Tensions are still running high over Pope Benedict’s remarks linking Islam with violence despite his attempt to calm tempers. In Iraq, al-Qaeda militants have vowed war on so-called “worshippers of the cross” while protesters in Basra burned a papal effigy.
Elsewhere up to 150 demonstrators marched on the governor’s office where they set fire to German, US, and Israeli flags. On Sunday, the Pope said he was deeply sorry Muslims had been offended by his speech last week – a personal apology accepted by many in the Muslim world.
But not Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. He said the Pope’s comments were designed to ruin the reputations of Muslims living in Europe and America. In Brussels, the European Commission’s spokesman, Johannes Laitenberger, defended the Pope’s right to free speech and said urged people not to take his words out of context:
“Reactions that are disproportionate and tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable”, he said. Not everyone’s rushed to the Pope’s defence. In Italy, some sections of the press have accused him of being naive for not using more diplomatic language. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s launched a damage limitation exercise by instructing its envoys in Muslim countries to explain Pope Benedict’s words on Islam.