Osama, Benedict and the Mohammad cartoons
In his latest video, Osama bin Laden charges that the reprinting of a Danish caricature of the Prophet Mohammad amounts to a new crusade against Islam led by Pope Benedict. Complaints about the reprinting of the cartoon, sparked by death threats against the artist who depicted Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, have been spreading in the Muslim world. This seems to be the first time, however, that the pope has been linked like this to the cartoons. We have the news story and a security analysis. This post is simply to point out this curious twist, given the fact that the Vatican’s top official for relations with Islam was recently in Egypt and issued a joint declaration with al-Azhar University denouncing media attacks on religion.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, visited the centre of Sunni learning in late February and signed a joint communique with Sheikh Abd al-Fattah Alaam, head of al-Azhar’s Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions. In it they said they
appeal to those responsible for the mass media, whether written or broadcast, in all countries, to be vigilant that freedom of expression not be taken as a pretext for offending religions, convictions, religious symbols and everything that is considered sacred, but rather to oppose extremism, to encourage mutual acceptance, love and respect for all, regardless of their religion.
The Vatican has flatly denied the charge it was leading any crusade. That denial, the Cairo statement and other steps it has taken to foster understanding with Muslims didn’t merit a mention in bin Laden’s video. Presumably what is more important for him and his supporters is the insult they perceived from Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg speech that implied that Islam was violent and irrational. The fact that bin Laden and his supporters often refers to westerners as “crusaders” probably also played a part.
Here’s the video: