Muslims, Angered Pope Said Violent, Riot and Threaten Murder, War

Pope Benedict’s statements about Islam’s violent history, which I dismissed Friday as the pope being Catholic, have, ironically, sparked violence and threats of more violence.

Rioting yesterday caused substantial property damage but, thankfully, no reports of injuries.

Palestinians wielding guns and firebombs attacked five churches in the West Bank and Gaza on Saturday, following remarks by Pope Benedict that angered many Muslims. No injuries were reported in the attacks, which left church doors charred and walls pockmarked with bullet holes and scorched by firebombs. Churches of various denominations were targeted.

Relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians are generally peaceful, and the attacks on the churches sparked concern that tensions would heighten. “The atmosphere is charged already, and the wise should not accept such acts,” Rev. Yousef Saada, a Greek Catholic priest in Nablus, said Saturday.
Ayman Daraghmeh, a legislator from the ruling Islamic militant Hamas group, denounced the attacks. Dozens of police took up position around churches in Nablus to protect the holy sites.

Firebombings left black scorch marks on the walls and windows of Nablus’ Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches. At least five firebombs hit the Anglican church and its door was later set ablaze. Smoke billowed from the church as firefighters put out the flames

The good news is that the violence was contained and is being condemned by responsible leaders. Still, it took months for the furor over the Danish cartoons to escalate to mayhem.

A Somali sheikh has called for Benedict to be hunted down and killed.

A HARDLINE cleric linked to Somalia’s powerful Islamist movement has called for Muslims to “hunt down” and kill Pope Benedict XVI for his controversial comments about Islam. Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin urged Muslims to find the pontiff and punish him for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and Allah in a speech that he said was as offensive as author Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses. “We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion,” he said in Friday evening prayers. Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,” Malin, a prominent cleric in the Somali capital, told worshippers at a mosque in southern Mogadishu. “We call on all Islamic Communities across the world to take revenge on the baseless critic called the pope,” he said.

Reached by telephone on Saturday, Malin confirmed making the remarks that were echoed in less strident form by other senior clerics in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS). Another SICS executive member, Sheikh Ahmed Abdullahi, vented similar anger at the pope’s “barbarous criticism” but stopped short of calling for his murder. “He must apologise because he has offended the most honorable person who ever lived in the world,” Abdullahi said.

Muslim intellectuals are comparing the pope to Hitler and bin Laden and say his remarks could lead to war.

The recent remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI on Islam are threatening to ignite the entire Muslim world. Op-Eds published in the Arab newspapers slammed the pope even after the Vatican’s apology.

The most extreme opinion was voiced by Hani Pahas in the London-based Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Hayat, who wrote “the pope’s comments may lead to war; we fear that the pope’s statements may lead to a war that we, Muslims and Christians alike, are trying to prevent through dialogue between East and West.

Hussein Shabakshy wrote in an article published by the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat “It is clear that such remarks only contribute to the fueling of the fire raging between Islam and the West. There is no difference between Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri speaking from their caves in Tora Bora and the stage of an important Christian saint. Both parties contribute to the world verbal weapons for mass destruction.” “The pope’s latest statement cannot be considered a slip of the tongue or a comic bit from a TV show; the situatio0n here is different, and his remarks are indicative of an important and highly symbolic stance toward the religion (Islam) and the prophet of about a billion and-a-half Muslims,” he said. “These are ignorant comments previously made by Adolf Hitler, who spoke of a supreme white race against all the other races, especially the African race.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said a Vatican statement on Saturday saying Pope Benedict was sorry for upsetting Muslims with his comments on Islam did not go far enough.

The former Joseph Ratzinger is a distinguished scholar and intellectual who had to know that what he was saying would create this sort of reaction. After all, twelve cartoons published in an obscure Danish newspaper generated weeks of rioting and murder not so long ago. Considered remarks from the most visible and powerful figure in Christendom that questioned the foundation of Islam were surely not going to be taken lightly.

Then again, the reaction rather proves his point.

UPDATE: Now the pope’s security has been beefed up.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dale Cox says:

    In the midst of all this controversy, I decided to actually go read the speech that the Pope gave. (Link). During this speech the Pope was not “picking” on Muslims or Islam. The general message in his speech was that science and reason can and indeed should coexist. He also stated that violence is the opposite of reason.

    The Pope used the quote from a 14th century Byzantine Emperor (Manuel II) to illustrate a point. By working themselves into a frenzy the way they have, are Muslims not proving Manuel II’s point?

    Muslims need to grow up and quit being so darn sensitive. The Islamic faith is strong enough to stand up to criticism on its own…or is it?

  2. McGehee says:

    It does seem almost textbook irony that, whenever someone prominent complains about violence as a part of Islam, Muslims react violently.

  3. bee says:

    The Pope spoke the truth in an honest and open manner. It is humanities resonsibility to support him. We cannot let those who oppose the truth to silence those who speak.

  4. Eneils Bailey says:

    But…but…but….Rosie said…..

