The Muslim world is currently inflamed over the remarks of Pope Benedict suggesting that the Koran promotes violence. Some say the Pope should not say such things. Others say he is only speaking the truth. My view is in between the two. In a time when the Muslim world is so volatile, those in religious leadership should be very careful not to provoke anger among Muslim sensibilities. The backlash would only mean harm for Christian minorities living in Muslim countries, as my Christian friends in Pakistan would confirm.
In all of this I do think there is an irony. The Muslim world seems to be in denial that the Koran advocates the use of the sword to spread their faith. Some say that the Koran only speaks of intellectual struggle or self-defence. Since I am not a scholar on the Koran, I can not make a judgment on this except to point out the fact that the historical record shows otherwise. Peaceful Muslims of the 21st century seem to be in denial that for the first 1,000 years of its history, Islam spread primarily through conquest and invasion. Yes, I know that some of the wars were of self defence and some places were Islamicized by peaceful Arab traders (such as Indonesia and Malaysia), but to say that Islam spread primarily through peaceful persuasion is living in fantasy land. Just ask Bernard Lewis, the world's foremost scholar on Islam.
Of course, the record of Christianity also has its blemishes such as the Inquisition and the Crusades, but these sins have long since been acknowledged and apologized for by Christians around the world. It doesn't seem that the Muslim world at large is very willing to fess up to the sins of Islam (such as the butchering of Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century) like Christians have been to the sins of Christianity.
Yes, I know that the argument can be made that those responsible for the Inquisition and the Crusades were not real Christians. And I agree with that argument since Jesus was a man of peace. But, in a sense, the argument is irrelevant. Muslims claim that those responsible for 9-11 were not real Muslims. It will be very interesting to see if the Pope's remarks stir up riots around the world as what happened with the Danish cartoons last year. If Muslims around the world want to be taken seriously as a reasonable faith for the 21st century, instead of living in denial, they should acknowledge the sins of the past and live according to the principles of peace they claim their religion teaches them.