There is mounting anger among Muslims worldwide over the Pope’s comments on Islam seen as criticising the religion. Indian Muslims burned an effigy of the Pope in Varanasi and called on him to apologise for a speech which quoted an argument that spreading the faith through violence is unreasonable. There have been protests demanding an apology in several Muslim countries. In Gaza, the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the Pope’s speech – made in Germany on Tuesday – had missed the truth and offended Islamic history. “In the name of the Palestinian people, I express our condemnation of the statement by the Pope regarding Islam.”
A youth centre run by the Greek Orthodox church in the Gaza Strip was hit by a small explosion but it was unclear if the blast was connected to the Pope’s comments. In Lebanon, the leading Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said that “the person at the head of the world Catholic community talks in a way that indicates he does not understand Islam”. The Lebanese government has instructed its ambassador to the Vatican to seek clarifications on the Pontiff’s remarks. And there have been calls across the Islamic world for Islamic countries to break off relations with the Vatican unless the Pontiff withdraws his statement.