Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Turkey today, amid a storm of protest that began promptly with the announcement of his visit more than a week ago. The pope’s visit is another of his efforts to mend the long-standing acrimony between the Vatican and Islam that was revived by the pope’s earlier visit to the Islamic community in late September. You may remember this visit most vividly by the brutality of Muslim populations’ vehement reaction to the pope’s remark regarding Islamic tendency toward violence. The irony in the Islamic extremists’ exceptionally violent reaction seemed to be missed – or deliberately ignored – by most in America. The violence was without a specific target and was endured by many who had absolutely no connection to the pope or the comment under attack.

One of the values of American society that we often pride ourselves on, and exemplify both domestically and internationally, is the principle of tolerance. We are tolerant and, in fact, encouraging of different sexual orientations, alternate lifestyles, religious practices and cultural backgrounds. This tolerance is positive and an intrinsic standard of American society that contributes to the overall desire of so many to live here. However, there is certainly a conspicuous point where our tolerance borders on insanity, evolves into stupidity and translates to our own vulnerability. This point exists when we begin to tolerate the intolerance of others, and the reaching of this point is rarely as clear as it is in America’s cowardly interaction with radical Islam.

The Muslim reaction to the pope’s speech in September was only slightly less appalling than America’s muted response to it. Almost completely disregarded on the pretense of political correctness, Americans – and particularly the American media – continued to tout Islam as a peaceful religion despite the homicidal rage Arab Muslims showcased in response to the pope’s implication that they were violent. See the irony yet?

America is dangerously teetering on an all-out religious war if we continue to remain so democratically committed to religious freedom that we turn a blind eye on Islamic fascism. It is crucial that we distinguish openly between the Islamic faith, and the radical Islamic ideology, and that we concede with the same directness that the radical fundamentalist creed of Islam should not be immune from our condemnation. The media can aid in the honest redress by confronting and calling attention to outrageous acts of violence exemplified by those Muslims who entertain the radical interpretation of the Quran that demands they eliminate those outside of their faith.

When a Danish newspaper published a cartoon portraying the Prophet Muhammad in an unflattering light, Muslims reacted by setting fire to Danish embassies and engaging in violent riots despite the apologetic groveling of the newspaper for its publication. This international news item was done a serious disservice when the majority of American news publications, including both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times refused to publish the cartoon that had sparked the controversy. Again these news sources defended their decisions on the basis of religious tolerance, which in this case would be better described as intimidation. Why should we be intimidated by the threats of what can only be called bullies?

It is a dangerous tendency to elevate the American ideal of tolerance at the expense of the other American principle of the freedom of speech, and we must be mindful that our tolerant nature does not extend protection to those who disregard the inalienable freedoms that lay the foundation for America’s tolerance.

Daily Nexus columnist Courtney Stevens just pulled a “South Park.”