10/02/2006, 00.00
PAKISTAN - VATICAN

Muslims in Pakistan: "We respect pope; his speech was used"

When interviewed, Muslim clerics and scholars accused the media and "forces against peace" of using the pope's words to sow seeds of hatred among Christians and Muslims. There were calls to dialogue and great appreciation for the explanation of Benedict XVI and his meeting with Muslim ambassadors.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The pope's words in Regensburg were "misunderstood by the media and forces that are against peace," who "interpreted them in a mistaken manner on the basis of their personal desires". But Benedict XVI is a personality "respected by all Islam", as revealed in his "meeting with Muslim ambassadors, which was a step towards dialogue that should be continued and taken ahead without any more useless controversies."

This was the outcome of a survey conducted by Fr Francis Nadeeem in Pakistan. The Capuchin priest is coordinator of the National Council for Interfaith Dialogue of Pakistan, who interviewed Muslim scholars and clergymen about the controversy surrounding the pope's speech in Regensburg and the protests that followed.

Maulana Malik Javaid Akbar Saqi, President of Tehreek-e-Wahdat-e-Islami [a group of Muslim activists of Kashmir], said: "Pope Benedict XVI clearly stated that in the 'accused' part of his address, he quoted the views of a historian and not his own. We might have accepted his explanation. Islam and Christianity teach us about of peace and tolerance. Both the religions are in a very close relation with each other and due to this binding relation we can work for the betterment of the world. I understand some forces are trying to create a conflict between these two religions and these people are interpreting what happened in quite a contrary way. It doesn't suit us to express our retaliation in such a destructive manner. In his meeting with the ambassadors of the Muslim countries, Benedict XVI presented the teachings of Christianity in its true spirit and imparted the lesson of peace love and peace among the people of the world."

For Muhammad Nawaz Noorani AL-Qadri, a Muslim cleric, "this matter has been propagated to the extreme. The media have tried to develop chaos in the world, especially between Islam and Christianity. The Pope has taken a glorious step by conducting a meeting with the ambassadors of Muslim countries. This is his greatness. We respect the Pope and will continue to do so."

Abul Faheem, Pir Muhammad Ibrahim, President of the Ulema-o-Mashaikh [Pakistan Muslim League] emphasized that the quotation by the Pope "was taken from a 13th century text, and pronounced during his speech on faith. A few people tried to hide the fact that there is all there was to it: a quotation that is not in line with his personal vision."

Sahibzada Allama Muhammad Yar Zahoori, vice-chairman of the World Islamic Council: "Whatever happened, Pope Benedict XVI clarified and immediately conducted a dialogue with Muslim ambassadors. This is highly remarkable. He has played a significant role and the meeting of the Muslim ambassadors shows their satisfaction, confidence and trust towards the role of the Pope."

Allama Mushtaq Hussain Jafri, chairman of the World Peace and Unity Council, said "it is the need of the hour that religions of the world sit together and work for the promotion of peace and religious harmony. We should respect each other. We respect Jesus Christ and based on this, we should develop positive openings among us."

Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer, President of Markazi Jamaat Ahl-e-Hadis, Pakistan, said: "The Pope holds a highly responsible and important title and he is following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, revealing his greatness. In this way, he could calm 'offended' Muslim people. In fact, peace could prevail in the world when Muslims and Christians join hands and work together."

Ajmal Niazi, a renowned columnist, closed the survey: "The Pope occupies a significant place in the Christian world and we also consider him a spiritual leader and respect him. We always receive messages of reconciliation and affection from Him. His words in Regensburg were understood in a negative way and this is not a good thing. People interpreted his speech according to their personal desires, but since the Pope made it clear how things stand, there is no reason to protest. I suggest that Muslim religious leaders prepare a way towards dialogue and not create any sort of enmity. The Pope's meeting with the ambassadors is a sign of friendship with the Muslim world. Therefore we should all work for dialogue."

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