The Sepoy Mutiny, the Pope on Islam, and President Bush on Torture

Check out this BBC article my mom e-mailed me about the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British. Through archival research, the author found that the mutiny was much more about religion than about nationalism or anti-colonialism, as I had always thought. Turns out that the soldiers all believed the British were trying to convert the nation and curtail religious freedoms, and Hindus and Muslims banded together in mutiny. The narrative about the bullets being greased with pig fat was just too simple – this incident merely triggered religious fears about the British. It is interesting to think about this in the context of today’s secular India, which is plagued by communalism and violence between Hindus and Muslims…

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the Pope’s comments on Islam and only have a brief thought – the Pope shouldn’t have used a quote about Mohammed that has become the flashpoint for all the controversy. As a recognized world leader, it’s fine for him to call for reform among Islamic extremists and support moderate clerics, but to equate Islam with violence, or to ignore centuries of scholarship about the spiritual dimensions of Jihad – and its misuse by terrorists – was just wrong. Unfortunately, this was my fear when Pope Benedict was elevated to become the Pope, based on his strident comments as a Cardinal. One can only hope that he apologizes sincerely and uses his pulpit to promote genuinely positive interfaith dialogue as his predecessor did…

Was it me, or did President Bush seem like he was unraveling just a little bit in today’s news conference? He yelled a lot, didn’t give any straight answers, and generally appeared a little bit on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why did he mention McCain so much if the Senator opposes his proposals? Why wouldn’t he give a straight answer to David Gregory about the danger posed by his proposal to US soldiers captured in combat? And, he raised the specter of Middle Eastern countries using oil as “economic punishment” – revealing that Bush’s foreign policy has never been about liberty and democracy; it’s about protecting our consumer culture – ironically at the price of liberty, democracy, and international human rights…

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2 Responses to “The Sepoy Mutiny, the Pope on Islam, and President Bush on Torture”

  1. notsaussure Says:

    It’s perhaps worth emphasising that the Pope’s speech — available as a .pdf at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/15_09_06_pope.pdf — wasn’t about Islam or jihad; it’s a discussion of changing concepts of the relationship between faith and reason in Catholic theology, and if anyone should be upset by it, it’s the logical positivists.

    The reference to Islam is only brief and incidental, used to start a discussion about forced conversion. It was probably an unfortunate quotation for him to have chosen, but the speech that people are getting upset about — and, which is rather more worrying, the one that many outlets, including the BBC — isn’t anything like the one he gave.

  2. John Says:

    You can hear the Popes speech here:

    http://rapidshare.de/files/33303841/Pope_Ratzinger_Mohammed_Speech__Mix.mp3.html

    Ratzinger Speech 2mb Mp3

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