The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US preacher says sorry after riots

Oct. 13 (Agencies): Conservative US preacher Jerry Falwell has apologised for his blasphemous remarks against Prophet Mohammed, which ignited riots in Maharashtra in which nine people were killed.

Falwell said he meant no disrespect to “any sincere, law abiding Muslim”.

The apology came after top Iranian and British officials condemned the remarks, which Falwell made last week in an interview on the CBS show, 60 Minutes.

Falwell, a conservative Baptist and a leading voice for the Christian right in America, said in a prepared statement that he was sorry for the hurt feelings caused by his comments.

“I sincerely apologise that certain statements of mine made during an interview for (the October 6 edition of) CBS’s 60 Minutes were hurtful to the feelings of many Muslims.

“I intended no disrespect to any sincere, law abiding Muslim,” he said.

Falwell said his error came from answering a “controversial and loaded question” at the end of an hour-long interview. “That was a mistake and I apologise,” he said.

“I think Mohammad was a terrorist,” Falwell had said in the interview. “I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and non-Muslims (to know) that he was a violent man, a man of war.”

The comments angered Muslims around the world, triggering clashes in Solapur on Friday and Saturday that left at least nine people dead.

Around 120 people have been injured in the violence that started on Friday.

Trouble had broken out in the textile city during a bandh called by a local outfit against the remarks of Falwell on the Prophet.

Earlier in the week, there were protests in Kashmir and outside the offices of CBS News in New York. Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi on Wednesday condemned the remarks as encouraging violence.

“What this American priest said encourages war among civilisations and also increases crises and it should be confronted,” Kharrazi said.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who was in Iran to seek Tehran’s support for a tough UN resolution on Iraq, said he regarded Falwell’s comments “as much an insult to me as a Christian as they are to Muslims”.

In presenting his apologies, Falwell said that in his more than 50 years of Christian ministry, he had never preached a sermon on Islam or written a book or pamphlet on the subject.

“I have always shown respect for other religions, faiths and denominations,” he said. “Unfortunately, I answered one controversial and loaded question at the conclusion of an hour-long CBS interview which I should not have answered.”

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