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Pope’s jihad remarks spark Muslim anger

Cairo, Sept. 15 (Agencies): Muslims deplored today remarks on Islam by Pope Benedict and many of them said the Catholic leader should apologise in person to dispel the impression that he had joined a campaign against their religion.

In a speech in Germany on Tuesday, the Pope appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that the early Muslims spread their religion by violence.

“The Pope of the Vatican joins in the Zionist-American alliance against Islam,” said the leading Moroccan daily Attajdid, the main Islamist newspaper in the kingdom.

“We demand that he apologises personally, and not through (Vatican) sources, to all Muslims for such a wrong interpretation,” said Beirut-based Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, one of the world’s top Shia clerics.

Yesterday, the Pope’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in an official statement that Benedict seeks to “cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward other religions and cultures and obviously also toward Islam”.

“It should be said that what is important to the Pope is a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation of violence,” said Lombardi, who heads the Vatican’s press department. “It was certainly not the intention of the holy father to do an in-depth study of jihad and Muslim thinking in this field and still less so to hurt the feelings of Muslim believers,” he added in the statement.

The Pope on Tuesday repeated criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who said everything Mohammad brought was evil “such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached”.

The Pope, who used the terms “jihad” and “holy war” in his lecture, added “violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”.

Pakistan’s National Assembly, parliament’s lower house, unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Pope’s comments. “This statement has hurt sentiments of the Muslims,” the resolution said. “This House demands the Pope retract his remarks in the interest of harmony among different religions.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s largest group of political Islamists, demanded an apology from the Pope and called on the governments of Islamic countries to break relations with the Vatican if he does not make one.

The Jordanian branch of the Egyptian-based movement said the Pope’s remarks would only widen a rift between Muslims and the West and revealed deep hatred towards Muslims.

The rift is already deep because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Lebanon.

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