Thursday, September 21, 2006

To be honest, I do have a bit of sympathy for the 'Muslim street' reaction to the media reports on the Pope's address.

Here's why:

In one of the initial man-in-the street interviews, there was an incredibly ignorant islamic woman demanding that the Pope grovel before the islamic rage like some whipped 'infidel' cur. I just wanted to bitch-slap the fool and scream the kind of obscenities that pass for dialogue in the islamic world.

Fortunately, I was sitting in my living room and violence was averted. If I had been standing next to that woman, one of us would be dead. I'm not talking hyberbole here. One of us would have been dead.

My autonomic reaction scares the hell out of me. Not because I had that single experience but because I know that it is autonomic. Some beliefs are so viceral that the connection between offense and reaction bypasses the circuitry of the brain. For many, the Muslim belief that Mohammed is a prophet exists at this most visceral level. For many Catholics, such as myself, our belief that the Pope is the "Vicar of Christ Himself On Earth" also exists at this most visceral level. Play at this level and we really are going to be playing with fire.

Since that experience, I've been spending some "alone time", trying to de-sensitize myself to the blasphemous insults that muslims are hurling at my Pope and my Faith and my Culture. After all, the Church does frown on this type of behavior and encourages us... demands of us that we get over our 'bad' selves.

Give me enough time (say maybe twenty years) and I will have made the adjustment. I will be able to speak past the arrogant ignorance of such unholy fools. I'll even learn to laugh at them the way I do when folks accuse my Church of being the Whore of Babylon.

But today, is not yet that day.

We all know what offends muslims but it might be a good idea for muslims to learn what evokes that same visceral reaction in cultures not their own. It might also be a good idea if they too were to try to curb this autonomic instinct rather than to nurse it into a full blown sin.

I do understand the visceral response. However, by now, everyone must have had the chance to read the text itself, which is both measured and reasonable. The fact that muslims are still raging is an indication that this is no longer a matter of visceral reaction. It has become a temper tantrum.

If reasonable questions about islam can not be raised by non-muslims or can not be answered reasonably by muslims, then islam itself is the problem.

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