Pope Benedict XVI's speech last week was, of course, excellent - measured, rational and almost irrefutable. He explained that unless faith is grounded in reason, it is dangerously prone to violence. If you can't win an argument with reason then there is always the temptation to fight it out instead.
The resulting fuss, riots and possible murder from Islamicists rather proved his point. However, the treatment of the row in the western media showed the Pope is right about another matter of concern to him - relativism. Reading some of the related comment articles (Madeleine Bunting, Will Hutton and Karen Armstrong being three egregious examples), I realised just how much trouble we are in. Almost no one dares to face up to the fact that the Islamic reaction shows us that we have a serious problem. The west is built on freedom of speech. Thus, I have no objection to the articles (mainly in the Guardian) by Moslems who want to defend their religion, even though the articles are packed full of historical inaccuracies and modern wishful thinking. But for the European left to side with Islam against freedom of speech is nothing less than suicidal. Where are the immortal words, usually attributed to Voltaire "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The Islamicist version: "If I disagree with what you say, I have the right to put you to death."
So kudos to Andrew Brown. I recently applauded this article of his on Richard Dawkins. He has also provided one of the few careful analyses of the Pope's speech. If you read nothing else about this matter, read Brown's article. One other ground for hope: The BBC's Have Your Say page is nearly unanimous in its condemnation of the Islamicist reaction. It's just a shame the BBC's editors didn't take that on board.
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