If you insult my religion by claiming it is not always a shining example of peace and love, I shall wage holy war on you. That, in a nutshell, was the reaction of the touchier end of Islam to Pope Benedict XVI's use of a quote by Emperor Manuel II when having been under siege at Constantinople by the loving and all forgiving Islamic and merciful Islamic leader, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I for 5 years between 1394 and 1402.
But that's the trouble with history, It's either a closed book or unacceptable to somebody or other.
Manuel II's view that everything Mohammed did and said was evil and inhuman, "such as the command to spread by the sword, the faith he preached". In fact, Manuel's son, Constantine XI died on the walls of Constantinople when 7,000 defenders were overwhelmed by over 100,000 Ottomans in 1453. During 24 hours after the fall of the city, a large part of the 50,000 population was raped, bespoiled, killed or enslaved by these followers of a loving and merciful religion.
Of course, the main point of Pope Benedict's argument has been lost in the Pavlovian response by yet another lunatic fringe of another religion. His thesis was simply that violence can never be justified by any religion. One has only to see the rabid fringes of Christianity in action to see that this sort of thing does not just reside in the Islamic extremists.
However, there is some justification for anger in his selectivity of examples. This month sees the 508th anniversary of the death of Tomas de Torquemada. As Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition, this holy, loving and merciful man has become a byword for cruelty in the service of the Catholic religion. The "hammer" of heretics rode around the Iberian peninsular with an entourage of 50 mounted armed guards and 250 armed men. They didn't exactly have "Peace is our Business" emblazoned on their tunics.
Torquemada's enthusiasm for the torture chamber, rack and the smell of burning flesh is legendary, but there was no mention of this enlightened person by the pontiff last week.
The truth is, that when the Vatican and the Imams go head to head over events in their shared history, it's the most glaring example of pots calling kettles black. A little more calmness and a little more acceptance of each others view of history should be the real order of the day.