As she lay dying in a Mogadishu hospital, Sister Leonella forgave her killers. She had lived in Africa for almost four decades and could speak fluent Somali, but her last words were murmured in Italian, her mother tongue. "Perdono, perdono," she whispered. I forgive, I forgive.Exempting the Islamist religious bigots from criticism will not change their ridiculous behavior. In fact they should be openly criticized for their mob actions and tantrums. This emotionally immature reaction to perceived insults needs to be confronted, unless we ant to see more such episodes.
She was 65 and had devoted her life to the care of sick mothers and children. She was on her way to meet three other nuns for lunch on Sunday when two gunmen shot her several times in the back. "Her slaying was not a random attack," the Associated Press reported. It "raised concerns" that she was the latest victim of "growing Islamic radicalism in the country."
Raised concerns? Sister Leonella was gunned down less than two days after a prominent Somali cleric had called on Muslims to kill Pope Benedict XVI for his remarks about Islam in a scholarly lecture last week.
"We urge you, Muslims, wherever you are to hunt down the pope for his barbaric statements," Sheik Abubukar Hassan Malin had exhorted worshippers during evening prayers at a Mogadishu mosque. "Whoever offends our prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim.” Sister Leonella was not the pope, but she was presumably close enough for purposes of the local jihadis.
If it weren't so sickening, it would be farcical: A line in the pope's speech suggests that Islam has a dark history of violence, and offended Muslims vent their displeasure by howling for his death, firebombing churches, and attacking innocent Christians. One of the points Benedict made in his speech at the University of Regensburg was that religious faith untethered by reason can lead to savagery. The mobs denouncing him could hardly have done a better job of proving him right.
In every case, the pretext for the Muslim rage was the claim that Islam had been insulted. Freedom of speech was irrelevant: While the rioters and those inciting them routinely insult Christianity, Judaism, and other religions, they demand that no one be allowed to denigrate Islam or its prophet. It is a staggering double standard, and too many in the West seem willing to go along with it. Witness the editorials in US newspapers this week scolding the pope for his speech. Recall the State Department's condemnation of the Danish cartoons last winter.
Of course nobody's faith should be gratuitously affronted. But the real insult to Islam is not a line from a papal speech or a cartoon about Mohammed. It is the violence, terror, and bloodshed that Islamist fanatics unleash in the name of their religion -- and the unwillingness of most of the world's Muslims to say or do anything to stop them.