Much of the Muslim world is in an uproar over remarks by Pope Benedict, that they say are offensive to Islam. Speaking in Germany Tuesday, the pope quoted from a text that said the early spread of Islam had been accomplished by violence.
The Vatican says Benedict did not intend to hurt Muslims' feelings — but the outcry could end the pope's plans visit Turkey in November.
The incriminating words were contained in a long academic speech on reason and faith the pope delivered at Regensburg University. At one point, Benedict quoted a remark made in the 14th century by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus that derided Islam.
Translated from German, the pope cited the ruler's view of Islam: "He said, and I quote, 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"
Muslim reaction has been vehement.
Pakistan's parliament unanimously condemned the pope for his derogatory comments.
In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood urged Muslims to break relations with the Vatican if the pope does not apologize.
In Turkey, some of the harshest reactions were from an official of the Islamic-rooted ruling party. He said Pope Benedict's words look like an effort to revive the mentality of the crusades, and he compared the pope to Hitler.
In an effort to quell the furor, the Vatican issued a statement saying the pope wants to cultivate respect and dialogue with other religions and cultures, and had no intention to offend Islam.
Veteran Vatican correspondent Marco Politi says that Holy See officials are puzzled by Muslims' anger. But he feels their reactions are understandable.
"If a head of state would come and speak about the pope quoting some very offensive words used by Martin Luther 500 years ago when he was saying that the pope was a donkey, of course it's a quote but it stays," Politi says. "It will be in TV, in the newspapers. Because the words are like stones."
Some analysts say that, unlike his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict does not put Islam on an equal footing with Catholicism, and that he has distanced himself from John Paul's inter-faith encounters.
Khaled Fuad Allam, a Muslim professor of sociology at Trieste University, acknowledged that Benedict had touched the delicate issue of the two faces of Islam: peaceful and violent.
"The problem is not what he said, but how he said it," Allam said in remarks translated from Italian. "Too often, Westerners stress only the issue of fundamentalism in Islam. The result is that they lump all Muslims into the cage of violence."