Pakistan parliament condemns comments of Pope about Jihad


ISLAMABAD: September 15, 2006. National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously condemned Pope Benedict XVI and passed a resolution demanding that he withdraw what it called "derogatory" remarks linking Islam with violence.

The overwhelmingly Muslim country`s foreign ministry also waded into the growing row, accusing the Roman Catholic leader of "ignorance" and warning that his remarks would hurt efforts to improve ties between religions. Dozens of youths from an Islamic party later staged a noisy protest in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore against the Pope. The resolution was proposed by a hardline Islamic legislator and approved by both government and opposition legislators in Pakistan`s national assembly, the lower house of parliament. "This House demands that the pope should retract his remarks in the interest of harmony between religions," said the resolution, a copy of which was read to AFP by a parliamentary official. The resolution "strongly condemns" the statement by the Pope. "The derogatory remarks of the pope about the philosophy of jihad (holy war) and Prophet Mohammed have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions," it added. The Senate, the upper house of parliament, later passed another resolution moved by a government senator. It said the Pope`s remarks hurt Muslim feelings and "undermine religious harmony in the world." Pope Benedict sparked an outcry with comments in a theological lecture in Germany on Tuesday which many in the Muslim world have regarded as an implicit denunciation of connections between Islam and violence. The pope used a quote from a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said the Prophet Mohammed had brought "things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." His official spokesman later issued a response, saying that Pope Benedict respected Islam but rejected violence motivated by religion. Muslim leaders in several countries strongly criticised his remarks but the Pakistani parliament is the first to issue a such a condemnation. The Pakistani foreign ministry described Pope Benedict`s remarks as "regrettable." "Anyone who says that there is anything inherently evil or inhuman about Islam only shows his own ignorance of this great religion," foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AFP. "They widen the gulf between religions that we are working so hard to bridge," Aslam said. "It also shows ignorance of history. It was certainly not Muslims who persecuted the followers of other religions." Lawmakers made angry speeches in parliament to support the resolution. "There is chaos in the world after 9/11 and such remarks by the pope will only fuel the acrimony," said Fazal Karim, an MP for the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party, which supported the ultra-conservative Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan. Khurshid Shah, an MP from the secular Pakistan Peoples Party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, said Pope Benedict should not have made the "derogatory" remarks against Islam. Religious matters are highly sensitive in conservative Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population are Muslim. In Lahore dozens of youths from Shabab-e-Milli, a youth wing of the hardline Islamic Jamaat-e-Islami party, gathered outside a mosque to shout slogans against the pontiff, although there was no violence. "We condemn the Pope for using derogatory language against our religion," the protestors shouted. They carried banners saying: "Stop defaming Islam." Five Pakistanis died during violent protests in February against supposedly blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which were printed in European newspapers.

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