Muslim world protests at Pope's 'derogatory' Mohamed comments

Pope Benedict XVI has ignited a firestorm of protest from Muslims around the world in reaction to his citation of negative remarks about the Prophet Mohamed and the purported Muslim tendency to convert infidels by force. Many of the world's senior Islamic figures joined in the protest, including clerics and politicians from Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The most severe criticism came from Pakistan, where the parliament unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the Pope for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam and seeking an apology from him.

The rage was sparked by a few brief lines buried deep within a long and closely reasoned address given by the German Pope to the University of Regensburg in Germany, where he had once been a professor. Benedict's lecture was devoted to the question of the "reasonableness" of Christian faith in an age when most people believe that rationality means science and implicitly excludes religious belief.

Benedict insisted that rationality was the Greek contribution to Christianity and was intrinsic to it. As an illustration he quoted what "the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus" told an educated Persian about reasonableness and religion.

The 14th-century emperor said, as Benedict put it, that "spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul". Continuing his quote, the Pope said: "'God is not pleased by blood... Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence or threats.'"

If Benedict had restricted himself to those words, it is likely his speech would have passed off with few adverse comments. But instead he included the far harsher words the emperor had spoken immediately before: "'Show me just what Mohamed 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.'"

In one dense and scholarly paragraph, the Pope thereby succeeded in combining the ideas that Islam is evil and inhuman, that it converts (or at least converted) by the sword and that doing so was proof of its unreasonableness as a religion and the irrationality of its believers.

The lecture continued for another four-and-a-half pages, but nowhere did the Pope try to distance himself from Manuel's remarks or say the emperor was wrong. On the contrary, the emperor was described as a "Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy" who was "erudite" about both religions.

The Grand Mufti of Istanbul, Ali Bardakoglu, said the remarks "reflect the hatred in [the Pope's] heart. It is a statement full of enmity and grudge". He said he was offended, and called the words "extraordinarily worrying, saddening and unfortunate".

The comments immediately focused attention on the Pope's planned visit to Turkey in November. The Pope has already been criticised in Turkey for his opposition to it joining the European Union, and his advocacy for a Christian element in the EU constitution. Salih Kapusuz, the deputy leader of the ruling party, which has its roots in Islam, said Benedict's remarks were either the result of "pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its Prophet or a deliberate distortion of the truth.

"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages," he said. "He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world. It looks like an attempt to revive the mentality of the Crusades."

Across the Middle East, senior Islamic figures denounced the remarks. In Beirut, Lebanon's leading Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, demanded the Pope personally apologise for an insult to Islam.

In Syria, the Grand Mufti, the country's top Sunni Muslim religious authority, said he had sent a letter to the Pope explaining that he feared the pontiff's comments on Islam would worsen inter-faith relations.

In Cairo, protesters gathered outside the capital's al-Azhar mosque.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, attempted to defuse the crisis by saying Benedict had been misunderstood.

"It certainly wasn't the intention of the Pope to carry out a deep examination of jihad and Muslim thought on it, much less to offend the sensibility of Muslim believers," he said in a statement. He insisted that the Pope wanted to "cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, obviously also towards Islam".

The Byzantine emperor he quoted

* The man whose words have provoked the latest torrent of emotion from the Islamic world was a member of the last Byzantine dynasty to rule in Constantinople before being defeated by the Turks.

Manuel II Palaeologus was also the only Byzantine emperor to visit Britain (and France) in an effort to whip up support for his crumbling dynasty. He reigned from 1392 to 1425, and in between wars and sieges managed to compose numerous books on theology and rhetoric.

At the time of his father's death, Manuel was an honorary hostage at the court of the Ottoman sultan, and had been forced to fight in the sultan's campaign to crush the last Roman enclave in Anatolia, at Philadelphia.

Manuel fled to Constantinople in 1392 to claim his crown but, two years later, was under siege by the sultan who had formerly held him captive. It was during the eight-year siege of his capital that Manuel gave a Persian the thoughts on the "evil" and "inhumanity" of Islam which Benedict quoted. Despite this, he had good relations with the victor in the Ottoman civil war, Mehmed I.

In 1453, 28 years after his death, Constantinople finally fell to the Turks.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash