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Cleric: Criticizing Islam Threatens Peace


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My laugh for the day


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - A leading Turkish cleric called criticism of Islam a serious threat to world peace, speaking Wednesday as Turkey prepared for a controversial visit by Pope Benedict XVI later in the month.

Benedict visits Turkey - his first as pope to a predominantly Muslim country - two months after provoking widespread anger by quoting an emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."

Ali Bardakoglu, head of the country's religious affairs, said "it was saddening" to see Islam being criticized while the religion's contribution to civilization is ignored. :laugh:

"This attitude, which fuels division and lack of mutual trust, is seriously threatening world peace," Bardakoglu told a conference in Istanbul attended by several African Muslim leaders.

The Religious Affairs Directorate oversees religious issues in Turkey. Bardakoglu is expected to meet with Benedict during the pope's Nov. 28-Dec. 1 visit.

"We always tell the truth to everyone," Bardakoglu said when asked whether he would express his dismay to the pope. "People meeting does not mean that they approve each other. It could help them express their opinions with an open heart and know each other correctly."

Benedict has appealed for greater dialogue with Muslims since the September speech at a German university in which he quoted the 14th century Byzantine emperor as calling Islam a religion spread by the sword.

Since the uproar over the speech - which has cast a cloud over his visit to Turkey - Benedict has expressed his regrets for offending Muslims.

Bardakoglu, however, called the pope's apology "indirect." He encouraged Muslim religious leaders to work and correct false and misleading information about Islam.

"Today, Muslims must first remember the human values of Islam ... and the collective peace it aimed for, and tell and teach this to the world," Bardakoglu said.

Benedict, in an appeal last month to Muslim envoys, said the two faiths must together reject violence because the future of humanity is at stake.

Although the official focus of Benedict's trip is his scheduled meeting with Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Benedict is widely expected to use the visit to improve relations with the Muslim world.

The pope's tentative schedule includes a visit Nov. 28 to Ankara to meet with the Turkish president and Bardakoglu; a Nov. 29 trip to the ruins of Ephesus, and a meeting with Bartholomew in Istanbul the following day.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul are expected to attend a NATO summit scheduled for Nov. 28-29 in Riga, Latvia, and were not scheduled to meet the pope.

The pope's vicar in Anatolia, Monsignor Luigi Padovese, told The Associated Press by telephone that Erdogan's absence during the pope's visit was a "lost opportunity."

"It's a pity: It could have been a good opportunity to talk about many issues," Padovese said.

Benedict also is expected to lead a ceremony at Istanbul's Saint Esprit Cathedral on Dec. 1.

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Ali Bardakoglu, head of the country's religious affairs, said "it was saddening" to see Islam being criticized while the religion's contribution to civilization is ignored. :laugh:

Forgive us, Mr. Bardakoglu for not seeing the suicide bomb as a particularly positive innovation. What else ya got?

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