Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam?

Book by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and Marcello Pera

Reviewed and refuted by Dr. Naseer Tahir

This book is a compilation of a dialogue between his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera, a former professor of Philosophy of Science at University of Pisa and elected President of the Italian Senate. The aim of the dialogue is a polite and seemingly civilized attempt to reach to an intelligent audience, with the hope of convincing them of exclusivity of Christianity and Western culture. The premise being that the present state of affairs in the world, the apparent superiority of Western culture, is historically unique and Islamic culture and its followers are relics of the past. It also makes an appeal to Europeans in general and Americans in particular to stay away from Relativistic attitudes. Stated simply: do not allow Islamic ideas to flourish because they are a danger to Western culture, Democracy and Christianity. The book stipulates interestingly, that the Western culture and Christian religion are to be seen as one and the same thing. The comparison is then drawn between Islamic religion and Western culture, and in so doing has compared apples and oranges. Conclusions are based upon fictitious ideology that present day Europe is entirely a product of Christianity and thus based upon teachings of Christianity. Islam and its followers are far removed from all this. The Pope claims on the page 80 of this book:

“We do not know how things will go in Europe in the future. The Charter of Fundamental Rights may be a first step, a sign that Europe is once again consciously seeking its soul. Here we must agree with Toynbee that the fate of a society always depends on its creative minorities. Christian believers should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority, and help Europe to reclaim what is best in its heritage and to thereby place itself at the service of all humankind.”

We believe that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is that creative minority, given its 125 year non-violent tradition, its constant emphasis on Universal Brotherhood, its genuine interpretation of pluralistic message of the Holy Quran and the rich tradition of annual Hajj in Islam. This is also a Divine promise!

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Cross or the Crescent: Foundation for our global society?

This book is a compilation of a dialogue between his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera, a former professor of Philosophy of Science at University of Pisa and  elected President of the Italian Senate. The aim of the dialogue is a polite and seemingly civilized attempt to reach to an intelligent audience, with the hope of convincing them of exclusivity of Christianity and Western culture. The premise being that the present state of affairs in the world, the apparent superiority of Western culture, is historically unique and Islamic culture and its followers are relics of the past. It also makes an appeal to Europeans in general and Americans in particular to stay away from Relativistic attitudes. Stated simply: do not allow Islamic ideas to flourish because they are a danger to Western culture, Democracy and Christianity. The book stipulates interestingly, that the Western culture and Christian religion are to be seen as one and the same thing. The comparison is then drawn between Islamic religion and Western culture, and in so doing has compared apples and oranges. Conclusions are based upon fictitious ideology that present day Europe is entirely a product of Christianity and thus based upon teachings of Christianity. Islam and its followers are far removed from all this.

What is Relativism? As explained by Mr. Pera himself:

“… to proclaim that there are no grounds for our values and no solid proof or arguments establishing that any one thing is better or more valid than another.

Relativism stems from an irrefutable fact, the existence of a plurality of values, …”[i]

The authors see the Relativism as an act of self-censorship, as if Islam is inherently defective and people in the west should say so openly and loudly.

“Islam has not produced its own political model, economic system, autonomous public institutions, divisions between family and the state, equal rights for women, or community of states founded on anything except religion …”[ii]

Equally disturbing for author is lack of European recognition of historical contributions of Christianity:

“When the proposal was made to insert a reference to Christian roots of Europe in the preamble to the European Constitutional Treaty, it was rejected …”

While putting down Islam, the Western superiority is established by promoting ideas as following:

“Modern science, for example, is a western invention that has universal value. So, too, are liberalism, separation of society and state or church and state, the rule of law, the welfare state, democracy, as well as “universal” conventions, declarations, and bills of rights. These and other institutions originate in and are characteristic of the West, particularly of Western Europe… and claim to have universal value.”[iii]

The authors completely fail to acknowledge countless contributions to these enterprises by Islam and the Muslims that have been extensively covered in different volumes of Alislam-eGazette.[iv] [v] [vi]  After reading such statements, in this book, one wonders, how highly educated men could be ignorant of the heights achieved by Islam in the past and its contributions into making of the Renaissance of Europe;  The scientific achievements and its contribution into modern science; political systems and its influences into making of the modern world. One such example is what Arnold Toynbee articulated in the following words:

“The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue”

Democracy, which the West presents as a panacea for all problems in Muslim world, is an idea of modern times, and not a perfect idea. Here, a quote from Derrida mentioned on page 17 of the book is worth mentioning:

“The fascist and Nazi totalitarianism have come to power as a result of electoral dynamics that, from a formal point of view, are considered normal and democratic”.

