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Muslim fury grows at pope remarks

Story Highlights

• Two churches in West Bank fire-bombed; no one hurt
• Muslim leaders around the world urge Pope Benedict to apologize
• Vatican says pope only pointing out incompatibility between faith and war
• Comments appear to endorse view early Muslims spread religion by violence
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(CNN) -- Outrage is mounting around the world over Pope Benedict's comments on Islam and jihad despite assurances from the Vatican that he only intended to point out the incompatibility between faith and war.

Unknown assailants threw fire bombs on Saturday at two churches in the West Bank city of Nablus, following a day of Palestinian protests against the pope's remarks. No one was hurt.

And in Indonesia, up to 1,000 Muslims rallied in protest at the comments made earlier in the week by the pope, who was citing an obscure Medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman," video of the scene showed.

Outside the Palestinian Embassy in Jakarta, police looked on as protesters stood behind the gates waving flags while organizer Heri Budianto shouted, "God is great."

"Of course as we know the meaning of jihad can only be understood by Muslims," Budianto told the crowd. "Only Muslims can understand what jihad is. It is impossible that jihad can be linked with violence, we Muslims have no violent character."

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Saturday urged the pope to apologize and withdraw his controversial comments, according to The Associated Press.

"The pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created," the Bernama news agency quoted Abdullah as saying, AP said.

"The Vatican must now take full responsibility over the matter and carry out the necessary steps to rectify the mistake."

A Vatican statement said Benedict was not trying offend Muslims with his remarks, which appeared to endorse a Christian view, contested by most Muslims, that the early Muslims spread their religion by violence.

"It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to ... offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful," said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican press officer.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the pope on Saturday, telling the mass-circulation Bild newspaper that the German-born pontiff had been calling for dialogue with other religions.

"Whoever criticizes the Pope misunderstood the aim of his speech," Merkel was quoted as saying, according to Reuters.

"It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the pope expressedly spoke in favour of this dialogue ... What Benedict XVI emphasised was a decisive and uncompromising renunciation of all forms of violence in the name of religion."

Meanwhile, members of a group called "Lions of Monotheism" claimed responsibility for lobbing Molotov cocktails at the windows of two Christian churches in Nablus on Saturday, Palestinian Security Sources said. The group said it was protesting Pope Benedict's words, AP said.

No casualties resulted from the incident and the churches, a Greek Orthodox Church and an Anglican Church, were not significantly damaged because the makeshift firebombs did not make it inside, the sources said.

A youth center run by the Greek Orthodox church in Gaza was also slightly damaged by a small explosion on Friday, witnesses told Reuters.

During his address at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday, Benedict quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

"God," the emperor, as the pope quoted, said, "is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature." (Full story)

A transcript of the pope's remarks obtained by The Associated Press television network reads: "In the seventh (sura, or chapter of the Quran), the emperor comes to speak about jihad, holy war.

"The emperor certainly knew that Sura 2, 256, reads: 'No force in matters of faith'. It is one of the early suras, from a time -- as experts say -- in which Mohammed himself was still powerless and threatened.

"However, the emperor of course also knew the requirements about the holy war that were later formulated in the Quran. Without going into details like the handling of the owners of the scriptures, or non-believers, he (the emperor) turned to his interlocutors -- in a surprisingly brusque way -- with the central question after the relationship between religion and violence.

"He said, I quote, 'Show me just 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.'"

The anger over the speech follows violent protests by some Muslims last year over the publication in a Danish paper of satirical cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.

'Ignorance of Islam'

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, in a statement released Thursday, said it "regrets the quotations cited by the pope on the Life of the Honorable Prophet Mohammed, and what he referred to as 'spreading' Islam 'by the sword.'"

"The attribution of the spread of Islam around the world to the shedding of blood and violence, which is 'incompatible with the nature of God' is a complete distortion of the facts, which shows deep ignorance of Islam and Islamic history."

OIC chairman, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Saturday called for the pope to apologize and said his pointed comments showed "insensitivity to Muslim feelings and would surely hinder the fostering of good relations between Islam and Christianity," according to state-run news agency Bernama.

Muslim Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Mahdi Akef also expressed anger over the pope's academic speech.

"The pope's statements come to add fuel to fire and trigger anger within the Muslim world and show that the West with its politicians and clerics are hostile to Islam."

Condemnation also came from Turkey where Benedict is scheduled to visit in November.

Turkey's nationalist paper Vatan quoted Salih Kapusuz, head of the ruling Justice and Development Party's parliamentary group as saying Benedict's comments stemmed from "a deplorable ignorance that show he does not know the facts about Islam," according to Reuters.

"The mentality of the Crusades has returned. (Benedict) will go down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."

Criticism was not confined to Muslims. The New York Times said in an editorial on Saturday that he must issue a "deep and persuasive" apology for quotes used in his speech.

"The world listens carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly," the Times said.

"He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology, demonstrating that words can also heal," it added.

More protests

In response to the pope's speech, Pakistan's National Assembly -- parliament's lower house -- unanimously passed a resolution on Friday condemning his remarks.

The Vatican's ambassador was also summoned to Pakistan's Foreign Office to hear directly the government's displeasure.

On Friday, Muslim protesters shouted slogans against the pontiff at a rally in Jammu, India. (Watch other Muslims burn the pope in effigy -- 1:41)

And in Cairo, about 100 demonstrators gathered in an anti-Vatican protest outside the capital's al-Azhar mosque.

In Syria, the grand mufti, the country's top Sunni Muslim religious authority, sent a letter to the pope saying he feared the pontiff's comments on Islam would worsen interfaith relations, AP reported.

In Gaza City, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya issued a condemnation, saying Benedict's remarks "are not true and defamed the essence of this holy religion and it defamed the history of the Islam."

"We say to the pope to re-examine these comments and to stop defaming the Islam religion that more than 1 and half billion Muslims believe in," said Haniya, who made the remarks after Friday prayers.

Later, thousands of Palestinians marched in Gaza, demanding an apology.

In Lebanon, the country's most senior Shiite Muslim cleric demanded the pope personally apologize for insulting Islam.

"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him (Benedict) to offer a personal apology -- not through his officials -- to Muslims for this false reading (of Islam)," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told worshippers.

CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amid growing clamor for a papal apology, Muslim protesters shout slogans against the pope at a rally in Pakistan.



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