Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More on the Regensburg Lecture . . .

Yesterday one of Germany's leading opera companies canceled the performance of Mozart's Idomeneo because of fears over Islamic reprisals. The opera features a scene in which the heads of Christ, Buddha and Mohammed are carried onstage.
Kirsten Harms, the director of the Deutsche Oper, said that the Berlin state police had warned of a possible - but not certain - threat and that she decided it would be in the best interest of the safety of the opera house, its employees and patrons to cancel the production.
It is a precaution which circumstances will increasingly dictate. We must not miss the forest for the trees. This is what the Sharia law looks like in its nascent stage.

On a related matter: In the September 19th edition of the London Guardian, Madeleine Bunting wrote a blistering critique of Benedict XVI’s lecture at Regensburg University. The Guardian gave the article, entitled “A man with little sympathy for other faiths,” the following caption:
Pope Benedict is being portrayed as a naive, shy scholar who has accidentally antagonised two major world faiths in a matter of months. In fact he is a shrewd and ruthless operator, argues Madeleine Bunting - and he's dangerous.
The article went on to refer to the “papal stupidity” of making reference in his lecture to the unambiguously negative assessment of Islam by a Byzantine emperor whose world was about to be conquered by Muslim armies. She argued that the pope should have known that his words would cause a violent reaction in the Muslim world, and he should have avoided anything that might have that unwelcome result.
Even the most cursory knowledge of dialogue with Islam teaches - and as a Vatican Cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI would have learned this long ago - that reverence for the Prophet is a non-negotiable.
Yesterday the answer to Ms. Bunting appeared. Lee Harris, writing in the online publication TCS Daily. As it happens, I quoted a piece Mr. Harris wrote in 2005 for the Hoover Institute’s Policy Review in an earlier post – The Shining Example. In his TCS Daily piece, he brought light to bear on what might have seemed to many Ms. Bunting’s interreligious sensitivities:
Suppose that the eminent English biologist Richard Dawkins delivered a speech at the University of Regensburg in which he attacked supporters of Creationism and Intelligent Design theory as "ignorant boobs" -- words that he has already applied in them in a written article. Now, let us imagine that Christian fundamentalists all over the United States, outraged by this inflammatory language, went on a violent rampage. Suppose that they lynched an elderly professor of biology, and attacked biology departments at several universities. Suppose that teachers of high school biology went about in fear of their lives, while many simply quit their jobs.

What kind of article would Madeleine Bunting write about such a hypothetical incident? Do you think she would violently condemn Richard Dawkins, writing something along the lines of:

"Even the most cursory knowledge of dialogue with Creationists teaches...that reverence for the Biblical account of man's creation is non-negotiable. What unites all Christian fundamentalists is a passionate devotion and commitment to the inerrancy of the Holy Bible."

Would Madeleine Bunting refer to Dawkins' speech as illustrating professorial stupidity? Would she imply that he was personally responsible for the death of the elderly American professor of biology, and describe the brutal murder as having been done "in retaliation" for Dawkins' remarks?
Earlier in the article, Harris had said:
The ethical issue that is raised by Madeleine Bunting is no trivial one, and it should gravely concern us all. Morally responsible human beings should always be aware of the consequences of both their words and their actions on others. Yet morally responsible human beings also have another duty, and it is an equally solemn one -- it is the duty that they owe to their intellectual conscience.
He concluded his piece with words addressed to Ms. Bunting:
Those who blame the man who speaks the truth as he sees it, instead of the man who commits murder in retaliation, would be wise to ponder well the moral consequences of their own words.
Read the whole article here.

1 comment:

Mark Gordon said...

Great post, Gil. Lee Harris has a much longer exegesis of Benedict's Regensburg lecture in this week's edition of The Weekly Standard, which I comment on at my blog.