For David (Peace be upon his dead blog). The reply appears in the Have Your Say section of the 26th September. Unfortunately for some weird reason direct links to the section do not work and will only open the maltastar main page. So here it is (after the next few comment paragraphs). In case you are wondering, Imam El Sadi's original comment appeared on the Maltastar the day before.
Incidentally, I agree with Fausto that Maltastar's comments section is rather too open and anyone can write on it without too much censorship. I am not too sure that that is a bad thing - so long as the right of reply still exists. Such an open comments section is the closest we get to real web opinion columnists, since none of the mainstream papers have hooked on the idea.
Which also reminds me of this. Much as we may be happy that a fellow blogger is actually nominated for some kind of award, I feel that the Maltese blogosphere has failed to advance sufficiently in the same manner as other blogospheres in the world. What I mean is the influence of blogs is marginal to non-existent in Malta and they have failed to penetrate the realm of public opinion.
I appreciate the work of the nominee but frankly it will remain a blog that operates on the basis of a google blog search with the term "Malta" thrown in. All too often the linked sites have been up on the net for ages - which also denies the blog posting any immediacy which might be remotely linked to journalism. Last year's award for Pierre was merited in the sense that it was awarded for a couple of interviews that appeared on a site. Now we might be stretching our imagination a little. So as I said, this years nomination from the blogosphere smacks more of a failure of the blogosphere than anything else. In the battle vs conservative media we are losing ground.
And in case you were wondering that this is a case of sour grapes (because that is how us Maltese tend to think)... I do not consider myself a journalist - so I do not see any way how J'accuse could ever be considered for such an award. On the other hand the only sour grapes I have is that we have not been able to convince mainstream media to add blog columns (comments and all) to their sites - and get employed by them as ethereal columnists. I know one or two bloggers who could fit that bill easily.
Ah yes. Here is the comment to Imam El Sadi:
On reading Imam El Sadi's Comment "Mutual respect: The foundation of permanent friendship", Jacques Rene` Zammit wrote:
I welcome Imam El Sadi's comments regarding the Pope's speech at Regensburg. It is only through efforts such as these where a reaction is put down on paper and there is an engagement towards reasoned dialogue that we can start to avoid fiery and violent reactions such as the world has all too often witnessed.
I am afraid that the Imam's comments, as good-willed as they may be, are also based on the wave of misinformation that quickly followed the Pope's speech. This misinformation is based on the wrongful (and in some cases malicious) attribution of intentions as well as misinterpretation of the speech itself that was entitled Faith, Reason and the University: memories and Reflections.
My first reaction when the news broke out was to read the Pope's speech itself since although I do not count myself as a fervent Catholic I still believed that Benedict should be given the benefit of the doubt. The result was astounding. The Pope's speech had one intention, in the Pope's own words: "(...) not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application... Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. "
It is therefore surprising that a speech intended to build a dialogue of cultures and religions would include offensive material. An intelligent theologian like Benedict would know better.
Imam El Sadi might rightly question the necessity to quote from a Medieval text. The justification lies not in the utility or otherwise of the demonstrative tool that Benedict intended to use but rather in the public perception (including all misunderstandings) that Benedict and his entourage might have predicted.
The dialogue between the Emperor and the Persian Muslim was an illustration of the possibility of dialogue as well as of the perceptions that the religions might have of each other. At no point does the Pope seem to endorse the Emperor's reasonings - not even in the controversial statement which is introduced by the Pope as being "brusque", which is not a positive qualification in any case!
In an effort to encourage reasonable dialogue it would also be encouraging to avoid comparisons such as "Imagine what would be the reaction of our Christian brothers and sisters if a prominent Muslim spiritual leader used the same context of that statement regarding Jesus, peace be upon him?" This kind of question will encourage contests of comparing atrocities. Where do we begin? The crusades in the name of Christ? The modern face of fundamentalism? The dead nun in Somalia? The innocent victims in the war on terror? What kind of dialogue is that Imam?
As for the meaning of 'Jihad', Imam El Sadi states that: "In his lecture, His Holiness the Pope, interpreted ‘Jihad’ as holy war, a term which does not exist neither in the Holy Qur’an nor in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the two main sources of Islam." In the full text of the speech (available here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/15_09_06_pope.pdf) one does not find any mention of the word 'Jihad'. The attribution to the Pope of the Emperor's description of Holy War is wrong. At no point does the Pope endorse the Emperor's statement. This wrongful attribution of endorsement is as though I would be attributed the intention of George Bush if I quoted a statement of his. Quoting someone does not mean endorsing his beliefs. Even more if the purpose of the quote is to illustrate the contrary.
As a layman, I would like to appeal to religious leaders who share the world we live in to act more reasonably and continue to engage in reasoned dialogue that rejects all forms of violence.
There is no place for violence in religion. There is no place for violence anywhere.