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Published: Friday, 9/22/2006

Many missed Pope's point

THE Muslim outrage in response to Pope Benedict XVI's call for groups to denounce the violence that all religious extremists thrive on is dismaying.

Although the Pope had every right to quote the medieval Byzantine emperor, the pontiff has issued a rare apology in response to the outbreak of violence, and he has explained, again, that he was only quoting Emperor Manuel II Paleologus of the 14th century.

To most, that would be enough, especially since Benedict said he didn't agree with the emperor, and the Vatican issued a clarification. But while many Muslims want another apology, some Islamic groups seem bent on proving the ancient Byzantine ruler right with threats and violence.

Unfortunately, the Pope's apology for what he said at the University of Regensburg in Germany has had little effect. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has called for protests against America.

And although authorities have not said for certain whether the fatal shooting of an Italian nun was linked to the outrage, it is tough not to assume so. Two Italian churches were firebombed, a radical cleric in Somalia urged Muslims to "hunt down" the Pope, and an Iraqi insurgent threatened a suicide attack at the Vatican.

Thankfully, there were level-headed responses. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Iraqis not to "carry out actions that will harm our Christian brothers." The leader of the largest Islamic group in Indonesia, Hasyim Muzadi, called for peace and noted with some irony that "if we remain furious, then the Pope will be considered correct."

Muslim extremists who refuse to back down should understand Americans' outrage about the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the slaying of Americans in Iraq, including by decapitation.

In order to gain respect as world players, Muslim leaders must convince their brethren to engage in useful debate, not violence. It saddens the world that the people who needed to get the point missed it.



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