Sunday, September 17, 2006


15 Sep, 2006
The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Pope Benedict XVI's attack on Islam has stirred anger in India with the head of the National Commission for Minorities saying he sounded like a medieval crusader.

Pope Benedict provoked worldwide outcry with comments Tuesday during a visit to his native Germany in which he talked about the "issue of jihad, holy war", a term used by Islamic extremists to justify acts of terror.

"The language used by the pope sounds like that of his 12th-century counterpart who ordered the crusades," said Hamid Ansari, chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

The commission's role includes maintaining harmony between officially secular India's majority Hindu population and Muslims who number 130 million in the country of 1.1 billion.

In Kashmir, dozens of lawyers wearing black court robes marched Friday through the streets of the summer capital Srinagar, shouting, "Those who dare to target Islam and the Prophet will be finished."

Police were also deployed around churches and dozens of Christian missionary schools in Kashmir to prevent any violence against Christians, but no trouble was reported.

"What he said was nothing but blasphemy," said Kamal Farooqi, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, but he also called on Muslims to "exercise restraint and not lose their cool."

Pope Benedict's speech explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity and the relationship between violence and faith.

In Mumbai, the Roman Catholic's official spokesman Father Anthony Charanghat insisted the pontiff was only seeking to explain how Islamic terrorists use the concept of jihad or holy war as a theological justification for violence.

But Father Julian Saldhana, a theology professor at Saint Pius Seminary in Mumbai, said the pope had "reproduced a quotation which is derogatory of the Prophet Mohammed ... without showing he disagrees with it."

"It would be good if he now told us what he appreciated about the Prophet." Christians officially make up atleast 2.3 percent of India's population.



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