Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture has been exposed by some learned voices of 'the Muslim world' as alluding, by the means of one particular quotation, to age-old stereotypes about Islam being an essentially violent creed in which moderation through reason has no legitimate place, and of representing Muhammadas an evil and inhuman man who preached that Islam should be spread by the sword. While none of these presumably 'Muslim' voices deny that the Pope has the right to express his opinions, even when they are plainly wrong in the face of historic facts that show how Islam and Christianity were spread (or were made to spread) across the world, he is criticised for a host of omissions in terms of intellectual honesty and factual accuracy. These omissions, it is argued here, cast an unfortunate light on the compatibility of scientific and religious rationality much advocated by the Pope in his 12 September 2006 lecture. This flagrant 'performative contradiction' (Habermas) leaves room for speculation about the true aim of the speech. Is Benedict XVI's appeal to theology as a legitimate academic discipline a credible attempt to explicate Roman Catholicism's rightful place in a modern world governed by liberal democracy and ethical-political pluralism, or is it a reflection of a move to restore the age-old, intolerant, anti-scientific, and anti-democratic legacy of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church
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