The Vatican's Obduracy
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven." -- Chapter 6, The Gospel according to St. Luke
It is unfortunate that the Pope did not recall these words of Christ, from his Sermon on the Mount to his twelve chosen Disciples, before he cited a Byzantine emperor's condemnation of Islam and its Prophet (PBUH). Now the Vatican's efforts to sidestep the real issue in the Pope's speech in Germany last week that upset the Muslim Ummah shows that the Pope stands by his use of a citation that as a Muslim one can regard as abusive to say the least. Having read the text of his speech in full, there is little room for misinterpretation in the manner in which the Byzantine emperor's quote was used -- that is, to support the Pope's concept of Islam.
The so-called apology is not related to the content of the Papal assertions, only to the fact that these assertions had caused pain and anger to the Muslims. So effectively, the Pope is standing by what he stated. It is interesting that he forgot to recall the violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition. As for his claims that the quote did not represent his personal views, that is not in line with the contents of his speech and one uses quote to either support one's viewpoint or to contradict it and he did it for the former purpose. Therein lies the problem.
To begin with, surely there are enough problems within his own Church for him to discourse on rather than holding forth on Islam. It is difficult to recall any Muslim preacher, no matter how extremist, holding forth on Christian doctrinal issues in a condemnatory manner. In any event, to select a quote from a Byzantine emperor who was at war with the Muslims shows an inbuilt bias in a pope who has earlier been known to chastise Germany's Muslim community leaders and to oppose Turkey's entry into the EU on the grounds that it should find its place among the Islamic states. Perhaps even more reflective of the Pope's views towards the Islam and the Muslim world were reflected in his removal, last February, of Archbishop Fitzgerald, the President of the Vatican's department for dialogue with Islam and the merging of that department with the Vatican's culture ministry.
All these developments bode ill for the very necessary interfaith dialogue and harmony, especially given the presence of large Muslim minorities in the Christian world, including Europe, and large Catholic minorities in parts of the Muslim World. And for those of us who have close and fond associations with the Jesuits, who educated us, the present Papacy's confrontationist approach is agonizing -- coming as it does in the aftermath of Pope John Paul who not only traveled to a number of Muslim countries but also was the first Pope to visit a mosque. He made no compromises on his views on violence but he did reach out and was respected by all as a spiritual leader. Cleary the present Pope has a more political agenda -- or at least he seems to be unwittingly giving religious cover to the political anti-Islam agenda. Fortunately, the Muslim leadership has responded forcefully to the Pope's speech and this has prevented Muslim civil societies from going on a violent course which serves no purpose.
In fact, we seem to be imbued with a conciliatory spirit all around. After a long time a substantive development, beyond mere atmospherics, has taken place in the Pakistan-India dialogue process, which will help Pakistan fight terrorism within the country more effectively. This is the agreement reached in principle between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh in Havana to put in place a Pakistan-India anti-terrorism institutional mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations.
This will allow the two countries to share information on suspected terrorists and investigations relating to acts of terrorism. For Pakistan, this means that India can now formally be asked to look into allegations of Indian connections to terrorist acts in Balochistan. Also, Pakistan can share information with India regarding the Indian support for the BLA and India's alleged training of terrorists in Afghanistan for conducting acts of terror in Pakistan. India of course has been accusing Pakistani-based terrorist groups of having a hand in certain terrorist acts in India such as the Mumbai blasts, but Pakistan has always asked India for evidence on which it can proceed. Now that procedure can also be formalized.
As for fears that the freedom struggle in Kashmir may be brought into the ambit of this new terrorism mechanism, that is not the case because the international community continues to make a distinction between terrorism and struggle for self-determination. Just when the leaders of Pakistan and India were agreeing to this new mechanism, they were also giving their consent to the final document of the NAM Summit which once again reiterated the distinction between terrorism and self-determination struggles. While terrorism was condemned in a strong and forthright manner, the final document also stated categorically that:
"Terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation. The brutalisation of people remaining under foreign occupation should continue to be denounced as the gravest form of terrorism, and that the use of State power for the suppression and violence against peoples struggling against foreign occupation in exercising their inalienable right to self-determination should continue to be condemned. In this regard and in accordance with the UN Charter, international law and the relevant UN resolutions, the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation does not constitute terrorism."
As the Almaty Declaration had done in June 2002, when it reaffirmed the principle of self-determination (Article II:15), and emphasized that this principle must be exercised "in accordance with the UN Charter and international law", the NAM Final Document has also sustained the international distinction between terrorism and self-determination. And in both cases, the reference is to the UN Charter and UN Resolutions and the indigenous Kashmir struggle, by any of these criteria falls within these definitional parameters of self-determination. Pakistan and India are parties to both these Documents. So there is no question of the Kashmir dispute and struggle being brought into the terrorist ambit as a result of the Pakistan-India agreement to set up a joint anti-terrorism institutional mechanism.
However, once the mechanism is in place, it will allow both countries to deal with the terrorism and extremism problem in a rational and systematic fashion. This should not only help both states to deal more effectively with the twin scourges of terrorism and extremism but also to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric which only undermines regional stability and threatens to reverse any progress that may be in the offing in the dialogue process -- which is the only way to peaceful resolution of conflicts and lasting peace.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)

 

 


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