  5. Ben says:

    I wonder whether the pope included these remarks in order to demonstrate how tremendously unreasonable, violent, and ignorant a huge portion of the Muslim world is. He must have known this type of reaction would ensue, and that it would largely prove his point–that Islam isn’t strong enough to tolerate dissent or discussion.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan on Friday said (nearly verbatim) what Dale Cox said in his comment, above. Benedict’s statement was in no way outrageous or inflammatory. However, those who are looking for insult are bound to find it.

  7. Tano says:

    Actually, the medieval quote that the pope used said:

    “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

    Which rather clearly states that violence is merely one example of a general characterization of the contribution that Muhammed made – that is was ALL “evil and inhuman”.

    I imagine that that is what is getting the Muslims so upset. Understandably.

  8. McGehee says:

    I imagine that that is what is getting the Muslims so upset.

    And yet so many inflammatory things are said about Christianity — there and here — and how often do we see Christians threatening riot, murder, and war over mere insults?

    The fact Muslims are, is strongly indicative that “evil and inhuman” is probably not all that untrue a description.

  9. McGehee says:

    Furthermore, the quote refers specifically to “what Mohammed brought that was new.”

    Given that the divine is supposed to be timeless, it only makes sense that if what Christ taught is true, what Mohammed taught that differs from that, ain’t divine.

    And Islam itself argues that Christ’s teachings are erroneous.

    Which, I’ll refer you again to my previous comment above.

  10. davod says:

    As with so much these days, the problem lies in what the media reports. The Western (non Muslim) media would go a long way to correcting the misleading characterization by reporting truthfully then vilifying those who become violent at the drop of a hat.

    I think a lot of media reporting is based on cowardice and greed. Cowardice because they slant the reporting so they can operate in normally “free speech hostile areas”. Greed because the reporting from these areas helps the bottom line.

    The bottom line for me is that all journalists who mislead so they can report safely do not report they propagandize.

  11. Tano says:


    I hope you realize that an inquiry as to why people behave a certain way is not an endorsement of how they behave. With that hopefully made clear, I would respond to your comment by pointing out that most of those who have such a strong reaction might beg to differ with you that their reaction is to mere insults.

    They probably see those words as part of a larger picture, one which includes the presence of the American army in Iraq, a looming threat of military attack against Iran, continued Western support for unpopular authoritarian regimes, and (once again, from their perspective) the presence of Israel which is seen as an outpost of Western civilization invading their lands and dispossessing the native people. In this context, the words of a pope (remember who it was that inspired and led the crusades) can easily be seen as part and parcel of an ongoing offensive bent on domination and conquest.

    If you live in that world, and view recent events in the manner I lay out above, then what are you to think of the motivation of the pope for implying (through the words of others) that Islam, as a whole (not just the violent conversion) is evil and inhuman? Are these not the classic memes that are brought forth to define an enemy as one that it is justified in killing?

    Historical analogies (e.g. the crusades) can be extremely misleading, but using such analogies is a very popular way of making sense out of current events. We in the west use them all the time (e.g. Munich, ad nauseum).

    That they may be wrong about this whole perspective is something that should be made clear, rather than giving every reason to confirm them in that belief.

  12. bee says:

    The real story here is how the media has used its position to stoke the fire and not to properly frame what was said by the Pope.

  13. sick-of-muslim-lies says:

    The Pope made a comment about Muslims being violent? So, an innocent nun should be murdered? Why in the world would anyone think that muslims, so called religion, would be violent? Murder isn’t “violence” to them – they even blow themselves up to get attention. They have NO respect for human life – not even their own. Maybe Islam should look up the word violence in the dictionary – they might be saying OOPSvi‧o‧lence  /ˈvaɪəlÉ™ns/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[vahy-uh-luhns] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation

    —noun 1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
    2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
    3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
    4. a violent act or proceeding.
    5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.
    6. damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text.

  14. Ray says:


    You seem to state that Muslim violence to a perceived insult to their religion is a valid form of protest, yet I have seen in several of your posts that America is wrong when we use any force in response to a perceived threat to our country and our form of government. Tell me why you have this apparent hypocrisy between the two scenarios? Is a violence justified when someone verbally insults Islam but any response to this violence sis not justified? Why do you give Muslims free reign in violent acts yet condemn America for it’s violence in things like war?

  15. Tano says:

    perhaps you need to hone up on your reading skills. Never have I said that violence is justified in response to the popes words, and never have I expressed reluctance to defend this country with force, or to go after those who attack us.

    Sorry, but you seem to be hankerin to argue with one of the boogymen that you hear about on a daily basis by the RW blowhards. Look elsewhere.

    Or better yet, stop taking the propaganda seriously.

  16. ostrichboy says:

    If the Pope’s remarks, entreating people to seek dialogue instead of violence over cultural and religious differences, caused this much trouble, wait until these Bobblehead Mohammeds become popular:

    ~Head in the Sand~