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Reflections on Ramadan: The Pope Must Die
By Carol Turoff
September 28, 2006

Here we go again.

The often-outraged Muslim mob is once again garbed in full and bloody rage. This time the offense involves comments made by Pope Benedict XVI during a lecture. Quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who described the prophet Mohammed's view of forced conversion by the sword, as "evil and inhuman." The words caused mayhem within the Islamic world, escalating to firebombed churches and culminating with the murder of an Italian nun working in a Somali hospital.

In London, extremists have declared that those offending Islam must die. "Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment," declared Anjem Choudary, a lawyer who organized the brutal violence that occurred after the publication of Danish cartoons deemed offensive earlier this year.

So now, the Pope must die.

"We swear to send you people who adore death as much as you adore life," was the not-so-veiled threat, evoking images of zealot suicide bombers. In response, the Vatican sent emissaries to Muslim countries attempting to quell the chaos.

Though Pope Benedict issued a rare papal apology, American Muslims joined the fray, deeming the apology inadequate. Ahmed Rehab, Chicago director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was quoted as saying, "Pope Benedict's apology is incomplete because it expresses remorse for Muslim anger to his questionable selection of quotations, rather than his own poor judgment in choosing them." The Los Angeles Times editorially chastised the Pope, but was curiously hushed regarding the threats against him.

The past is prologue. Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Aca, critically wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981. Frail and ailing, he was also targeted by Al Qaeda-funded militants during a visit to the Philippines in 1995.

Pope Benedict's efforts at deflecting further unrest have met with disfavor. His apologies, it seems, are not quite good enough. An Iranian newspaper wrote his words were, "code words for a new crusade." Turkish clerics decreed his contrition wasn't properly articulated, suggesting the Pope fall on his knees before leading Muslim clerics in issuing his regrets.

Radical Muslims illogically promote the idea that the war against terrorism is a war against Islam. Many mosques seethe as hotbeds of anti-American hatred, yet we hear little opposition from the faithful—even the "home-grown." The same is true in European counties where Islamic communities spawn violence. Certainly, not all Muslims follow this mantra, but where is the outcry in opposition to the militant fanatics in their midst?

Islam cannot be discussed by non-Muslims without insult being inferred. Their standards regarding freedom of speech differ greatly from Westerners. Islamic law stipulates Muslims can peacefully co-exist with Christians and Jews only if the non-Muslims acknowledge their second-class status; agreeing to such harsh restrictions in numerous areas of society, as the inability to hold authority over Muslims, being subject to imposition of extra taxes, and not insulting Muhammad. A perceived slur, even unintentional, results in the revocation of the non-Muslim's conditional co-existence.

We are in the midst of a clash of civilizations, in which one side desires supreme dominance. As Muslim populations swell throughout Europe and the United States, this crisis will exacerbate. As long as parents find pride in their children's martyrdom as human missiles, with no sane voices calling for a halt to the madness, implications for the future are terrifying. It is inconceivable that Christians or Jews would behead those with whom they disagree, or celebrate their holiest of days with a call for the execution of the religious leader of another faith; though such actions are commonplace for practitioners of the "religion of peace."

If we care about our progeny, we must address this malevolence with swift certainty. Otherwise, how do we answer the generations we leave exposed to irrational fundamentalist zealots posing as credible religious agents?

Carol Turoff is a former two-term member of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. During her eight years on the commission, she participated in the selection of four of the five current Arizona Supreme Court Justices as well as 17 judges on both Division I and II of the Arizona Court of Appeals. Appointed by two governors, Turoff served with three chairing Supreme Court Justices.

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