Benedict v. Islam

With so much attention given to Pope Benedict’s visit to New York last week – much of it fawning and probably undeserved – The American Prospect put up an online piece about how this is a strategically planned move in the competition between Catholicism and Islam to gain more converts. As the article points out, much of this struggle involves the African continent, but even in America Islam is the fastest growing religion, which makes the Pope’s visit to Ground Zero all the more symbolic (read: cunning).
The most interesting part, and which I did not know, is that apparently Benedict has been claiming that Catholicism is a superior religion because it combines faith with reason, whereas Islam lacks the latter, making it inherently violent. A fairly simple formula: reason = peace, unreason or irrationality = violence. This is one of the oldest examples of religious discourse and it reeks of Orientalism. A scholar of Benedict’s stature, of course, clearly understands how false this alleged unreason of Islam is, especially since it was Averroes and other medieval theologians that drew upon Aristotle’s writings during the flourishing centuries of Islamic culture, and it was through their translations and commentary that Aquinas first appropriated Aristotle into Christianity. What this means, and what the article suggests, is that religious allegations such as these only serve to mask cultural, ethnic, and political tensions.

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