Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (top center)
Many Arab Muslims remain critical of the pope's previous comments and positions, and have greeted his current visit to the region cooly. The pope is set to visit the disputed city of Jerusalem, the occupied Palestinian Territories, and Israel.
Islamists (defined here as Muslims who believe that their religion and its teachings in scripture, law, and traditions are relevant and should play a role in the formation of the political system of a modern nation-state...thus, they are also inherently "modernists" too) are critical of Benedict XVI's visit, calling it provocative. For more on this, see the bottom of this post.
Among the most vocal and vitriolic criticism of the pope has come from the Palestinian-Jordanian Salafi scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, arguably the most influential jihadi scholar living today. He was the former teacher of the late Jordanian leader of al-Qa'ida in the Land of the Two Rivers (Iraq), Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, though the two had a major falling out in 2005 over the latter's bloody campaign of bombings and attacks directed at Iraqi Arab Shi'is, Kurds, and government forces, a campaign which al-Maqdisi opposed.
Al-Maqdisi is a prolific scholar and has published hundreds of letters, essays, books, statements, and studies. He maintains an influential Salafi jihadi (Note: Most Salafis are not militants) web site and digital library, Minbar al-Tawhid wa'l Jihad (Pulpit of Unity & Jihad). He has penned a lengthy essay criticizing the pope and his visit to the Middle East entitled, "To the Slave of the Cross, Pope of the Vatican, Benedict XVI: Your House is Made of Glass, so Do Not Throw Stones at the People [Muslims]." It was published on Minbar al-Tawhid, and was quickly linked-to on the major jihadi online discussion forums, including al-Falujah al-Islamiyyah and al-Qimmah al-Islamiyyah.
Below are selections from the essay's introduction. I have taken the quoted section (in green font) from the official English translation of the essay as produced by Minbar al-Tawhid, and presumably approved by al-Maqdisi. Other than shortening one passage, I have not edited these selections, either for content or grammar/syntax.
"With the visit of the Vatican's pope to our area in a few days, we are not able to stay silent or close our eyes or overlook what this man has uttered of falsehood, lying and slander upon our Religion and Prophet, Peace be upon Him, or to the fabrications that leaked out of his impure vessel (his mind), a vessel that wouldn't be purified even if it was washed seven times, once with dust!
We are a people who, just as we don’t forget those who showed goodness to us and we see it as a duty to pay them back even after a while, then likewise, we do not and will never forget those who offend our Religion and our Prophet, Peace be upon Him, and likewise we see it as our duty to pay them back. It is compulsory on us even after a while, everyone according to his ability. And those who aren’t capable right away wait until they are able to, and that is because it remains a Shar'î duty upon the Ummah, and its not for the Ummah to abandon this duty by any means.
The duty of defending the Prophet, Peace be upon Him, is a designated right upon the Ummah. Rather, it is two rights; a right specific to Allâh, which He might overlook and forgive after Tawbah and turning to Him in repentance, and a personal right of the Prophet, Peace be upon Him, which he may forgive, as these were his noble manners if he was alive. But, since he has passed away, Peace be upon Him, then it is not permissible for the Ummah as a whole to surrender his right or forgive the offense done to him, may my mother and father be sacrificed for him, Peace be upon Him.
Offenses were uttered by this man that is coming in the lecture he gave at the
And I mentioned the offense committed by the pope to one of the representatives of the International Red Cross organization in one of his visits to the prison. He was a catholic, and he demonstrated regret over these offenses and he rejected them and said, “We do not agree with it and we have nothing to do with it.”
The Ummah can not pretend to forget these offenses or forgive them, as the right to forgive them does not belong to anyone from the Ummah, but only to the person the right belongs to himself, may the blessings and peace of my Lord be upon him. Therefore, whoever is welcoming this transgressive liar and dignifies him and honors him and overlooks his offenses towards the Prophet of Islâm and towards his Religion, then it is impossible for him to be a person from the Ummah of Muhammad by any means."Al-Maqdisi, among other issues, criticizes the pope's views about Islam as a "religion of the sword" (an ahistorical, polemical charge...though it is somewhat ironic that al-Maqdisi is the critic here), and says the pope, in addition to lying about history with regard to Islam, is ignorant of his own religion's bloody history:
"As for his saying that the Prophet, Peace be upon Him, came with evil things like spreading his message by the sword, then this is a lie known not only by the one who reads about the rulings of Islâm and knows its history, but also by everyone who contemplates about the streets of Europe today...
