On 12 September 2006 in a speech at the University of Regensburg entitled "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections", Pope Benedict XVI deprecated all violence committed with religious intent. His argument ran as follows: God is the "word", the logos, primordial reason. And reason is precisely the opposite of violence and the passions. To illustrate his thesis, the Pope quoted a 14th-century statement by Manuel II Paleologus on Islam: "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."
Taken out of context, these words gave rise to a very significant polemic, many commentators seeing them as an all-out attack on Islam, here reduced to fundamentalism. Some major demonstrations ensued, together with episodes of physical violence, but there was also a response from the Islamic intellectual world (framed by 38 Muslim legal scholars and other representatives of Islam) which received very little media coverage.
Bruno Étienne, a specialist in the comparative analysis of religions and a campaigner for inter-faith dialogue, looks back over this controversy from the perspective of the faith/reason debate within the monotheistic religions in Europe. He draws in particular on the analysis proposed by Jean Bollack, Christian Jambet and Abdelwahab Meddeb in a work published in 2007: La Conférence de Ratisbonne. Enjeux et controverses [The Regensburg Lecture: Issues and Controversies].