In one fell swoop, Pope Benedict XVI imploded bridges built by his predecessors with his recent remarks that sparked fury across the Muslim world, one of the world’s top Muslim leaders said here Saturday.

Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, an intergovernmental agency of 57 Islamic countries, also said Benedict’s efforts to defuse the situation fell short of an apology.

‘An astonishing statement’

“One does not expect the pope to speak on leaders of other religions as such. That was an astonishing statement, taking into consideration his predecessors’ efforts toward building bridges over the last 46 years, that have met with good response from the world’s Muslim population,” Ihsanoglu said at a press conference at the Drake Hotel.

Ihsanoglu was here to meet with the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Greater Chicago Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee at the onset of Ramadan.

He was responding to the pope’s speech at a German university Sept. 12. Benedict quoted a Byzantine emperor who called some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad “evil and inhuman,” particularly “his command to spread by the sword the faith.”

A week later, Benedict said he did not mean to malign Islam when he quoted the medieval emperor, but he failed to issue the direct apology demanded by some Muslims.

“Academically, the lecture by his holiness on the relationship between faith and reason is a very good subject, but he built his comparison from a polemic book written in the 14th century. … So of course, there is some information that is scholarly wrong when the pope speaks of the Quran,” Ihsanoglu said.

“This is not the proper way for the pontiff to deal with the prophet of 1.4 billion people. … What we have seen officially from the Vatican does not include an apology. It includes regret for the reaction of the Muslim world, not for the lecture itself,” he asserted.


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