Pope gets it wrong on Islam

Juan Cole writes: “what is most troubling of all is that the Pope gets several things about Islam wrong, just as a matter of fact. He notes that the text he discusses, a polemic against Islam by a Byzantine emperor, cites Qur’an 2:256: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ Benedict maintains that this is an early verse, when Muhammad was without power.

“His allegation is incorrect. Surah 2 is a Medinan surah revealed when Muhammad was already established as the leader of the city of Yathrib (later known as Medina or “the city” of the Prophet). The pope imagines that a young Muhammad in Mecca before 622 (lacking power) permitted freedom of conscience, but later in life ordered that his religion be spread by the sword. But since Surah 2 is in fact from the Medina period when Muhammad was in power, that theory does not hold water.

“In fact, the Qur’an at no point urges that religious faith be imposed on anyone by force.”

Informed Comment, 15 September 2006