Paris, 20 Sept. (IPS) If he wanted, and it was not his aim, the Pope Benedict XVI could not perform in a better way to demonstrate the irrationality, the intolerance and the violence of the Muslims when he spoke about relationship between Islam and violence in Germany last week.
In part of his speech at the University of Regensburg on “faith and reason,” the pontiff recounted a conversation between an “erudite” Byzantine Christian emperor and a “learned” Muslim Persian circa 1391, the pope quoted the emperor saying, “Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.
Faced with angry and violent demonstrations by Muslim mobs and mounting, unabated virulent criticism from Muslim leader, reminiscent of those that erupted after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed a year ago, the Pope, in a move to mollify Muslim anger, expressed publicly on Sunday his "deeply sorry" for the outrage sparked by his remarks on Islam and stressed they did not reflect his personal opinion.
I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address...
"I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address ... which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims," the pope said during the traditional Angelus blessing from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome.
He stressed that the passages he quoted during a speech at Regensburg University "do not in any way express my personal thought."
"I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect", he added.
The pope's expression of regret appeared to fall short of the full, personal apology Muslim leaders had demanded.
Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, said the Pope had been “manipulated” by all those that, led by the United States, the Zionists and the Western press, are after a new “crusaders war against Islam and Muslims”.
“World’s oppressors, led by the United States, see their survival in creating religious tensions for the international community and the Pope, with his speech, helped that policy”, the Ayatollah observed on Monday, stopping short of attacking the Catholic’s spiritual leader personally and by name.
But religious seminaries across Iran shut on Sunday to stage protests over the pope's "outrageous" remarks, while Morocco on Saturday said it was recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.
Even Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the former “moderate” Iranian president criticized the Pope, stating that it is strange to observe how ignorant Benedict is about Islam, a faith of tolerance and humanity.
A hardline cleric linked to Somalia's powerful Islamist movement to call for Muslims to "hunt down" and kill the pope, while an armed Iraqi group threatened to carry out attacks against Rome and the Vatican.
“We want a personal apology (from the Pope). We feel that he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology”, Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Leader Mohammed Habib told Reuters.
Gunmen shot and killed an elderly Italian nun Sunday at a children's hospital in the Islamist-controlled Somali capital of Mogadishu, in what Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi denounced as a "horrible act.
And a third day of attacks on Christian places of worship in the Palestinain territories saw unknown assailants throw Molotov cocktails and a burning tire at two Catholic churches in the northern West Bank.
The worst demonstrations took place in Pakistan, where Muslim parties are the most virulent, even though the Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Saturday had stated that the pope's words had been misinterpreted and were meant as a rejection of the religious motivation for violence, "from whatever side it may come".
But the “regrets” and explanations seems to not satisfy the fury of the Muslims, urging proper apology.
We feel that he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will only be removed through a personal apology
In a statement that resumes the sentiment of other Muslim political and religious officials, the Hamas-led Palestinian government said it did not view the Pope's statement as an apology.
In France, a country with the largest Muslim community, most religious experts and analysts agreed that the Pope had made a mistake by talking about such a sensitive subject at a time that the world’s political atmosphere is heavy with religious confrontations.
“Has the new Pope made a blunder with his speech of 12 September in Germany? And why he went to look into history of Islam examples of contradictions between the faith and the reason, as if it did not exist in the long history of Christianity. And why he did not start by sweeping in his door front instead of going to search arguments in controversial literatures?”, wrote Henri Tincq, a leading religious analyst at the French influential daily “Le Monde” on Tuesday 19 September.
Nevertheless, Mr. Tincq concludes in his interesting analytical article that one way or another, Islam does feel very fragile to react with such a violence every time it is tackled by outside, as seen by the case of Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and now the Pope and does Islam knows any other way to react every time it feels insulted?”
“The answer (to Mr. Tincq) is that contrary to other religions, Muslim religious leaders never allowed any discussion, any debate about this faith, but only to confirm Islam’s traditional line in every matter of life. There has been no reform in Islam and anyone who tried to challenge it, he was assassinated”, one Iranian religious expert pointed out.
"The scale and intensity of the Muslim reaction had cast doubts on the pope's next scheduled foreign trip in November to Turkey.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the visit would go ahead as planned.
"A change is out of the question for us right now," Gul said, while describing the pope's comments in Germany as "really unfortunate" and a setback for efforts to promote better understanding between religions and cultures. ENDS POPE MUSLIMS 20906
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