Sul nuovo numero di Prospect un articolo di uno studioso musulmano enumera gli errori di fatto compiuti da Benedetto XVI nell’ormai famoso discorso di Ratisbona, e traccia un inquietante parallelo (Abdal Hakim Murad, «The Pope Was Wrong», Prospect, n. 128, novembre 2006):
More troubling for Islam experts was the Vatican team’s evident failure to brief the pontiff. While his knowledge of Catholic doctrine is, unsurprisingly, profound, Muslim theologians have been puzzled by the numerous inaccuracies of his comments on Islam. One that caused distress as well as bewilderment was the claim that a particular Koranic decree – that “there shall be no compulsion in religion” – pre-dated the Prophet’s ascent to political power. A glance at the classical commentaries shows clearly that the verse appeared much later. In fact, based on this verse, classical Islamic law criminalised the forced conversion of Christians and Jews, and Islam never produced an institution to rival the centuries-long reign of the Inquisition. …E dire che c’è chi è convinto (Giuliano Ferrara, Il Foglio, 21 ottobre 2006, p. I) che Joseph Ratzinger sia «il più notevole intellettuale del nostro tempo»...
Another theme of Benedict’s speech that baffled Muslims was his distinction between a Catholic concept of a God who must act in accordance with reason, and the supposed Islamic view that God can only be fully free if he has the ability to act irrationally (see Edward Skidelsky, Prospect November 2006). The Pope acknowledges a spectrum of Catholic views but cites only one Islamic thinker, Ibn Hazm of Cordova, whose view of an essentially non-rational, capricious God was rejected by virtually every other Muslim. Far from teaching an irrational obedience to a non-rational deity, mainstream Islamic theology insists on the systematic use of reason, since the Koran itself asks its audience to deduce the existence of God from his orderly signs in nature. Of the two schools of Sunni orthodoxy, Ash’arism and Maturidism, the latter – the orthodoxy of perhaps 80 per cent of Muslims – is particularly insistent on the rationality of God’s actions.
Benedict’s speech saluted the Greek dimension of the New Testament, and proposed that it supply Europe with a special relationship with Christianity. … Muslims too are heirs to Greek rationality; indeed, one of the first great endeavours of Islamic civilisation was the systematic translation of Greek philosophical classics into Arabic. Advanced Islamic theology is shot through and through with Greek rationalism, so that three quarters of a classical Muslim theology text is usually taken up with logic and other intellectual methods of Greek ancestry.
The idea that Islam is deeply alien to Europe often seems strangely akin to antisemitism. (The BNP [British National Party] was ecstatic over Benedict’s speech.) Jews used to be told, by the church and by all Europe, that they were alien harbingers of a xenophobic creed, enemies of reason and stubbornly resistant to integration. That view is no longer tolerable in polite society. But is it possible that the underlying instinct is not entirely dead?