In the book, Vargas Llosa is mentioned as saying:

“Democracy is an event that provokes yawns in the countries in which rule of law exists.”[vii]

It is recognized by both authors that church attendance is decreasing and people are becoming indifferent to dogmatic issues. Still euphoric from past Christian and western achievements, a subtle feeling of pessimism about future of Christianity is apparent from a proposal of new religions: a non-denominational Christian religion.  The hope is to attract all to a common platform.

“There is a clear comparison between today’s situation and the decline of the Roman Empire.”[viii]

“Islam has been reborn, in part because of the new material wealth acquired by the Islamic countries, but mainly because of people’s conviction that Islam can provide a valid spiritual foundation to their lives.”[ix]

Perhaps due to jealousy from past events or fear of future possibilities, there is inherent undercurrent of disliking or even hatred for Muslims. Let us look at some of the causes that initiated Christians disliking of Muslims. While all Muslims have historically felt Christians as brothers in religion and “people of the Book,” Christians have a deep rooted disliking to Muslims. Perhaps it started on November 25, 1095:

“Pope Urban II summoned the first Crusade calling for a holy war against Islam. He urged knights of Europe to stop fighting each other and to make common cause against these enemies of God. The Turks, he cried, are “an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God.”  Killing these godless monsters was a holy act: it was a Christian duty to “exterminate this vile race from our lands.”

There was an extraordinary response to Urban’s  appeal…in the spring of 1096 five armies of about 60,000 soldiers…they were followed in the autumn by five more armies of 100,000 men and a crown of priests and pilgrims.

…they sewed crosses across their clothes  and marched to the land where Jesus had died to save the world. It was a devotional pilgrimage at the same time as it was a war of extermination.”[x]

And again:

“In 1096 some of the crusaders attacked the Jewish communities along the Rhine river valley, and they finally conquered Jerusalem in July 1099, they massacred some thirty thousand Jews and Muslims; the blood was said to have come to the knees of their horses.”[xi]

The undercurrent of the hatred started by Pope Urban II in 1095 still prevails today.

Similarly, during the Spanish inquisition, the good Christian values were practiced:

“On January 2, 1492, Columbus was present at the conquest of Grenada, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe, by the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. On March 31, the monarch signed the Edict of expulsion that forced Jews of Al-Andalus (Islamic name for Spain) to choose between baptism and deportation; in 1499, the Muslims inhabitants of Spain would be given the same choice… so the victory of Grenada was followed by an act of ethnic cleansing.”[xii]

Is historical status of Christianity unique? Has no other civilization or culture achieved anything in history closely resembling that of Christianity? Let us see what Karen Armstrong has to say about it:

“During the eighth and ninth centuries, the Muslims in the Abbasid Empire had enjoyed a cultural florescence, inspired by the encounter with ancient Greek, Syriac, and Sanskrit texts, which had recently been translated into Arabic…Muslims began to study astronomy, alchemy, medicine, and mathematics with such success that they made impressive discoveries of their own and developed their own tradition of what they called falsfah (philosophy).”[xiii]

Both authors like to claim uniqueness that Christianity and its product, Western Culture, accepts other cultures and religions with respect, failing to acknowledge achievements of others.  Let me share the tolerance of the early Muslims in the words of Karen Armstrong:

“When the Muslims conquered a people, they did not attempt to force conversion on their new subjects. Mohammad had given an eloquent example of the Islamic principle of sanctity of the individual conscious when he conquered Mecca without bloodshed and put no pressure on the Meccans to convert. The Koran taught that the people of the Book were to be respected, and within the Islamic empire Jews and Christians were allowed full religious liberty, as were the Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus.”[xiv]

This attitude is echoed by all authors, most of them not Muslim, and there is no such example of such tolerance except in modern times, in other cultures. For followers of other religions, such magnanimous attitudes were to be learnt from secularism and not by following their own religion. Christianity, even though based upon love and forgiveness, practiced forced conversion, slaughter and extermination, and intolerance throughout the history. The Spanish inquisition is just one example.

The words like “Christian value” and “Western Culture” are echoed repeatedly in the book. One wonders what they are referring to:  broken marriages, teenage pregnancy, divorce rates, living together out of wedlock, and sexual promiscuity.  I am sure these are not representatives of Christian values? These constitute the western culture of present day and are far removed from original Christian values. For the unbiased mind, it may come as a shock that the “Christian Values” and “Islamic Value” are very close to each other. Both promote family life and marriage system; frown upon sexual promiscuity and out of wedlock births; respect of other human beings and sanctity of life.

I am respectful of the authors and their obvious yearnings for supremacy and ascendancy of “Christian value”. It will happen but only indirectly: it will happen with ascendancy of Islam.

The New World Order belongs to Islam.

