Muslims protest at 'Crusades' mentality as Pope fails to apologise

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The Pope is "extremely upset" that his comments on Islam and jihad have upset Muslims, the Vatican said yesterday. It was not, however, the personal apology many Muslims wanted from Pope Benedict XVI.

Protests continued around the world, with some leaders accusing him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades. Churches were fire-bombed and shot at in the West Bank and Gaza. The government of Morocco recalled its ambassador to the Vatican, and an important papal trip to Turkey appeared in danger of cancellation when the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the Pope to "correct his error immediately".

Mr Erdogan said: "I believe it is necessary for him to take back the ugly, unfortunate statements he has made and to apologise to the Islamic world and Muslims." Turkey is a secular state, but has a predominantly Muslim population. Pope Benedict has, in the past, spoken against its entry into the EU on cultural and religious grounds. Asked if the visit planned for November would be cancelled, Mr Erdogan said dismissively: "I wouldn't know."

The German-born pontiff was speaking to professors at his old university in Regensburg, Bavaria, on Tuesday when he made the comments. Discussing the relationship between faith and reason, he quoted "the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaeologus" as saying of jihad, or holy war, "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."

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, said the Pope was "extremely upset that some portions of his speech were able to sound offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers and have been interpreted in a way that does not at all correspond with his intentions". Pope Benedict believed, he said, that the church "esteems Muslims, who adore the only God".

The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt was not satisfied. "We feel he has committed a grave error against us and that this mistake will be removed only through a personal apology," said deputy leader Mohammed Habib.

But there was support from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said: "What Benedict XVI emphasised was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion."

Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman to enter the Lords, said she had been "deeply saddened" by the comments.

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