Muhammad Ayash al-Kubaisi sent a letter on Thursday to the pope asking him to participate in a public debate to discuss the issues he had raised during his six-day visit to Germany.

 

Pope Benedict XVI caused controversy during a visit to his native Bavaria when he criticised the Islamic concept of jihad [holy war].

 

The letter which was sent to Aljazeera.net said that such statements would cause cultural and religious clashes between the East and West.

 

It described the Pope's statements as evidence of ignorance of Islamic teachings, labelling the act a free gift to the current US administration which would use those critical remarks to justify the aggression on Muslim territories such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

Responding to the Pope's statement that Islam was spread by force, al-Kubaisi said: "If the non-Arab Muslims in Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia etc. were forced by Arabs to enter Islam, why are they still sticking to their religion knowing the Arab Muslims lost the power long time ago?"

 

Spreading Islam

Al-Kubaisi told Aljazeera.net : "Let us look at who spread Islam in the Middles Ages - the Turkish Ottomans through the Ottoman Empire (1481-1922), and the Mughal empire (
early 16th to the mid-18th century). So if those were forced to enter Islam, is it possible they bother to spread it? I do not think so."

 

The Pope criticised Islam and its
concept of jihad or holy war

He explained that the Quran gives a clear signal in Verse 2: 256 where it refers to there being "no force in religion".

 

The letter described shock at the Pope's statement, saying it pours oil on fire, at a time when everybody expects the pontiff to join the efforts to bridge the gap between East and West.

 

Widening the gap would serve the interests of no one, the letter said.

 

Muslim scholars and religious leaders in Kuwait, Turkey and Pakistan have criticised Pope Benedict XVI for his remarks about Islam and urged him to play a positive role in bringing Islam and Christianity closer.


Jihad

 

During a six-day visit to his native Germany this week, the Pope criticised Islam and its concept of jihad (holy war), citing a 14th-century Christian emperor who said that Prophet Muhammad had brought the world "evil and inhuman" things.


"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul," he said on Tuesday in an address at Regensburg University.

 

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, later said he did not believe the Pope's words were meant as a harsh criticism of Islam.