09/16/2006, 00.00
ISLAM - VATICAN
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Two churches struck in Nablus as Muslim countries criticize pope

Palestine, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and even The New York Times have called on the pope to apologise. There are calls for Muslim ambassadors to leave the Vatican. Syria, Iran and al-Qaeda could play games.

Rome (AsiaNews) – As Muslims persist in heaping criticism on the pope's speech in Regensburg, there have been elements of violence. There is also speculation about political exploitation of the criticisms leveled against the pontiff.

This morning, in Nablus (Palestine), two Christian Churches, one Anglican and the other Greek Catholic, were struck by Molotov bombs. The extent of damage was not serious, just smoke stains on the walls. Ayman Daraghmeh, a Hamas MP, criticized the attack and urged the Palestinian police to protect Christian sites. A group called "The Lions of Monotheism" claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In Kuwait, an integralist MP, Daifallah Buramia, called on the government to stop giving permits for the construction of churches in the Emirate, judging the speech of Benedict XVI to be an "offence to Islam and its prophet". In Kuwait, an Islamic country, a dozen or so churches have been set up for around 200 local Christians and more than 250,000 foreigners.

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has joined in the chorus of criticism, demanding that Benedict XVI apologize to soothe the ruffled feelings of the Muslim world. Badawi, held to be a moderate Muslim, said: "The pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created... His statement has down discord and will not encourage inter-faith dialogue." Badawi is chairman of the Organization of Islamic Conferences and leader of a Muslim majority country divided between a modern and secular constitution and regional laws inspired by Islam. Badawi expressed his concerns at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cuba. The Pakistani leader, Gen. Musharraf, also added his voice to the chorus.

The Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyad has demanded the pope's personal apology for his phrases "full of prejudice towards Islam and the prophet Muhammad." In a statement issued yesterday, it "deeply deplored" the pontiff's words that "deliberately ignored" the principles of Islam in favour of "love and peace and not of violence and revenge."

The New York Times has also requested an apology. In today's editorial, the daily, referring to the pontiff, said "it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, either deliberately or carelessly. He needs to offer a deep and persuasive apology."

In Algeria, the Association of Koranic Doctors called on all Muslim countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Vatican City because the pope "gives to understand that there is a bond between Islam, violence and a lack of reason".

The chorus of criticism, protests and the beginnings of violence, are reminiscent of the saga of the Muhammad cartoons, which provoked protests and clashes across the Muslim world. An analysis offered by Global Intelligence Stratfor, drew attention to the fact that now, as then, the reaction was not immediate; rather it came after a certain amount of time. Then, as now, "protests will be used by those who seek a diversion, a cause to unite Muslims, or simply a catalyst to reinforce Muslim extremism against the West." Stratfor analysts cite Syria, Iran and the Jihadist movement of al-Qaeda as being among the "beneficiaries" of current tension.

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