Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Faith and intolerance

Robert Redeker,  a philosophy teacher,  is in hiding in France after criticising Islam.

Friday,  29 Sept.,  I heard an interview on Europe 1 with Robert Redeker.  There has been a little coverage in the anglophone media.  Much citing of Voltaire: 'Je ne suis pas d'accord avec ce que vous dites,  mais je suis prêt à me battre jusqu'à la mort pour votre droit à le dire.'

The article in question had been published in Le Figaro some days before.  By Saturday,  as someone on Le Figaro's forum complains,  the article had been taken offline.  A search takes you to other opinion pieces with a link to the article,  but the links point back to the France front page.  But at least this gives the title of the piece - "Face aux intimidations islamistes". From there it is simple enough to find several websites that give the text:  for example,

Contrary to the passages which have been continually quoted,  the core of the argument in the Papal Address at the University of Regensburg against Islam is the following:
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this:  Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor,  Theodore Khoury,  observes: For the emperor,  as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy,  this statement is self-evident.  But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent.  His will is not bound up with any of our categories,  even that of rationality. 
Islam is not the only thing that Pope Benedict "attacks":
The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a de-Hellenization of Christianity [..] De-Hellenization first emerges in connection with the fundamental postulates of the Reformation in the 16th century.  Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology,  the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy,  that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result,  faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system.  [..] The principle of "sola scriptura," on the other hand,  sought faith in its pure,  primordial form,  as originally found in the biblical Word.
Protestants no doubt would respond to this through dialogue,  rather than violence,  or threats of violence.  As indeed would those who hold to 'a reason which is deaf to the divine'.  (Personally,  I don't think I am deaf to the divine; I just don't believe in it.)

Another interview on Europe 1,  Monday (2 Oct),  this time with Bernard-Henri Lévy,  who does not agree with Redeker's ideas,  but,  again,  defends his right to express them. 

The affair can be compared to the Berlin Opera cancelling performances of Mozart's Idomeneo.  

Tariq Ramadan accused some muslim countries of instrumentalisation in their criticism of the Pope's lecture (news on France Inter,  19:00 CET 20 Sept.).  I could not find any further details of this.  However,  Christopher Caldwell wrote about it in the FT of 30 Sept.  ("At the borders of free speech"), noting the US state department's recent announcement that it would not revisit a 2004 decision to revoke Mr Ramadan's visa (see here and here) .  Tariq Ramadan contributed to an online forum in Le Monde this week and 'writing in the Swiss daily Le Temps,  Mr Ramadan accused undemocratic Muslim governments of having fomented much of the criticism of the Pope.' Mr Ramadan is barred from countries like Tunisia,  though,  as Caldwell comments 'whether those countries fear him as a liberal moderniser or a religious radical is subject to debate.'

Caldwell's article was not "Subscriber's Only" when I accessed it,  but just in case,  see Controverse autour du serpent Ramadan...  Curiously enough,  this blogger,  even as he quotes Voltaire in his masthead,  calls Tariq Ramadan a 'serpent'...


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