Pope Benedict XVI was last night facing angry demands from Muslims that he apologise for a speech in which he appeared to condemn the concept of jihad as "unreasonable" and quoted a medieval ruler who said Muhammad's innovations were "evil and inhuman".
Protests swept across the Islamic world and the furore threatened a scheduled visit by the Pope to Turkey.
The Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told Vatican Radio: "It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful."
n Turkey, however, where the Pope is due to visit in November, the deputy leader of the ruling party said Benedict had "a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the middle ages". Salih Kapusuz added: "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."
Representatives of the two million Turks in Germany, where the comments were made, also expressed deep annoyance. The head of the Turkish community, Kenan Kolat, said they were "very dangerous" and liable to misunderstanding.
In Beirut, Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, one of the world's top Shia Muslim clerics, said: "We demand that [the Pope] apologises personally, and not through [Vatican] sources, to all Muslims for such a wrong interpretation." An influential Iranian cleric branded his remarks "absurd". Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University: "The Pope has insulted Islam." The lower house of Pakistan's parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the comments. It said the pontiff should "retract his remarks in the interest of harmony among different religions".
This is the speech that has incited Muslim protests (excerpt):
But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels,” he turns to his interlocutor somewhat brusquely with the central question on the relationship between religion and violence in general, in these words: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 emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.