Muslim religious leaders have accused Pope Benedict XVI of quoting anti-Islamic remarks during a speech at a German university this week. Questioning the concept of holy war, he quoted a 14th-Century Christian emperor who said Muhammad had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things.

A senior Pakistani Islamic scholar, Javed Ahmed Gamdi, said jihad was not about spreading Islam with the sword.

Turkey’s top religious official asked for an apology for the “hostile” words.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, police seized copies of newspapers which reported the Pope’s comments to prevent any tension.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Frederico Lombardi, said he did not believe the Pope’s comments were meant as a harsh criticism of Islam.

In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born pontiff explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity and the relationship between violence and faith.

Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The emperors words were, he said: “Show me just what Muhammad 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.”

Benedict said “I quote” twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was “incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul”.

Full article here.  The incident has sparked condemnation from Malaysia’s moderate prime minister, one of Sunni Islam’s leading authorities, the Taliban, a leading figure in the Jordanian National Ministry, and Iran’s foreign minister, among others.

Meanwhile, the Pope has apologized in a statement read out by a senior Vatican official:

Reading the statement, new Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said the Pope’s position on Islam was in line with Vatican teaching that the Church “esteems Muslims, who adore the only God”.

“The Holy Father is very sorry that some passages of his speech may have sounded offensive to the sensibilities of Muslim believers,” the statement said.

There will be concerns about whether to go ahead with the Pope’s planned visit to Turkey, in light of the controversy over his safety, our correspondent says.

Some commentators in Rome have suggested it may be useful for his lecture to be translated into Arabic, so that people can make their own judgement and see for themselves in what context the quote was made.

Full article here.

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