The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, issued a statement on a Web forum about the pope's remarks last week on Islam. The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately independently verified.
"You infidels and despotic, we will continue our jihad (holy war) and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism when God's rule is established governing all people and nations," the statement said.
The group said Muslims will be victorious and addressed the pope as "the worshipper of the cross" saying "you and the West are doomed as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere ... We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose head tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (killed by) the sword."
Islam forbids drinking alcohol and requires non-Muslims to pay a head tax to safeguard their lives if conquered by Muslims. They are exempt if they convert to Islam.
The statement said that the Quran tells Muslims in many occasions that "jihad continues and should never stop until dooms day where this religion ends victorious."
But even this raw confirmation of everything Michael Paleologus said in the fourteenth century does not represent the "whole truth" of the matter, but only the mediated truth that comes to us through journalism. We don't have any statements by other groups, official or non-official, in part perhaps because more rational groups realized from the get-go that the Pope was not making an offensive statement, but was establishing an historical context within a broader topic.
While we wait for the news services to cover the public statements of more rational organizations, maybe we could begin to ponder the possibility of (dare we say it?) martyrdom--even though the word itself has been desecrated. Yesterday's Gospel remains valid for all time: "If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."