Taliban demands Pope's apology for Islam remarks
Published: Saturday, Sep 16, 2006
KANDAHAR: Afghanistan's Taliban demanded on Saturday Pope Benedict XVI apologise for remarks linking Islam with violence, adding the comment showed the Christian West was waging war against Muslims.
The Taliban "strongly condemned" the remarks, said Mohammad Hanif, who regularly calls the media with statements he says are from the extremist insurgent group.
"We also want the pope to apologise before the Muslim umma (nation)," he told AFP in a telephone call from an undisclosed location.
The comments were "obviously part of a crusader war that the West, chiefly America and President George W Bush, is waging against Islam and Muslims," he said.
"His (the pope's) remarks have hurt the feelings of Muslims across the world," Hanif said.
The Taliban statement said the pope had "shamelessly said the respected Prophet Mohammed brought nothing but violence".
The ultra-conservative Taliban regime, toppled in a US-led invasion five years ago, has used similar incidents to inflame anti-Western sentiment as part of its campaign against the government and its international backers, whom it calls infidels.
There has as yet been little official response to the pope's remarks, made during a theological lecture in Germany on Tuesday, with religious issues potentially explosive in this conservative Islamic republic.
A senior advisor in the foreign ministry, Davood Moradian, said Friday the issue should not be "taken hostage by extremists on both sides who are seeking a clash of civilisations".
At least 11 people were killed earlier this year in nationwide protests over cartoons depicting the prophet, first published in a Danish newspaper, that were considered derogatory.
Many of the protests were directed at bases for troops from the United States and other nations who together have about 40,000 troops in Afghanistan to hunt Taliban and other rebels and extend the authority of the fragile central administration