It was with dismay that I read Mazeni Alwi's piece which was a misrepresentation of the Pope's speech and served only to reinforce the paranoia engulfing the Muslim world about Western 'Islamophobia'.
Let us make no mistake, Jerusalem was under siege by the followers of Muhammad. The city's Christian rulers had no choice but to 'invite' the Caliph into Jerusalem. It was a ploy to show Muslim 'tolerance'. The Caliph was keen to keep Jerusalem intact.
To give another example, Egypt was predominantly Coptic Christian before the Arab Muslim invasion and colonisation. There were an estimated 22,000 Coptic monasteries at the time. Following the invasion, Christians were persecuted and their places of worship systematically demolished. Conversion by the sword on a grand scale took place. Today, there are a handful of Coptic places of worship. Those in Cairo have become tourist attractions.
People must not regard Islam as a monolithic faith. There are as many sects in Islam as there are in any other religion. This is only to be expected as people interpret religious 'truths' differently and religion throughout history has evolved according to circumstance.
For example, because Arabs were fighting for control of the Caliphate, the Sunni/Shia schism came into being. Sunnis believe that Muhammad was the last messenger of God and on the other hand Shias believing this not to be the case, seeing Allah's revelation continuing through the 12 Imams after Muhammad's death. The horrible killings in Iraq today mirror the brutality of power struggle during Muhammad's time.
Up to 1.5 million Turkish Armenian Christians were systematically killed by Muslim Turks in the early 20th century and there has been a conspiracy of denial by the Turks. Even the recent Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has decried Turkish reluctance to face up to its genocidal past.
The French, who have a sizeable Armenian minority, are considering introducing legislation to make it a crime to deny the genocide perpetrated by the Ottomans against their fellow Christian citizens. The words of the Byzantine King Manuel of Constantinople whom the Pope quoted will surely have great resonance with Turkish Christians, the few of them that remain.
Mazeni also states that 'if the Catholic church needs friends in these lean times, they can find them in the Muslims'. But:
Koran 5.51: 'O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.'
In Malaysia, Islam has evolved to meet the needs of Umno and its divisive modus operandi. The 'immutable moral precepts and values' of Islam is a fanciful chimera in the Malaysian context. If Muslims like Mazeni cannot see the depths of depravity to which many aspects of Muslim governance, example and moral direction has descended to in Malaysia, then I am afraid he is clueless.
What does Mazeni have to say about the disgusting discrimination taking place in Malaysia? Ayah Pin had his religious commune reduced to rubble. His followers had their lives threatened by a violent mob wielding Molotov cocktails. An Orang Asli church was recently bulldozed to the ground in Johor.
Churches continue to face great difficulty in getting planning permission. Non-Muslim cultural, political, intellectual and economic advancement is curtailed. Demolition of Hindu temples goes on unabated. Lina Joy, a Christian Malay is fighting a court battle to have her former Muslim status erased from her IC.
We were recently told by a government-linked agency that wishing Hindus 'Happy Deepavali' is forbidden from an Islamic standpoint (the officer in the agency concerned has retracted this statement though).
There are some who are living in an 'Emperor's New Clothes World' and it is about time sensible people told them that they are naked.