Islamic countries asked the UN Human Rights Council to examine the question of religious tolerance on Monday, saying that Pope Benedict’s remarks on Islam threaten to alienate Muslims from the West.
Masood Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said Muslim countries were “reassured that the Pope has expressed regrets, distanced himself from the text that caused offense and renewed his invitation for a frank and sincere dialogue with mutual respect.
But Khan, speaking on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the speech was nevertheless a mistake – a sentiment echoing the response of many Muslims around the world to Benedict’s reading last week of a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of Islam’s founder as “evil and inhuman” and referred to spreading Islam “by the sword.”
“The statement was regrettable as it showed lack of understanding, albeit inadvertent, about Islam and its prophet,” Khan told the 47-country council, the United Nations’ human rights watchdog. “Such a tendency also threatens deeper alienation between the West and the world of Islam and hurts the ongoing efforts to promote dialogue and harmony amongst religions.