AMMAN, Jordan, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Arab press roundup for Sept. 20:
The London-based ash-Sharq al-Awsat said in a commentary Wednesday it was surprising that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict, could be so "ignorant and tactless" to speak about Islam so negatively and insult more than one billion Muslims. The Saudi-owned daily added it was surprised the pope did not think of the repercussions of such statements and their effect on religious co-existence. His justifications and claiming that Muslims misunderstood his words cannot dilute what happened, it insisted. The paper, distributed in many Arab capitals, said the Catholic pope made a big mistake that he may not be able to correct unless he offers Muslims a formal apology and work towards "rebuilding the bridges" he destroyed between Muslims and Catholics. It also called on Muslims to express their anger in a civilized manner and not to resort to violence targeting Catholic clergy and to remember that their religion "advocates religious pluralism." It hoped that Muslims will not shift their attention from their real problems, "for they have no problem with Catholicism of followers of other religions," but to keep their focus on occupation of their countries. Pope Benedict's speech, it argued, feeds "the spirit of extremism and hostility among religions, adopted by al-Qaida, and therefore joins President (George) Bush who has done his share in pushing some youth to join al-Qaida."
Oman's al-Watan commented that Pope Benedict's statements on Islam is connected to a general escalating trend in the West since the beginning of the century that links Muslims with violence, terrorism, inhumanity and backwardness. The pro-government daily said the pope's comments were not a question of whether he's an extremist who made a mistake, or whether Christians or Catholics agree with him. "The question is simply that the Jews, who were accused of killing Jesus and brought evil to the world, have been now replaced with Muslims," the paper opined. It insisted the pope's comments, and before it the cartoons insulting Prophet Mohammad, are directly linked to comments by President George Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and other Western leaders on Islam. "And all that is linked to Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia and then Iran," it said. The paper went on to add that while the general anti-Islamic trend started before the 9/11 attacks on the United States five years ago, the 9/11 events "launched the beginning of the Muslim holocaust." It is vital, it said, to confront the attacks on Islam through sticking to the true values of the religion in terms of its humanity and forgiveness towards those "who try to portray us as medieval monsters."
Algeria's al-Khabar said torching any symbol of culture, civilization or religion is uncivilized and unacceptable by any standard. The daily, which describes itself as independent, commented it was strange for Palestinians to attack churches in the aftermath of the pope's comments when Palestine is the hometown of Christian revolutionaries. "We believe people in the Arab world generally differentiate between eastern and Western Christianity" and realize that Arab Christians are more active than Muslims against the "Western plans of hegemony," it said. The paper insisted that Arab Christians played an "honorable role in every station of the struggle between the Arab rebels on the one hand and the Zionists and their Western allies on the other, since the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine." The mass-circulation said that Lebanon's Christian president, Emile Lahoud, stood by the Shiite Hezbollah guerilla group during its recent war with Israel, while Egypt's Muslim president, Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi King Abdullah did not. "So who burned Palestine's churches?" it asked.
Qatar's al-Rayah said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has joined others in warning against Iraq slipping into a civil war although this appears to be the case. "But there are those who don't want to admit" a civil war was already underway in Iraq because it might bother the American administration, which created this catastrophe in Iraq, it commented. The pro-government daily said it was strange for Annan to throw the ball in the Iraqi court by urging the Baghdad government to control the security situation while he knows the deterioration is beyond its control. It argued that perhaps Annan, as he ends his term, may have nothing to lose by saying after a Middle East visit that most Arab leaders and Iran see the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a disaster for the region. "This is not news," it commented, "but what is funny is that these (Arab) leaders know this truth while none of them publicly blame the United States for this disaster." The paper added the Arab leaders probably speak differently during their meetings in Washington and refrain from saying what they told the U.N. chief that the United States is responsible for pulling Iraq into a civil war.
Lebanon's as-Safir commented the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly that opened in New York may be one of the most important sessions since the end of the Cold War. It said one of the most important changes that this session will record is that America did not "enter as a guide that gives lessons to the entire world on good and evil, or on the divine promise that President Bush received and commissioned his military forces to execute by spreading the message of freedom and democracy to the people of the world." The independent mass-circulation daily opined that the American rhetoric has become more modest than at any other time since Bush could no longer ignore his failure in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and drug trafficking are making a comeback, in Iraq, "which is sinking into a fierce civil war," or in his dealing with Iran's nuclear issue and his failure with his Israeli allies in dealing with the crisis in Palestine and Lebanon. The paper, with Arab nationalist trends, said while America might not ask the U.N. this year to help it get out of its "crusade wars it arbitrarily declared on the Arab and Muslim worlds in the past five years," it is getting closer to doing so. Resorting to the U.N. for help, it argued, is an imminent option because it has become the only exit for the Americans from wars that could take up the entire century and end up in an American defeat.