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Pope's clarification fails to appease some Muslims
Updated 9/17/2006 11:16 PM
By Eric J. Lyman, Special for USA TODAY
ROME — Pope Benedict XVI's expression of regret Sunday for the reaction
sparked by his remarks about Islam's founder failed to satisfy many Muslims,
who said he should have made a full apology.
Benedict said he was not offering his personal opinions last week when he
cited a text characterizing the prophet Mohammed's teachings as "evil and
In Turkey, State Minister Mehmet Aydin said Benedict seemed to be saying
he was sorry for the outrage, but not necessarily the remarks themselves.
"Are you sorry for saying such a thing or because of its consequences?"
he said to reporters in Istanbul, referring to the pope.
A top official of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic political
group, suggested the pope's apology was not enough. Mohamed Habib,
deputy to leader Mohammed Mahdi Akef, called Benedict's comments
Sunday "a step in the right direction." Habib added, "However, it does not
represent a clear and explicit apology."
Egypt and Morocco recalled their ambassadors to the Holy See on Saturday.
Violence also erupted during the weekend. An Italian nun and her bodyguard were shot to death Sunday at a hospital in Mogadishu,
Somalia. Yusuf Mohamed Siad, head of security for the Islamic militia that controls the capital, said the attack may have been tied to
the pope's remarks.
Hundreds of people rallied in major cities across Iran. Ahmad Khatami, Friday prayer leader in Tehran and a member of the panel
that has the power to choose or dismiss Iran's top leader, compared the pope to President Bush, saying the two had "united to repeat
Seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza were attacked Saturday and Sunday in response to the pope's comments.
Italy's Interior Ministry raised the level of national security in response to threats against the Vatican.
Speaking Sunday at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, 20 miles south of Rome, Benedict said he was "deeply sorry"
for the reaction he caused Tuesday when he quoted Eastern Roman Emperor Manuel II Paleologus's comments in 1391: "Show me
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."
"These were quotations from a medieval text that in no way express my personal opinions," the pope said.
Last week, the Vatican issued a statement that said the comment about holy war made during the pontiff's visit to Germany was
meant to prompt a "genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today."
The Rev. Alistair Sear, a church historian, says the remarks were taken out of context. "These statements were made in an academic
environment at Regensburg University as part of a nuanced debate," he said. "Of course it will be misinterpreted if part of it is isolated
or if the comments are looked at in a different context."
The anger over Benedict's remarks comes amid growing friction between Christians and Muslims. Early this year, global protests
erupted in response to the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
Benedict has made increasing interfaith dialogue one of his key missions. At World Youth Day last year in Germany, the pope drew a
warm response for meeting with Muslim leaders and visiting a synagogue.
It was unclear whether the pope's explanation would mollify Muslims angered by what they said was an insult by the head of the
world's more than 1 billion Catholics.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the daily tabloid newspaper 7Days ran a front-page story on the pope's apology under the banner
headline: "Is it enough?"
Essam Abdel-Hafiz, 43, a lawyer in Cairo, said an apology was not enough from someone who should know better. "It's not right for
people to insult and then apologize, particularly when it comes from a religious leader," Abdel-Hafiz said. "I believe that a man of his
stature should know right from wrong."
Hassan Hammoudi, 42, a Shiite Muslim who lives in southern Beirut, said the pope's comments were the latest example of anti-
Islamic sentiment in the West.
"First they insult the prophet Mohammed with their cartoons. Now they say that Islam is violent," he said as he cleaned up damage to
his home from last month's war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. "Isn't it enough that Israel attacks our homes? Do we have
to have our religion attacked as well?"
Abu Omar, owner of the Lourin Cake and Sweets shop in Amman, Jordan, worried about the impact on Muslim-Christian relations in
his neighborhood. Benedict "needs to get in front of a camera again and apologize," he said. "What are the comments going to do to
our relations with our own Christian neighbors?"
Others said Benedict's explanation should be accepted. Alireza Hejazi, 25, an accountant in Tehran, Iran, said she was offended by
the pope's remarks, but she added, "Maybe he didn't really want to insult Muslims. So we must forgive him."
"People were very angry," said Noor Allah Mohammed Khan, 46, a Pakistani taxi driver working in Dubai. "But the pope said sorry. It's
Contributing: Nicholas Blanford in Beirut, Mandi Fahmy in Cairo, Hugh Naylor in Amman, Roxana Saberi in London, Paul Wiseman in
Dubai, wire reports
Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, left, said the
comments that Pope Benedict XVI, right, recently quoted are
not the pontiff's own view of Islam's founder.