Hugh Fitzgerald: “Inter-Religious Harmony in Bangladesh” or, Is Pope Francis Crazy? (Part One)

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Pope Francis appreciates Bangladesh’s inter-religious harmony and cultural diversity, which he will celebrate during his visit here next week, Catholic Church officials said yesterday.

“People of various faiths and ethnicity are living here peacefully. This is our tradition and culture,” said Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario during a view exchange [“exchange of views”] with journalists at Ramna Cathedral [in Bangladesh].

More on the Pope’s upcoming visit to Bangladesh can be found here. We have all heard Pope Francis over the years repeatedly utter disturbing words of praise for Islam. Some have wondered if perhaps he was playing a subtle game, trying to convince Muslims to be not as they are, but as he described them — to “measure up” to the Pope’s imaginary Islam. Others thought he was simply ignorant. Still others assumed that he was unable to come to grips, emotionally, with the malevolent reality of Islam, and could not face what Europe had so unnecessarily done to itself by admitting millions of Muslims, who were now impossible to dislodge, into its nations. For the tens of millions of Muslims now in Europe are outbreeding the indigenous non-Muslims, and by their large-scale presence have created for those non-Muslims a situation that is far more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous than would be the case without that large-scale presence.

The Pope has in the past defended Islam so stoutly that he was once thanked by Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar, for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.” It’s not praise for which he should be proud.

Pope Francis has even seemed to defend, albeit obliquely, the killing of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, by saying that “it is true that you must not react violently, but even if we are good friends, if [an aide] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal. You can’t make a toy out of the religions of others. These people provoke and then (something can happen). In freedom of expression there are limits.” Let’s look that over: Pope Francis is comparing his landing a “punch” on someone who maligns his mother to the cold-blooded premeditated murder of a dozen people because they dared to draw Muhammad. And since he’s Pope, no one in his entourage will dare attempt to morally set him straight.

Last February, Pope Francis insisted that all religions are equally innocent of the charge of terrorism: “Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia.” So if we make “intolerant generalizations about Muslims,” this only strengthens the terrorists — it’s that “intolerance” that creates the terrorism the Pope steadfastly refuses to describe as “Islamic.” Does the Pope not know of the verses in the Qur’an that explicitly command Believers to “strike terror” in the hearts of Unbelievers? Apparently not. He could start with 8:12: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” Or 8:60: “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides.” Is the Pope aware that in the collection of hadith that Muslims themselves deem to be the most trustworthy, we find Muhammad himself claiming that “I have been made victorious through terror”? (Al-Bukhari 4.52.220)

Has Pope Francis not seen on television the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby holding up the Qur’an? Has he never heard the many terrorists, from ISIS, from Al-Qaeda, from Boko Haram, who recite verses from the Qur’an that justify their acts? Is he deliberately keeping himself in the dark about this? Muslim terrorism is not a product of lone madmen, but of those Muslims who have become especially devout, and take to heart the Qur’anic commands to wage Jihad, and to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Allah. They feed on the Islamic texts themselves; they have no need to “feed on hate and xenophobia” from Unbelievers. And the vehemence of the Pope’s dismissal of critics of Islam as offering not reasoned critiques but only ‘’hate and xenophobia’” sounds like something Linda Sarsour herself might have spewed.

What “hate and xenophobia” had Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri experienced? Or the two killers of Drummer Rigby? Or the Muslim who mowed down pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, or the Muslim who plowed through crowds on Las Ramblas in Barcelona? Had Major Nidal Malik Hassan, who had his complete medical education paid for by the U.S. army, and was earning a salary of $90,000 a year, been treated at all badly by anyone with whom he worked, or was he merely fulfilling Qur’anic commandments when he slaughtered twelve fellow servicemen? What grievances did Mohamed Atta and his 18 co-terrorists have against Americans, other than that they felt murderous hate for all Infidels, precisely for being Infidels? What grievances, what experience of “hate and xenophobia,” explain the behavior of the couple who killed their fellow coworkers at a Christmas party in San Bernardino? What “hate and xenophobia” did Aafia Siddiqui, who received scholarships to Brandeis as an undergraduate, and to MIT for graduate study, have to endure, she who led a charmed academic life as a cosseted student, until she threw in her lot with Al-Qaeda?

The Pope claims that he finds unacceptable the very phrase “Islamic violence,” because, of course, there are non-Muslims who commit violence:

“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence.” He said, according to Crux, that “when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law.” The pontiff added: “They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics.” He said that if he spoke about “Islamic violence,” then he would have to speak about “Catholic violence” as well.

