Fury Over Pope's Remarks Raises Concerns - Forbes.com
Pakistan's legislature unanimously condemned Pope Benedict XVI. Lebanon's top Shiite cleric demanded an apology. And in Turkey, the ruling party likened the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades.
Across the Islamic world Friday, Benedict's remarks on Islam and jihad in a speech in Germany unleashed a torrent of rage that many fear could burst into violent protests like those that followed publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
By citing an obscure Medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman," Benedict inflamed Muslim passions and aggravated fears of a new outbreak of anti-Western protests.
The last outpouring of Islamic anger at the West came in February over the prophet cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper. The drawings sparked protests - some of them deadly - in almost every Muslim nation in the world.
Some experts said the perceived provocation by the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics could leave even deeper scars.
"The declarations from the pope are more dangerous than the cartoons, because they come from the most important Christian authority in the world - the cartoons just came from an artist," said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst in Cairo, Egypt, who studies Islamic militancy.
On Friday, Pakistan's parliament adopted a resolution condemning Benedict for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam, and seeking an apology. Hours later, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican's ambassador to express regret over the pope's remarks Tuesday.
Notably, the strongest denunciations came from Turkey - a moderate democracy seeking European Union membership where Benedict is scheduled to visit in November as his first trip as pope to a Muslim country.
Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party, said Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet or, worse, a deliberate distortion.
"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world," Kapusuz told Turkish state media. "It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."
What a joke. Christianity HAS reformed itself. It is Islam that lives in the dark ages still and needs reform.
"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," Kapusuz added. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."
Even Turkey's staunchly pro-secular opposition party demanded the pope apologize before his visit. Another party led a demonstration outside Ankara's largest mosque, and a group of about 50 people placed a black wreath outside the Vatican's diplomatic mission.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has tried to defuse anger, saying the pope did not intend to offend Muslim sensibilities and insisting Benedict respects Islam. In Pakistan, the Vatican envoy voiced regret at "the hurt caused to Muslims."
But Muslim leaders said outreach efforts by papal emissaries were not enough.
"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him (Benedict) to offer a personal apology - not through his officials," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric, told worshippers in Beirut.
Rashwan, the analyst, feared the official condemnations could be followed by widespread popular protests. Already there had been scattered demonstrations in several Muslim countries.
"What we have right now are public reactions to the pope's comments from political and religious figures, but I'm not optimistic concerning the reaction from the general public, especially since we have no correction from the Vatican," Rashwan said.
The pope quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.
"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," Benedict said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad 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.'"
The pope did not explicitly agree with nor repudiate the comment.
In Britain, the head of the Muslim Council, a body representing 400 Muslim groups, said the emperor's views quoted by the pope were bigoted.
"One would expect a religious leader such as the pope to act and speak with responsibility and repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations between the followers of Islam and Catholicism," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, the council's secretary-general.
Repudiate the Byzantine emporer's "views"? Are you kidding me? Pick up a history book. Turkey was a Christian country, Constantinople the Capital of eastern Christian Europe. It was attacked and destroyed by the Muslims, turned into Instanbul, and everyone was forced violently to become Muslim. And the king of this city, while fighting off the Muslims, is now a bad guy for saying muslims use violence to spread their religion? Maybe the Muslims should stop the bloody Jihad they've been waging on non muslims for the last 1,300 years? The Islamic world is EXACTLY THE SAME as it was over a thousand years ago. What's different? They have oil we found for them, oil wells we built for them, money we gave them for oil we found, books we gave to them, science we shared with them- no change or creation or reform they themselves started. They still abuse women and cut people's head off. Their views of Islam and the Koran are still exactly the same- primative and barbaric. How dare they try to rewrite history- Islam WAS spread by the sword. It still is today! Muslims do this in Darfur, Thailand, the Phillipines, India, Germany, France, England, The US, Australia, every place where muslims come in contact with non muslims, they are cutting off their heads and using violence to make them convert. I wish the pope could call a holy war and Europe would fight it. That would be awesome! It's not going to happen though, Western Civilization would never allow it. We don't use violenc in ther service of religion. Only Islam does that!
And the irony of violent protests because the Pope quotes some guy who says Islam is violent! Islam means surrender, surrender to the sword. Jihad is one of the five pillars of islam, mandatory for all muslims!