In his book, The New World Order of Islam, Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad has explained in details the ills of socialism, capitalism, and democracy. The New World Order is explained by the Promised Messiah in Al-Wasiyyat:

“I assure you that the New Order will not be inaugurated by Mr. Churchill or Mr. Roosevelt.  Declarations   like the Atlantic Charter will accomplish nothing. They are full of defects and shortcomings. New Orders are always established in the world by Prophets raised for the purpose by God. They have no bitterness against the rich and no bias for the poor. They are neither of the East, nor of the West. They are the Messengers of God and proclaim the teachings which furnish the foundations of true peace. Today also, peace will be established only through the teachings of the Promised Messiah (as) the foundationsof which were laid in Al-Wasiyyat in 1905. We should all realize the significance of Al-Wasiyyat.

I shall now proceed to explain how this object has been fulfilled and how these four principles have been built into the New Order, the foundations of which have been laid under Divine Command and in strict accordance with the Islamic teachings, by the person appointed by God for the guidance of mankind in this age as a Deputy of the Holy Prophet (sa). Bolshevism, Socialism and National Socialism have all come into being after the Great War of 1914—18. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin have all risen to power after the last war. All these new movements, which claim to have devised new plans for the relief of mankind, arose out of the conditions of 1919—21. The appointed one of God, however, laid the foundations of the New Order in l905 in his Al-Wasiyyat.

In short, all these secular movements support and strengthen nationalism, but the Promised Messiahas has devised a system which tends to promote universal brotherhood.”[xv]

All this will be in fulfillment of the prophecy in the Holy Quran that is mentioned in slightly different words at least three times:

“He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, even if those who associate partners with God hate it.”[xvi] [xvii] [xviii]

References:


[i] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 11.

[ii] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 7.

[iii] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 2.

[vii] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 48-49.

[viii] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 66.

[ix] Joseph Ratzinger Now Pope Benedict XVI, and Marcello Pera. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam. Basic Books, 2006. Page 64.

[x] Karen Armstrong. Holy War. Anchor Books, New York, 2001.  Page 1.

[xi] Karen Armstrong. The Case for God. Random House, Inc New York,  2009. Page 139.

[xii] Karen Armstrong. The Case for God. Random House, Inc New York, 2009. Page 162.

[xiii] Karen Armstrong. The Case for God. Random House, Inc New York, 2009. Page 135.

[xiv] Karen Armstrong. Holy War. Anchor Books, New York, 2001.  Page 43.

[xv] Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad.  New World order of Islam.  Online edition: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/newworldorder/Nizam-e-Nau.pdf

[xvi] Al Quran 61:10.

[xvii] Al Quran 9:33.

[xviii] Al Quran 48:29.

5 replies

  1. Very insightful review
    Thank you Naseer Tahir for a very insightful review of the book by Pope Benedict XVI. And, thank you for drawing our attention to a book that should be read side by side with the Pope’s book, for comparison and contrast, namely ‘the New World Order of Islam,’ by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih II, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad.

    The key question is whether the Catholic Christianity or the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the ‘creative minority,’ for the future of mankind? The Pope writes, “Here we must agree with Toynbee that the fate of a society always depends on its creative minorities. Christian believers should look upon themselves as just such a creative minority, and help Europe to reclaim what is best in its heritage and to thereby place itself at the service of all humankind.” To state the obvious, with 1.3 billion Catholic Christians in the world, the Catholic Church is no minority and her reactive history for centuries, as it has been a timid follower rather than a leader, especially in the last few centuries since the Enlightenment and European renaissance, does not leave her with creative credentials. Therefore, the role of rescuing mankind does not belong to her.

    Allow me to share one or two additional excerpts from the book by Hadhrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad here:

    “I shall now proceed to explain how this object has been fulfilled and how these four principles have been built into the New Order, the foundations of which have been laid under Divine Command and in strict accordance with the Islamic teachings, by the person appointed by God for the guidance of mankind in this age as a Deputy of the Holy Prophet. Bolshevism, Socialism and National Socialism have all come into being after the Great War of 1914—18. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin have all risen to power after the last war. All these new movements, which claim to have devised new plans for the relief of mankind, arose out of the conditions of 1919—21. The appointed one of God, however, laid the foundations of the New Order in l905 in his Al-Wasiyyat.”

    Another quote:

    “In short, all these secular movements support and strengthen nationalism, but the Promised Messiah has devised a system which tends to promote universal brotherhood. At present in Russia, a Russian is forced to give up his surplus for the benefit of other Russians, but under this system an Indian voluntarily contributes for the benefit of the whole of mankind, and the same applies to an Egyptian or a Syrian. This is a marked distinction between the New Orders which these secular movements are seeking to promote and the New Order based on Islamic principles.”

    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/newworldorder/Nizam-e-Nau.pdf

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