Pope criticised over Islam remarks

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

Pope Benedict XVI implicitly linked jihad with terrorism
Pope Benedict XVI implicitly linked jihad with terrorism

Ali Bardakoglu, head of the state-run religious affairs directorate in Turkey, said on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI was “full of enmity and grudge” against Islam. He opposed the pontiff’s planned visit to Turkey in November.

Bardakoglu also demanded that the pope should immediately retract and issue an apology for his remarks about Islam and his criticism of the concept of jihad (holy war).

The pontiff’s remarks “reflect the hatred in his heart. It is a statement full of enmity and grudge”, Bardakoglu told the NTV news channel on Thursday.

“It is a prejudiced and biased approach.”

Islam criticised

During a six-day visit to his native Germany this week, the pope criticised Islam and its concept of jihad, 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.

“Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”

Pope Benedict XVI

The Vatican press office said in a statement the pope had not intended to carry out an in-depth study of jihad and Muslim thinking about it, “even less to offend the sensitivity of the Muslim faithful”.

Federico Lombardi, the Vatican chief spokesman, said: “It is clear that the Holy Father’s intention is to cultivate a position of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, and that clearly includes Islam.”

He said a careful reading of the Pope’s lecture would show that “what really matters to the Holy Father is a clear and radical rejection of religious motives for violence”.

Bardakoglu, however, described them as unacceptable.

“[The pope’s] approach is a spoilt and cocksure point of view that looks down on the other. At times, we also criticise the Christian world for its wrongs, but we never defame either Christ or the Bible or the holiness of Christianity.”

In comments to the Anatolia news agency, Bardakoglu said the pope carried the same mindset as that “of the Crusades” which arose from the Church’s view that Islam is the enemy.

Apology call

In Kuwait, two high-ranking Islamist officials also called on Pope Benedict XVI to apologise for his remarks.

Hakim al-Mutairi, secretary-general of the emirate’s Umma (Islamic Nation) party, urged the pope to to apologise immediately “to the Muslim world for his calumnies against the Prophet Muhammad and Islam”.

Al-Mutairi denounced the pope’s “unaccustomed and unprecedented” remarks, and linked the Catholic Church leader’s comments to “new Western wars currently under way in the Muslim world in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon”.

The pope criticised the growingsecularisation of Western society

The pope criticised the growing
secularisation of Western society

The pope’s statements amounted to “the pursuit of Crusades”, he said.

“I call on all Arab and Islamic states to recall their ambassadors from the Vatican and expel those from the Vatican until the pope says he is sorry for the wrong done to the Prophet and to Islam, which preaches peace, tolerance, justice and equality,” al-Mutairi said.

Sayid Baqir al-Muhri, head of the assembly of Shia ulemas (Shia theologians) in Kuwait, labelled the pope’s comments “unrealistic and unjustified”, and also called on him to apologise.

“His unjustified attack on Islam and the Prophet Muhammad clearly contradicts his call for dialogue between civilisations,” al-Muhri said. “It opens the way to animosity between religions.

“We demand that the pope make a public apology” to help bring an end to animosity.

‘Positive role’

The pope was also criticised by Muslim scholars and religious leaders in Pakistan who urged him to play a positive role in bringing Islam and Christianity closer.

Khurshid Ahmed, head of the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad, said: “It is very unfortunate that a religious leader of his stature is issuing statements which can fan religious disharmony.

“The Pope is a respected personality not only for Christians but for Muslims also. He should not lower his stature by giving Bush-like statements”

Hafiz Hussain Ahmed,
a leader of the Pakistani Jammiat Ulema-e-Islam party

“The Pope’s attitude is very different from his predecessor. Instead of bringing Islam and Christianity closer, he is straining relations between the two religions,” Ahmed said.

“In the present political atmosphere such views can be exploited by those who are trying to malign Muslims and Islam.

“We expect the Pope to play a positive role in promoting relations between religions and civilisations.

“The Pope’s views about the role of Sharia [Islamic law] and jihad are at variance with Muslim beliefs.”

Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a  leader of the Jammiat Ulema-e-Islam party and an MP, urged the Pope not to take inspiration from George Bush, the US president.

He said: “The Pope is a respected personality not only for Christians but for Muslims also. He should not lower his stature by giving Bush-like statements.”

Shahid Shamsi, spokesman for the Jamaat-i-Islami party, said:”The Pope’s statement was an attempt to jeopardise a remarkable unity displayed by Christians and Muslims against recent Israeli aggression in Lebanon.”

Source: AFP

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