His essential point was the resistance of Islamic thought to Greek conceptions of reason. It is indeed the crux of the matter, and reveals how hard it will be for Islam to have the kind of reformation it needs if it is to become compatible with the rest of the modern world. Here's a great post on the subject. Money quote:
The high culture of Islam has been exposed throughout its history to the "blandishments" of Hellenistic philosophy and rationality. Within two hundred years of the emergence of Islam (Sadr al-Islam) there was a fateful competition in learned circles over this very issue, the issue of whether or not Islam would be saturated with Hellenistic thought as Christianity was, and is. This contest was won by the pietists, traditionalists and scripturalists who in my opinion have bound Islam (especially Sunni Islam) in golden chains ever since. The losers in this struggle, and here I am thinking of the "Mu'tazileen," were variously disposed of and others of similar inclination toward "reform" were later exiled or marginalized. That process continues to this day in one form or another although there is now some measure of debate in learned circles as to what it means to be Muslim in the 21st Century.
As a result of domination of the religion by the pietists, the view of Islam and the world that is held by a great many Muslims does not contain much of the traditions of freedom of opinion and discourse which have generally dominated much of our lives and history in the West. (Yes. I know about the Nazis and the Inquisition) In the idea of Islam held by the masses, no one in Christendom (or anywhere else) has the right to say anything that raises the possibility that Islamic practise or past belief might have been in error theologically. Such expressions are simply not acceptable to those who think of Christianity as the "house of war." As a result, Benedict's illustrative use of this ancient quotation in his argument in favor of Hellenistic thought became for them a declaration of hostility and disrespect by someone whom they think of as the "leader" of the "kuffar" (the unbelievers, the polytheists).
Hence the fact that offense is a one-way street for today's Islam. This is ultimately a problem within Islam; but in son far as it may mean that the West is subjected to physical violence and attack, it is a question for us as well. And we must defend ourselves and our rational civilization. Like the old priest said.
(Photo: Wolfgang Radke/AP.)
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