Pope′s Apology Fails to Stem Anger of Muslim Hardliners | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.09.2006
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Pope's Apology Fails to Stem Anger of Muslim Hardliners

Pope Benedict XVI's personal apology for hurting the feelings of Muslims with a controversial speech failed to stem the anger of hardliners despite calls for calm from Islamic and Western leaders.

Iraqis burned an effigy of the pope and a German flag on Monday

Iraqis burned an effigy of the pope and a German flag on Monday

According to news reports, hundreds of angry demonstrators burned an effigy of the German-born pope and German and American flags in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra. Terror organization al Qaeda pledged a jihad (holy war) until the "servant of the cross" (the pope), and the West, are defeated.

In Somalia, a 65-year-old Italian nun was murdered on Sunday. While some said that her execution could have been sparked by outrage over the pope's remarks, local Muslim leaders said that Somali warlords were responsible for the murder, according to news reports.

Iran meanwhile was unmoved by Sunday's apology, saying it was not abject enough and called on the 79-year-old pontiff to admit he had made a mistake.

"These explanations were necessary but not sufficient," said Gholam Hossein Elham, a spokesman for the Iranian government. "He needs to say more clearly that what he said was an error and correct it."

Vatica n lau n ches diplomatic offe n sive

In a personal apology on Sunday, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics said he was "deeply sorry" for the offense caused by his remarks made at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday in which he quoted a medieval emperor who criticized some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman."

Papst trifft Muslime

The pope met with German Muslim leaders during his trip to Cologne last year

"Of course he regrets that Muslims have reacted like that and have completely misunderstood him," Georg Ratzinger, the pope's brother, told DW-WORLD.DE in an interview. "It's not his opinion. He would never hold such a view. It's the quote of a man, who lived 500 years ago. Naturally, it's a grotesque misunderstanding that it was taken out of context and presented as if it were his opinion."

The Vatican meanwhile launched a diplomatic offensive to explain to Muslim countries the pope's position on Islam, sending ambassadors to political and religious leaders to explain the full text of the speech.

EU co n dem n s reactio n s

The European Commission condemned "disproportionate" reactions to the speech, saying that violence struck at one of the EU's chief ideals.

While German political leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, had defended Benedict and said that his speech had been misunderstood, French President Jacques Chirac warned against "anything that increases tensions between peoples or religions.

"We must avoid any confusion between Islam, which is of course a respected and respectable religion, and radical Islamism which is a totally different form of behavior and which is of a political nature," he said.

Me n di n g ties i n Turkey ?

Jahresrückblick 2005 Oktober EU Türkei

Benedict has so far opposed Turkey's bid for EU membership

Experts meanwhile said that the pope should use his upcoming trip to Turkey in late November to mend ties.

"His trip will provide a window of opportunity to rephrase what he said, to show that he does not accept the negative stereotypes of Islam often found in the Western world," Dogu Ergil of Ankara University told Reuters news service.

Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul's Bahcesehir University went a step further, calling on Benedict to rethink his position on Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

"The pope should come here but he should give a message that he now supports Turkey's efforts to join the European Union," Aktar told Reuters. "He should make clear he sees this bid as part of the answer to the 'clash of civilizations.'"

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