Pope's Comment: Protest Rallies Staged in Pakistan

Sheraz Khurram Khan | ASSIST News Service | Monday, September 25, 2006

Pope's Comment: Protest Rallies Staged in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- Six party religio-political alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) observed Friday, September 22 as protest day in reaction to PopeBenedict XV1’s comment that he made during his speech at the University of Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany on Tuesday, September 12.

The 79 year old pontiff was a professor and vice rector at the university from 1969 to 1971.

Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things.

According to Pakistan based NNI news agency’s report, the leaders of various religious parties in a joint statement termed the Pope’s comments linking Islam with violence as the third attack on Islam after alleged sacrilege of Quran by US soldiers in Guantanamo Bay prison facility and publication of blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by western publications.

“The Pope should tender apology to Muslims and take his words back”, the NNI quoted the religious leaders including MMA’s Liaqut Baloch as saying.

Those who made the joint statement included central leader of the MMA, Liaqut Baloch, Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam leader Qazi Hameedullah, religious leader of Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan Hadiyatullah Pasroori, President of Islami Tehrik-e- Punjab (Islamic Movement of Punjab) Abdul Jalil Naqvi, chief of central Jamiat Ahle Hadith Professor Abdul Rehman Ludhianvi, Jamiat Ulema Islam (S) Punjab’s chief Maulana Abdul Shakoor Naqashbandi and MMA Punjab General Secretary, said the NNI report.

The Muslim prayer leaders during their Friday speeches condemned Pope’s comment and the MMA held countrywide rallies to condemn the statement of Pope Benedict XVI against the Prophet Muhammad and the concept of Jihad (holy war).

MMA’s protest rally in the capital Islamabad was led by alliance’s deputy parliamentary leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmed at Aabpara Chowk.

“Rallies were held in 78 cities and towns, including Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Hyderabad, and Islamabad”, Pakistan based English Daily the Dawn quoted the MMA’s spokesman Shahid Shamsi as saying.

According to the Dawn report Hafiz Hussain termed the Pope’s statement a continuation of US President George W. Bush’s statement following 9/11 attacks that he was fighting the war of civilizations pointing to Crusades.

He urged the Christian community world over to make their religious chief accountable for harming the inter-faith harmony in such an ugly way. He demanded that the Pope Benedict XVI should tell the world as to why he had given a statement seemingly a follow up of US president’s anti-Muslim utterances.

“Pope’s remarks caused a lot of tension in the Muslim world and at such critical times, it was most unwarranted. This is the time to build bridges, not to burn bridges,” Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf said while speaking at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative at a local hotel in New York on Wednesday, September 20.

It merits mentioning here that Pakistan's National Assembly, parliament's lower house, unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Pope's comments.

"The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Mohammed have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions," the AFP news agency quoted the resolution by the country's national assembly as saying.

In an exclusive chat with ANS the chairman of the Log Foundation, Khawaja Khalil Salar condemned the Pope’s comment. He said that the comments made by the Pope hurt the sensibilities of Muslims across the globe. He said that the Pontiff’s comments have dealt a big blow to the efforts of the individuals and organizations working for bringing the people of the two religions closer.

Talking to ANS Pastor Shakeel Anwar of Jesus King Nam Seoul Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, Rawalpindi said that the Pope should have better avoided making the controversial comment.

The Pope comment’s controversy was also discussed at Pakistan based GEO TV’s celebrated program, “Capital Talk” a couple of days ago in which the participants also lamented the Pope’s comments.

Pakistan may see violent reaction to the Pope’s comments if the religious alliance attempts to stage further protest rallies. Despite the fact that the country is a front-line ally in the US led war on terror anti-western sentiment runs high among the people.

Some five people were killed across Pakistan during anti-cartoon protests in February this year.

© 2006 ASSIST News Service, used with permission