Saturday, September 23, 2006

Khaleej Times Online - Ramadan — month of prayer for Muslims, of “holy war” for extremists

Khaleej Times Online - Ramadan — month of prayer for Muslims, of “holy war” for extremists

DUBAI - Islam’s holy fasting month of Ramadan began on Saturday in most of the Middle East, with bloodshed in Iraq, threats of violence across the region and many Muslims still incensed over remarks by the pope.

In the first reported bloodshed of the holy month, at least 31 people were killed by a bomb in a Shiite stronghold of Iraq where calls for “jihad’, or holy war, echoed earlier threats of attacks in the Gulf and on Israel.

A day of protests on the eve of Ramadan saw no let-up in demands for Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for quoting a medieval Christian emperor who criticised some teaching of the Prophet Mohammed as ”evil and inhuman”.

The pope has invited ambassadors of Muslim countries to the Vatican for a meeting on Monday as part of a diplomatic offensive to repair rifts caused by his remarks.

But Jordan’s Islamic Action Front derided the pope’s call. “The pope committed a great wrong against Islam and a meeting with Muslim countries’ ambassadors is not sufficient. There must be a clear apology,” said Zaki Saad Beni Rsheid, the front’s secretary general.

As the religious row rumbled on, the shadow of more violence during Ramadan hung over security forces.

US military commanders in Iraq warned of an upsurge in violence while several other countries were fingered as Ramadan targets in a message to Western leaders from Ayman Al Zawahiri, the number two in Al Qaeda.

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