The Pope and the Islamist threat
In its frenzied reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's critical remark linking Islam with violence, the Muslim world has unwittingly demonstrated the validity of what the Pontiff implied. The Pope had recently delivered a scholarly address at a German university in which he argued that violence in the name of religion is contrary to God's nature and to reason.
In his address, the Pope referred to a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who had argued against the concept of "jihad' or "holy war" in a dialogue with a Persian scholar. The Pope quoted the emperor as saying: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."
Quickly, there has been a fiery backlash from Muslim religious and political authorities. A Somali imam called for the assassination of the Pope. In a rally outside London's Westminster Cathedral, a local Islamic cleric seconded the motion. In Basra, Iraq, angry demonstrators burned an effigy of the Pope. Protests raged elsewhere in Iraq and in Kashmir, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, and other Muslim countries. Al-Qaeda warned the Pope that he is "doomed," and vowed to continue its holy war against the West. In effect, the Pope's critics were protesting his inference that Muslim extremists are violent with violence.
There is an extremist element in the Muslim world that media pundits and others call "Islamist" to distinguish it from a more moderate "Islamic" element. To control the growth of Islamism and to reduce the threat to peaceful co-existence with non-Muslim countries, the Muslim world needs a religious movement comparable to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century to separate the radical Islamists who do not tolerate "infidels" from the moderate Islamic element.
It may not be politically correct to say, but there are elements in the Muslim world that are obviously prone to violence. They represent a faith and a culture that differ markedly from Christianity and Judaism. When a Danish newspaper publishes a cartoon that the Islamists regard as defamatory to their Prophet, the Islamists riot in the streets and burn churches and synagogues.
To my knowledge, far more blasphemous references to Christianity and Judaism by Muslim leaders and media have not provoked Christian or Jewish mobs to take to the streets in protest or to attack mosques.