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Friday, September 15, 2006

Pope's 'jihad' quotes spark Muslim fury; Islamic leaders demand apology

Posted on : Fri, 15 Sep 2006 12:56:01 GMT | Author : Paula Cussons

ISLAMABAD: Quotes used by Pope Benedict XVI during a speech in a German university earlier this week have sparked outrage among Muslim leaders across the world.

Islamic bodies and statesmen of countries like Turkey and Pakistan reacted sharply to what they consider the Pope's attack on the Islamic faith and demanded that he apologize.

Benedict XVI had quoted certain passages from a book that made a reference to 'jihad', or holy war. The passages contained a dialogue over aspects of Christianity and Islam, between an educated Persian and Manuel Paleologos II, the 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor. During the conversation, the emperor speaks about jihad, which the Pope quoted at length.

Aware of the sensitivity of the subject, the Pope took care to describe the phrases on Islam as “brusque”. Even while reading the passages, he mentioned several times that he was quoting. The effort was aimed at avoiding any controversy or angering the Muslim community. However, it belied his views which became more apparent when he subsequently said “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”.

Muslim leaders have said the statement meant the Pope was endorsing Paleologos's views.

The Vatican tried to retract with a statement, hurriedly issued last night, offering an apology for causing any offense. But the statement only triggered a fresh barrage of objections from various Muslim leaders.

Milder reactions came from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and the Jeddah-based Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Brotherhood's Mohammed Mahdi Akef said the comments reflected the Pope's poor understanding of Islam and were typical of the distorted beliefs of the West. Islamic Conference considered the Pope's quote as one of many “falsifications”.

Aiman Mazyek, president of the central council of Muslims in Germany, said Catholicism, with a history of violence, did not have the moral authority to “point a finger at extremist activities in other religions”.

UK youth organization Ramadham Foundation said the Pope could have “been brave enough” to voice his own opinions without having to quote a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor.

Muslim individuals have also reacted saying the Pope's comment betrayed his bigotry.

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