Pope Fanning Interfaith Tensions
TEHRAN, Sept. 19--Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said that the world bullies see their survival in igniting interfaith crises, adding Pope Benedict XVI served the same purpose by his recent remarks.
The leader also said the pope's remarks are the latest links in a chain of conspiracies--started with the blasphemous cartoons printed by a Danish newspaper and followed by insulting remarks by some European and American officials against Islam--which seek to launch a new crusade against Islam.
Expressing his "deep regrets" over the pontiff's anti-Islamic remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei said the pope has apparently been deceived.
"He (the pope) had not realized what objectives would be pursued through such remarks," the leader said, adding that the pope has accused Islam of inattention to reason.
"No divine book has emphasized (the significance of) reason more than the Holy Qur'an," the leader said, adding that the pope's remarks about jihad (holy war) are quite 'unfair'.
"Jihad in Islam is not meant to impose our thoughts on others," the leader said, stressing that jihad is a freedom-seeking campaign against superpowers, which promote modern slavery.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the US has had a hand in all efforts to spread pessimism and hatred between Muslims and Christians.
Benedict tried to calm Muslim anger at his remarks on Islam, saying he was "deeply sorry" about the reaction and that medieval quotes he used on holy war did not reflect his personal views.
The head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, however, stopped short of the full apology or retraction demanded by most Muslims for a speech that portrayed Islam as tainted by violence.
"I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims," he told pilgrims at his Castelgandolfo summer residence.
"These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought," the Pope said at his weekly Angelus prayer.
"I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with mutual respect."
The German-born pope faces the worst crisis since, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was elected pope in April last year. His comments followed a Vatican statement, attempting to clarify the meaning of the academic speech made in Germany on Tuesday.
The heads of Muslim countries have expressed dismay at the offensive comments and some politicians have called it the start of a new Christian crusade against Islam.