September 15, 2006
Muslims around the world expressed outrage over Pope Benedict XVI’s comments on Islam and many demanded an apology. Turkey’s ruling Islamic party accusing the pope of trying to revive the spirit of the Crusades.
“We denounce this slander made by the pope on Islam and the figure of the Prophet Muhammad,” said Sheik Salah al-Ubaidi, deliv-
ering a sermon to about 5,000 people in the Shiite Muslim strong-
hold of Kufa, about 100 miles south of Baghdad.
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,” the pope 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 didn’t explicitly agree with or repudiate the quote and the Vatican said the pope didn’t intend the remarks—made in Germany on Tuesday during an address at a university—to be offensive.
… Turkey’s top Islamic cleric, Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, had asked the pope on Thursday to apologize for the remarks and unleashed a string of accusations against Christianity, raising tensions before the pontiff’s planned visit to Turkey in November on what would be his first papal trip in a Muslim country.
Mr. Bardakoglu said he was deeply offended and called the remarks “extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate.”
Salih Kapusuz, a deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party, said on Friday that Pope Benedict’s remarks were either “the result of pitiful ignorance” about Islam and its prophet, or worse, a deliberate distortion of the truths.
“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,” Mr. Kapusuz said to the state-owned Anatolia news agency. “It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades.”
Which wouldn’t come as a surprise to seasoned Vatican-watchers:
The Vatican has begun moves to rehabilitate the Crusaders by sponsoring a conference at the weekend that portrays the Crusades as wars fought with the “noble aim” of regaining the Holy Land for Christianity.
The Crusades are seen by many Muslims as acts of violence that have underpinned Western aggression towards the Arab world ever since. Followers of Osama bin Laden claim to be taking part in a latter-day “jihad against the Jews and Crusaders”.
The late Pope John Paul II sought to achieve Muslim-Christian reconciliation by asking “pardon” for the Crusades during the 2000 Millennium celebrations. But John Paul’s apologies for the past “errors of the Church”—including the Inquisition and anti-Semitism—irritated some Vatican conservatives. According to insiders, the dissenters included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.
Religious tolerance at work, folks.
Unsurprisingly, the Pope’s planned trip to Turkey now appears to be off.
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