We understand the rage that the pope and everyone who reviles Islâm choke on when they see those sights spreading day by day in the streets of their countries and in any directions he turns. The cry continually gets louder when the pain gets stronger.
But as for the periods ruled by the braggers of tolerance today and those who chirp about interfaith dialogue, then the courts of inquisition have witnessed what can't be denied or lied about by anyone, and likewise the crusades that are mobilized and steered by the popes and priests, who lead them personally with the cross at the front.
As for the times of globalization and unipolar rule, the tragedies of the invasions of
The ignorance of this priest is not limited to his own religion and Islâm alone, but he is also ignorant about the present reality, and about history and geography. He is even ignorant or pretends to be ignorant about the history of his own church.
Did this man forget the massacres of thousands of thousands of Protestants by the Catholics in his own country? The details of this event don't concern me so the Protestants can remind him of it themselves.
What concerns me is something that he forgot or pretended to forget about it in all his talk about the intellect and humanity not accepting the spread of a religion by violence and by the sword.
It was the courts of the Inquisition that were set up for the Muslims of Andalusia in order to turn them away from their Religion after the fall of Al-Andalus. Your catholic grandfathers burned and killed those they would find with a Qur'ân. They would even kill the one who would take a bath on Friday or on 'Eid! Your ancestors, because of their filthiness, prohibited the Muslims from bathing, and a decree was issued ordering the hanging of anyone who they found had taken a bath in to prevent the Muslims from performing Salâh (prayer).
They would burn with fire, and torture, then kill and cut the limbs of men, elderly, women and even children in order to force them and leave Islâm for Christianity.
Haven't you heard about that or read it from your Christian historians, o spiteful priest? And how are you ignorant of this or deny it when your historians have admitted to it and some of your churches apologized about it with shame?
Didn’t you say, o ignorant priest, that the story of our noble Prophet is free of any humanity and intellect, and that it contains nothing but evil inhuman things?
Whose life story is it that deserves to be described with humanity and wisdom more than the Prophet's one? And he is the one who, when he conquered Makkah, said to its people who had harassed him and tortured him and his companions, and expelled them from the most beloved land to them, “Go, for you are free.”
Does Christianity's dark history – past and present – contain anything like this with those who differed with them in religion? Even if they were from the Christians themselves?
So which religion is it that spread through violence and by the sword; rather, through burning [others]?!
Read, if you wish, the book of Gustav Lobon, The Civilization of the Arabs. He mentioned that, “The courts of Inquisition burned from among the Muslims an amount that cannot be enumerated. And Bishop Bleda suggested cutting the heads of all Arabs who don't embrace Christianity without exception, including women and children. And like this proceeded the killing or expulsion of three million Arabs.”
And this was despite the covenant that was in place by them when
Naturally, and as we are told by all the books of history that the pope was ignorant of when he spoke about “the religion that spread by violence and the sword,” the covenant was nullified completely. The Arabic language was banned and so were the prayer and the Athân and so on. And all the children, women, and men who were killed were burned for refusing to abandon Tawhîd for the trinity. And cardinal archbishop Augsiminus burned tens of thousands of Islamic books in addition to the people. Gustav Lobon says, “The archbishop thought that by burning what he was able to gather of the books of his enemies, the Arabs – 80,000 books – that he would wipe out their mention in Al-Andalus forever. But he did not know that the influence the Muslims left behind, which fills all of
And he says, “Then they forced the Muslims who gave in to the compulsion to become Christian, except that, for most of them, this religious belief was by name only, as the Muslims practiced the Islâmic Religion secretly. And there were many prohibitions, from them, prohibiting circumcision and standing in the direction of the Qiblah and bathing and Ghusl and wearing Arab clothing. So, if it became known that someone was bathing on the day of Jum'ah, they would issue an order of death for him! And likewise if they found a Mus'haf in his home, or if he stayed away from food during Ramathân, or if he stayed away from drinking alcohol and eating swine. And they would expose the 'Awrah of those they suspected was Muslim, and if they found him to be circumcised, or if anyone in his family was likewise circumcised, then death was his end as well as his family's.” End quote.
