And thus it came to pass: The content of Pope Benedict XVI's speech stopped being the story -- including the fact that the speech was an attack on secularism in the West -- and the reaction of many Muslim leaders became the story. That could only lead to one conclusion, in the mandated Unitarian-Universalism of the New York Times editorial-page suite, the holy of holies for the blue-zip-code faith. All religious roads have to lead to the top of the same mountain (even if saying that is, itself, an affront to Islam as well as to traditional Christianity). Otherwise, we would have to do basic, balanced, factual journalistic coverage of people on both sides of historic, complicated, emotional, intellectual religious issues. We would have to be journalists.
There isn't much I can say about the Times editorial ordering the pope to apologize. GetReligion doesn't focus on editorials very often, since this site is about the news coverage of religion events and trends. Besides, Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher has already been up since dawn dissecting the editorial and some of the events linked to it. Read it all.
But Rod also mentions something amazing that happened at an event that I attended as well. Here is something to chew on, if you care about intellectual freedom, press freedom and religious liberty. (See the edited transcript.) Dreher writes:
Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I was at a Pew Forum religion conference earlier this summer, at which an Ivy League professor considered to be one of the world's leading authorities on Islam and Islamic history declined to talk with us journalists about certain relatively minor aspects of early Muslim history on the record. Why wouldn't he? Because he was afraid that to do so might get him killed. That is astonishing, isn't it? That a leading scholar did not feel free in the United States of America to discuss this or that aspect of Islamic history, for fear that Muslim fanatics would hunt him down on his campus and take his life for blaspheming the Prophet. This is not an uncommon situation; ask Salman Rushdie and the Danish cartoonists. But the Times takes out against the Pope for one remark in a long speech about how violence can never be used for religious goals, only reason? Astonishing. And outrageous.
But let's be honest. A soft apology will not be enough for the Times editorial board. The principalities and powers in that domain will want him, when the time comes, to go further than that.
Will Pope Benedict XVI kiss the Koran?
Will he say that the Gospels are worthy of veneration and not the Koran?
That is all he has to say to insult the Times. And who will cover the news story for the newspaper of record, when this showdown takes place?