We met Ali Bardakoglu, chief of the Turkish Directorate-General for Religious Affairs, here. Today, Der Spiegel's English-language edition runs an interview with the good cleric. Of course, Bardakoglu is asked about his role in inflaming the passions of the Muslims angry with the Pope's Regensburg address, and he responds:
The pope's speech wasn't a critique. It turned against fundamentally sacred elements of Islam in a condemning manner. In this sense, it was flawed. It shouldn't have been that way, as the pope himself later came to understand.
This is not exactly how the Pope himself characterized his understanding of the affair, as he made clear prior to Angelus on 17 September, and in his official statement the preceding day. In the former, he stated that he was "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of [his] address at the University of Regensburg"; in the latter, he stated that he "sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim faithful." This is at best a non-apology apology -- sorrow for an effect rather than a cause -- and in fairness, it is entirely just.
The problem here comes in the misapprehension of what happened and what the Pope did, on the part of the instigators of the post-Regensburg violence -- men like Ali Bardakoglu. It seems obvious at first glance that he should be rigorously disabused of any idea that the putative Vicar of Christ on Earth endorses a prohibition upon speaking "against fundamentally sacred elements of Islam in a condemning manner." But this is not a simple matter of truth versus falsehood. On the one hand, if Muslim leaders believe they forced a climbdown on the part of the Roman Pontiff, it merely validates their methods, and they have no incentive to ascend to a more sane manner of dealing with perceived slights. On the other hand, the misunderstanding (willful or not) does buy some peace for a spell. Benedict XVI appears to have opted for the latter, for the sake of the Christians who will suffer if he does not, and we are not in a position to gainsay that decision. Still, one wishes he would not go further than needed -- is it really necessary to counter a visit to Hagia Sophia with a stop at the Blue Mosque? -- if only to preserve the remnants of pride.