Step back for a moment and substitute any other word for “Islam” in that lead paragraph. “A leading cleric called criticism of Christianity a serious threat to world peace.” “A leading Chinese official called criticism of China a serious threat to world peace.” Would anyone see such statements as anything but expressions of thuggery — which is what this one is?
“Cleric: Criticizing Islam Threatens Peace,” by Selcan Hacaoglu for AP, with thanks to Mackie:
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – A leading Turkish cleric called criticism of Islam a serious threat to world peace, speaking Wednesday as Turkey prepared for a controversial visit by Pope Benedict XVI later in the month.
Benedict visits Turkey – his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim country – two months after provoking widespread anger by quoting an emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman.”
Ali Bardakoglu, head of the country’s religious affairs, said “it was saddening” to see Islam being criticized while the religion’s contribution to civilization is ignored.
“This attitude, which fuels division and lack of mutual trust, is seriously threatening world peace,” Bardakoglu told a conference in Istanbul attended by several African Muslim leaders.
The Religious Affairs Directorate oversees religious issues in Turkey. Bardakoglu is expected to meet with Benedict during the pope’s Nov. 28-Dec. 1 visit.
“We always tell the truth to everyone,” Bardakoglu said when asked whether he would express his dismay to the pope. “People meeting does not mean that they approve each other. It could help them express their opinions with an open heart and know each other correctly.”
Benedict has appealed for greater dialogue with Muslims since the September speech at a German university in which he quoted the 14th century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam a religion spread by the sword.
Since the uproar over the speech – which has cast a cloud over his visit to Turkey – Benedict has expressed his regrets for offending Muslims.
Bardakoglu, however, called the pope’s apology “indirect.” He encouraged Muslim religious leaders to work and correct false and misleading information about Islam.
“Today, Muslims must first remember the human values of Islam … and the collective peace it aimed for, and tell and teach this to the world,” Bardakoglu said.
Benedict, in an appeal last month to Muslim envoys, said the two faiths must together reject violence because the future of humanity is at stake.