet Mohammed shows that Muslims will remain evil as long as they follow his teachings.
How can we ever be sure we have found every terrorist group and every Muslim has relinquished the “evil and inhuman” teachings of Prophet Mohammed? What exactly would it take to permanently stop Muslims from believing in evil and defeat them? The image is made even more horrifying by statements such as this one from the same speech: "Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen." The vagueness of what is meant by "lengthy campaign" (something more than retaliation and military strikes) becomes a serious cause for alarm when a papal, broad-brush justification is released for a struggle against the perceived evil.
This characterization of the enemy as wholly evil is then further reinforced by language that draws sharp lines between only two sides, good versus evil. This event is part of a great cosmic battle: "This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil. But good will prevail." Canadian author Erna Paris writes that the image of a crusade–”of a cosmic war between good and evil–”remains the choice of President George W. Bush when he speak to reassure the American people in these words. “With these symbol-laden words, the president fulfilled the three purposes I have alluded to: he reassured people that he was in control; he laid the foundation for his eventual response, which would be war of some sort; and he steered the public discourse into a religious – apocalyptic space.”
With this kind of language, Pope on the religious front and Bush on the political front appeal to the Western public’s noble sentiments in order to solicit their support for a grand strategy for a decisive moment in the Great Cosmic Battle between Good and Evil.
The problem with Pope and Bush’s theory of justification is that it is all too easy for anyone to say that we have the right kinds of feelings, and the enemies have the wrong kinds of feelings, and so we are good and they are evil. Bush and Blair on the political front do regard some Muslims as innocent and do not wish to harm them. Nevertheless, Pope’s attempt to demonize the core of Islam with the help of words from an Islamophobe from 14th century removes any distinction between good and evil Muslims.
The most worrisome aspect of the political and religious leaders’ calling Islam and Muslims evil is that it forcefully silences dissent to the theory that the world is divided into two. On one side are the concepts of freedom, democracy, creativity, a "way of life," and "civilization," all necessarily to be defended with something "more" than mere words. On the side are images of murderer “Jihadists,” lurking in caves, and women and children being beaten because of their socks, shoes, kites, and snowmen. Neutrality is not an option. There is no space for it in such a sharp dichotomy. Every attitude, action, or person must be assigned to one side or the other. Therefore, to question the papal or White House interpretation, or to question the appropriateness of military adventures, is to remove oneself from the side of goodness, because in a tightly dichotomized world, to question any part of one side of the divide is to question everything else associated with it.
Therefore, the questioner must be regarded as evil, because there are no other ways of classifying someone who, by questioning some of what Bush or Pope has defined as evil, is thereby questioning goodness itself.
It is very strange that the states purpose of Pope’s speech at his old university was to provide a foundation for a "dialogue of cultures" and challenge secularist reason.
It sounds like a noble endeavor, yet the concept of the evil in Islam is so engraved in Pope’ mind that rather than addressing those of his fellow Christians whose addiction to faith undermines their ability to reason he pointed a critical finger at Islam.
Right now, there is far more organized and systematic violence in the world being committed by people who call themselves Christians than by anyone else. Evidence is mounting by the day which shows military Generals, such as General Boykin insulting Muslims and Islam and their front line warriors desecrating the Qur’an and making fun of Muslim faith. The violent acts associated with a handful of Muslims (without any concrete evidence) in the West have resulted in only a fraction of the amount of suffering that Muslims have experienced in recent years. As an Iraqi wrote this week, "With 3,000 civilians killed every four weeks, my country suffers its own 9/11 on a monthly basis."
Keeping such blindness of Pope, Bush, Blair and their associates in mind, one comes to the conclusion that the calls for Pope’s apology are meaningless. Any verbal apology from anyone of them is irrelevant. It would neither change the ground realities nor the bigotry and Islamophobia in their hearts. It would not change their plans to impose “value systems on the Muslim world.” What Muslims and non-Muslims need to do is to struggle for mutual liberation from the religio-imperial forces which have enslaved the humanity.
The dawn of true liberation for Muslims and non-Muslims is at hand. A majority of the masses have realized that today’s inequalities, poverty, violence and wars at global and local levels stem from the rule of law and governing systems put in place over the last seven centuries by the wealthy and powerful colonialists, who have through out been blessed by Popes in their respective age.
The first of those 700 years was plunder by trade between city states and the countryside and the slow evolution of current rule of law. Then came the 400 years of long battles between the colonial empires. Only after WW-II did those imperial nations ally together to maintain control of the rest of the world. The power structure realized they had to quit fighting each other and ally together to maintain their monopoly position. That alliance is desperately attempting to sustain both their rules of law (plunder by trade) and internal rule of law worldwide. Islam is perceived as the only challenge that can come up with an alternative model and way of life. Hence, it is the evil and the enemy number one.
Notes:. “The pope’s words,” Editorial, the New York Times, September 16, 2006.
2001/09/20010920-8.html Bush’s address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, September 20, 2001.
. President Bush: "No Nation Can Be Neutral in This Conflict." Remarks by the President To the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism. November 6, 2001. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/