What do you call this, o you priest who is ignorant of history? And why do you and all those who speak about terrorism and global religious persecution forget about this terrorism and these massacres? And in particular when some of the Muslims attempt to implement the rule of their Lord's Legislation?
So if you forgot all of this or made yourself ignorant of it, then we will never forget it!
Or is this what you call freedom of religion and interfaith dialogue?
But why even travel into the depths of history?
Did you forget, o you ignorant priest, what happened in this era of ours in the Indonesian islands of Maluku upon the hands of your Christian flock there, of slaughter and burning and killing of thousands of Muslims? Thousands of Muslims were slaughtered and burned and they cut the heads and limbs of the Muslims and mutilated their bodies, and their stomachs were slit open. And a large part of it remains documented and preserved in photographs.
And not far from us is what happened upon the hands of the extreme Christian Serbs in
This is the dialogue between civilizations that you call to... And this is the brotherhood of faiths that you conceal from the heedless in our countries."
Slave of the Cross...
...To view the English translation, Click HERE.
Slave of the Cross (Arabic)
...To View the Arabic version of the essay, Click HERE.
The press story referred to earlier is here:
By Suleiman al-Khalidi
Reuters [May 7, 2009]
AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordanian Islamist leaders on Thursday condemned Pope Benedict's visit to the Middle East, saying it was provocative because he has not apologized for offending comments implying Islam was violent and irrational.
They said the pope, who arrives in Jordan on Friday on the first leg of a tour including Israel and the Palestinian territories, still owed them an apology for hinting Islam was violent and irrational in a 2006 speech in Regensburg.
Jordan's Roman Catholic Church urged Islamists on Wednesday to welcome the pope despite their earlier criticism of his visit. A senior Amman official acknowledged some discontent but said the government would warmly welcome Benedict.
"The present Vatican pope is the one who issued severe insults to Islam and did not offer any apology to the Muslims," Zaki Bani Rusheid, head of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest mainstream Islamist party, told Reuters.
"Ignoring Muslim sentiments will only block the healing of wounds his statements caused," said another Islamist figure, Jamil Abu Baker.
For many Arabs in the region, the pope's stated mission of peace and reconciliation is futile without a sufficient gesture to Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.
This was even more pressing in Jordan, a country where a large portion of its 5.6 million are of Palestinian origin, they or their parents having been expelled or fled to Jordan in the fighting that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948.
"It's the same pope who apologized to the Jews about the Holocaust and now comes to the region but says nothing about the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe)," Bani Rusheid added. Arabs call Israel's creation the "Nakba" (catastrophe).
In his appeal on Wednesday, Amman's Auxiliary Bishop Selim Sayegh said: "The Holy Father did not intend to insult anybody (in his Regensburg speech) and his trip to Turkey was proof of the steps he has taken for interreligious dialogue."
The senior official, who asked not to be named, said Jordan was satisfied with the state of Catholic-Muslim dialogue and appreciated Benedict's readiness to visit a mosque here.
The Islamists said the pope faced a tougher task in the May 8-15 trip than his predecessor Pope John Paul, whose historic journey in 2000 was admired by Jews and Muslims alike.
"What is needed from the pope is to have the courage to apologize," Bani Rusheid said. Benedict has expressed regret for misunderstandings over Regensburg but not for the speech itself.
All ears will be on what he says when he visits the Al Hussein bin Talal mosque in Amman and addresses Muslim religious leaders and other dignitaries there. His only other visit to a mosque was in Istanbul only weeks after the Regensburg speech.
Jordanian Islamists also condemned a visit to Jerusalem's memorial to Holocaust victims, demanding a comparable gesture to "victimized Palestinians" to prove he was even-handed.
"We ask if the Vatican pope will visit Gaza to explore how humanity is being violated," Jamil Abu Bakr said.
The outlawed Hizb ut-Tahrir Party issued a statement urging Jordanian authorities to withdraw their invitation.
"All Muslims should raise their voices high to say that any one who insults our Prophet is not welcome on this land in any way," said the radical party, which seeks to unite Muslims into a pan-Islamic state but says its means are peaceful.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan)