In a recent lecture
delivered at his old academic stomping grounds at the University of Regensburg in Germany, the Pope had some things to say about Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos' 1391 dialogue with an "educated Persian" about religion (emphasis added in all following excerpts):
The emperor must have known that sura 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war.
This is the passage that gets the Pope in hot water:
Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "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".
From there, the emperor condemns violent religious proselytization:
The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood Â? and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...
It should be noted that at the time of the emperor's dialogue all Islamic expansion had been violent - in Arabia, North Africa, Iberia, Persia, modern-day Iraq, the Levant, Sicily. And in 62 years Constantinople would fall to jihad.
Many Muslims have expressed outrage at Benedict's remarks - LGF has stories here, here, here, here and here. I don't think stories like these would have caused Manuel II Palaiologos to change his tune. Or Oriana Fallaci, for that matter.