HERNDON, Va., July 9 (UPI) -- Only the Hebrew word "chutzpah" appropriately describes it but a recent demand of the Vatican by Egypt's senior Sunni cleric Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb screams for its use.
To better understand why, a brief history of recent Muslim/Catholic relations is necessary.
In 2006, ties between Muslims and Catholics were severed by the former when Pope Benedict XVI innocently recounted an historic observation made centuries ago. In a lecture, the pontiff simply repeated 14th-century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II's statement about Prophet Muhammad.
Manuel had spent much of his 34-year rule defending his empire against Muslim aggression, finally agreeing to pay tribute to the Ottoman Turks the year before he died.
He stated: "Show me just what Muhammad 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 ... God is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death ..."
Criticism of Muhammad, even if historical, is unacceptable to Muslims. Benedict's recounting of the 14th-century quote about Islam's inherent violence was met by 21st-century violence from a Muslim world claiming it is peaceful. Not much about Islam has changed in the ensuing seven-century interlude.
In 2011, relations between Muslims and Catholics further deteriorated. A suicide bombing of an Egyptian church, killing 20 and wounding 100, prompted Benedict to call for increased protection for Christian minorities. Unbelievably, the pope's plea triggered further Muslim violence and protest.
Suggesting the Muslim/Catholic split was a product of the retired pope's persona, Tayeb demands the new pope help mend fences. All Pope Francis need do is acknowledge Islam as a religion of peace!
One can only wonder if Tayeb has been sniffing glue!
History is replete with examples of Muslims executing non-Muslims -- from the days of Muhammad through the butchery of the Greek Patriarch and Priests on Easter 1822 in Constantinople to the Rev. Francois Murad in Syria last month. Concerning Murad's death, London's Daily Telegraph reported, "It is very important the world knows that Christians are being murdered for their faith."
Even ignoring the violence detailed repeatedly throughout the Koran toward non-Muslims and ignoring the historical record by which Muslims have endeavored to impose Islam upon them, one cannot ignore Islam's violent history through the 21st century by which Muslims have slain fellow Muslims.
Muslim-on-Muslim violence has reached a frenzy today in the region yet, by making his demand of the pope, Tayeb totally ignores it.
If Muhammad were truly a prophet, why did he make no provision in the Koran for his successor? Failing to do so triggered the great Muslim divide, following Muhammad's death, of dueling Sunni and Shiite sects -- one witnessing 1,400 years now of Muslim-on-Muslim violence.
Muhammad left the door open for this violence by mandating any Muslim leaving the faith (apostate) should suffer death. As Sunnis and Shiites each perceive the other to be apostates, each therefore believes the Koran sanctions violence against the other.
For this reason, although Islam directs hatred and non-tolerance at non-believers, history records more Muslims dying at the hands of fellow Muslims than non-believers.
The trend continues today, evidenced by daily violence occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon -- all coming to a head in Syria where Sunnis and Shiites struggle to establish regional dominance.
While almost every religion has had violent episodes, Islam is the only one with a continuous history of violence, mandated repeatedly throughout its holy book, in God's name.
Reading through the Koran allows one better to understand Prophet Muhammad was driven, not by a loving God speaking to him through the Angel Gabriel, but by a warrior's mentality aimed at spurring followers on to fight for him to the death.
What better way to get followers to do his violent bidding than with promises of looting in this life and virgins in the next? What better way to get them to build up hatred and intolerance toward non-Muslims than by proclaiming more than 500 times in the Koran Allah's hatred and intolerance for them? (Even Muhammad's dying words allegedly were to place a curse upon Jews and Christians forever.)
Muhammad definitely understood human psychology and how violence ordained by him could be challenged but not violence supposedly ordained by God.
Of note in the days surrounding Tayeb's demand to the Vatican for a declaration of Islam's peaceful nature is the Muslim violence currently taking place including: suicide bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan; Syrian children being tortured, raped and used as human shields; a Muslim mentor in Australia being convicted of whipping a convert; Afghan legislators refusing to support legislation protecting women as being "un-Islamic" (for prohibiting beatings and other abuse); Egyptian Sunnis lynching Iranian Shiites; etc.
No other religion today draws the violent headlines Islam does.
The early Muslim historian Tabari who lived two centuries after Muhammad's death chronicled the Prophet's life. He listed Muhammad's nicknames, including one as "the obliterator." It is most telling about Muhammad's violent nature and the nature of the religion he founded.
For Pope Francis to acknowledge Islam as a peaceful religion is to turn a blind eye to the reality of the intentions of its violent founder.
(A retired Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He has written "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran -- The Clock is Ticking.")
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)