September 15, 2006
(CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI came under a hail of criticism from the Islamic world Friday for comments he made earlier in the week regarding the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim faith, in some cities provoking street protests.
A growing chorus of Muslim leaders have called on the pope to apologize for the remarks he made in a speech in Germany on Tuesday when he used the terms "jihad" and "holy war."
Friday, Muslim protesters shouted slogans against the pontiff at a rally in Jammu, India.
A Vatican statement said Benedict was not trying offend Muslims with his remarks.
"It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to ... offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful," said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press officer.
In response to the pope's speech, Pakistan's National Assembly -- parliament's lower house -- unanimously passed a resolution on Friday condemning his remarks.
The Vatican's ambassador was also summoned to Pakistan's Foreign Office to hear directly the government's displeasure.
"It was underlined that at a time when there was an acute need for promoting inter-faith harmony such remarks, regardless of the context, were very unfortunate," said a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The ambassador promised to convey Pakistan's sentiments to the pope, the statement said.
In Cairo Friday, about 100 demonstrators gathered in an anti-Vatican protest outside the capital's al-Azhar mosque.
Meanwhile, a youth center run by the Greek Orthodox church in the Gaza Strip was slightly damaged by a small explosion on Friday, witnesses told Reuters.
It was unclear if the blast was connected to the pope's comments.
During his address at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.
"God," the emperor, as the pope quoted, said, "is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature." (Full story (http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/09/12/pope.bavaria.ap/index.html/))
A transcript of the pope's remarks obtained by The Associated Press television network reads: "In the seventh (sura, or chapter of the Quran), the emperor comes to speak about jihad, holy war.
"The emperor certainly knew that Sura 2, 256, reads: 'No force in matters of faith'. It is one of the early suras, from a time -- as experts say -- in which Mohammed himself was still powerless and threatened.
"However, the emperor of course also knew the requirements about the holy war that were later formulated in the Quran. Without going into details like the handling of the owners of the scriptures, or non-believers, he (the emperor) turned to his interlocutors -- in a surprisingly brusque way -- with the central question after the relationship between religion and violence.
"He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed 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 Organization of the Islamic Conference, in a statement released Thursday, said it "regrets the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed, and what he referred to as 'spreading' Islam 'by the sword.'"
"The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is 'incompatible with the nature of God' is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history."
Muslim Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Mahdi Akef also expressed anger over the pope's academic speech.
"The pope's statements come to add fuel to fire and trigger anger within the Muslim world and show that the West with its politicians and clerics are hostile to Islam."
Condemnation also came from Turkey where Benedict is scheduled to visit in November.
"His words are extremely regrettable, worrying and unfortunate in terms of the Christian world and common peace of humanity," the Anatolian state news agency quoted Ali Bardakoglu, the head of Ankara's Directorate General for Religious Affairs, as saying.
"I do not see any use in somebody visiting the Islamic world who thinks in this way about the holy prophet of Islam."
In Syria, the grand mufti, the country's top Sunni Muslim religious authority, sent a letter to the pope saying he feared the pontiff's comments on Islam would worsen interfaith relations, AP reported.
In Gaza City, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued a condemnation, saying Benedict's remarks "are not true and defamed the essence of this holy religion and it defamed the history of the Islam."
"We say to the pope to re-examine these comments and to stop defaming the Islam religion that more than 1 and half billion Muslims believe in," said Haniya, who made the remarks after Friday prayers.
Later, thousands of Palestinians marched in Gaza, demanding an apology.
In Lebanon, the country's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric demanded the pope personally apologize for insulting Islam.
"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him (Benedict) to offer a personal apology -- not through his officials -- to Muslims for this false reading (of Islam)," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told worshippers.
But the Vatican statement said Benedict's discussion on Tuesday was quite to the contrary.
"The Holy Father's desire (is) to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, including, of course, Islam."
According to Lombardi, Benedict's speech was "a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'"
CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to t