The obvious response to this is simple: Italian Catholics, or Swedish Protestants, who kill their wives, or fiancés, or mothers-in-law, are not following the teachings of their religions. But Muslims find, in more than a hundred verses of the Qur’an, calls to commit violence against Infidels. The Pope’s inability to make that simple distinction is deeply disturbing.

Pope Francis can hardly be unaware that all over the Muslim lands, Christians, whether they are converts or born into the faith, have been persecuted, attacked, killed by Muslims through the centuries, and in our own time. Such killings have taken place in Iraq, in Syria, in Egypt, in Pakistan, in Libya, in Somalia, in Yemen, in Iran, in Sudan, in Eritrea, in Afghanistan, in Indonesia. Even Angela Merkel, so tireless in her efforts to increase the Muslim population of Germany, has admitted schizophrenically that “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.” She knows perfectly well who is doing the persecuting. The Pope appears not to recognize this, leaving his flock to fend for itself. He has certainly never wanted to believe that the Muslim persecution of Christians arises naturally from the texts and teachings of Islam. He avoids all mention of what is in the Qur’an. Instead, the Pope exculpates Islam at every term. He insists there’s no specifically “Muslim terrorism,” but only the terrorism of disturbed individuals, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. He finds it perfectly understandable why Muslims would take violent offense at someone dissing their Prophet. But while Muslim violence would in such a case be perfectly understandable, he has made it clear, back in 2013, that he believes that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” It’s quite something for him to presume to know what is “authentic Islam” and what constitutes a “proper reading of the Qur’an.”

Now we come to the latest travesty of the truth emanating from the Vatican. At the end of the year the Pope will be visiting Bangladesh. His officials have just put out the following (with which I began this piece, but it is worth repeating):

Pope Francis appreciates Bangladesh’s inter-religious harmony and cultural diversity, which he will celebrate during his visit here next week, Catholic Church officials said yesterday.

Let’s see about that “inter-religious harmony” in Bangladesh. Is Pope Francis aware that in 1947, Hindus were 35% of the population of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); now they are 9%? What led to such a staggering decrease? Three things: first, mass killings of Hindus by Muslims; second, mass forcible conversions of Hindus to Islam; third, repeated mass exoduses of Hindus to the safety of India. Has the Pope remained unaware of this history? Perhaps he has forgotten the war for Bangladesh’s independence, in which the Pakistani army, along with killing many Muslims, took special glee in massacring hundreds of thousands of Hindus. Between eight and ten million Hindus fled the country during that war.

But what about Hindus in Bangladesh today? How are they faring? In early November, 2017, a Muslim mob, enraged at the mere rumor that a Hindu had posted something unflattering about Muhammad on Facebook, attacked a Hindu village, but ultimately were driven back by the Bangladeshi police. It did not matter that the Hindu boy they sought to kill was illiterate, and thus incapable of writing anything on Facebook. Nor did it matter that no such anti-Muhammad post could be found. Muslim mobs can be whipped up against Hindus with ease in Bangladesh. They were enraged in November 2016, for a similar rumor about an anti-Islam posting on Facebook, this one showing the Hindu god Siva at a Muslim holy site in Mecca. Fifteen Hindu temples, and hundreds of Hindu homes, were destroyed. Over almost two years, from 2014 to 2016, Islamists carried out a string of attacks in Bangladesh, killing scores of bloggers, foreigners and members of religious minorities. In 2016, a Hindu tailor was murdered, a Hindu priest was hacked to death, and a terrorist attack in Dhaka on Hindus left 22 people dead. 98 Hindus were killed by Muslims that year. In 2014 and 2015, there were even more Hindus killed, more temples and houses of Hindus destroyed. In 2013, after a leader of Jamaat-e–Islami was sentenced to death for crimes committed during the 1971 war for independence, Muslims all over Bangladesh rioted, not against the court, or the government, but against Hindus. Hindu properties were looted, Hindu houses were burnt into ashes, and Hindu temples were desecrated and set on fire everywhere. 50 Hindu temples and 1,500 Hindu homes were destroyed in 20 districts. We could go year by year to show that there has never been a time when Hindus in Bangladesh (and in East Pakistan before it) have not been subject to attacks by Muslims, including mass murder and rape — especially during the war for independence, when hundreds of thousands of Hindus were killed and there was wholesale destruction of Hindu temples and homes.

Yet Pope Francis believes, apparently, that “inter-religious harmony” reigns in Bangladesh. Which brings us back to the statistic with which we began: if there has been such inter-religious harmony, then why have Hindus dropped from 35% of Bangladesh’s (East Pakistan’s) population in 1947, to 9% today?




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