CAIRO: The grand sheikh of Al-Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Arab world s most powerful institution, demanded on Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI apologize more clearly for insulting Islam.
The pope s remarks were insulting to Islam and Muslims, and (he made) a religious and scientific mistake, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi told papal and Egyptian Catholic representatives.
We have no objection if the pope holds another speech and declares publicly that what the Byzantine emperor had said was wrong. At the same time, the pope has to apologize frankly and justify what he said, Tantawi said in a statement after the meeting.
On Sunday, Benedict said he was deeply sorry over any hurt caused by his comments made in a speech last week, in which he quoted a medieval text characterizing some of the Prophet Mohammed s teachings as evil and inhuman and calling Islam a religion spread by the sword.
Benedict said the remarks came from a text that didn t reflect his own opinion, but he did not retract what he said or say he was sorry he uttered what proved to be explosive words.Tantawi s statement on Tuesday was more strongly worded than remarks made Saturday, in which he condemned the pope s comments as reflecting ignorance.
Few in the Islamic world were satisfied by Benedict s statement of regret. Some Egyptian newspapers have denounced the German pope as a Nazi for his comments.
An influential Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, called for protests after weekly prayers on Friday, but maintained they should be peaceful.
Extremists said the pope s comments proved that the West was in a war against Islam. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies issued a statement Monday addressing the pope as a cross-worshipper and warning: You and the West are doomed, as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere.
Another Iraqi extremist group, Ansar Al-Sunna, challenged sleeping Muslims to prove their manhood by doing something other than issuing statements or holding demonstrations. Tantawi met Tuesday at his office with the Vatican s representative in Cairo and representatives of Egyptian Catholic churches.
On Sunday, the head of Egypt s Orthodox Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, distanced himself from Benedict s statements.
Christians, a minority in the Middle East that vary from nearly 40 percent in Lebanon to tiny communities in the Gulf states, generally live in peace with the majority Muslims.But relations are sometimes strained and outbreaks of violence have occurred in recent years.