The Muslim reaction to the Pope’s speech of last week has been widely reported. Catholic churches in the West Bank have been burned, apologies demanded (and issued), and this morning, reports are linking the shooting of a Catholic nun in Somalia to the speech.

But not all Muslims have reacted with anger or violence. Syria’s Grand Mufti sought an explanation, saying “we expect what is attributed to your holiness is inaccurate and hope we (can) cooperate to distribute divine values that call to joining forces and cooperation.”

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami also urged patience, saying the full text of the speech should be read before acting on its contents:

I hope that the reports in this regard are misinterpreted as such remarks [as reported in the press] are usually made by uninformed and fanatic people but my impression of the pope was rather an educated and patient man.

One heavyweight supporter of the speech was German chancellor Angela Merkel:

Whoever criticises the Pope misunderstood the aim of his speech. It was an invitation to dialogue between religions and the Pope expressly spoke in favour of this dialogue, which is something I also support and consider urgent and necessary.

But right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin says the Islamic reaction “all seems so familiar”, and claims it “isn’t merely about his comments. It’s a continuation of ‘unfinished business’.” She then cites a London Times article from 2002 which revealed Al Qaeda’s plans to assassinate Pope John Paul II.

Writes another blogger:

Proving Benedict’s point, of course, radical Islamists have decided that introspection is unappetising, and thus they have, quite predictably, begun to rampage, burn, pillage, and otherwise carry on pretty much the way people do when they feel trapped and want to change the subject.

But one voice which has remained quiet on the issue is that of the world’s Catholics, with nothing like a stirring defence or denouncement of their man yet to emerge.

Peter Fray

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