Pope Benedict XVI was last night facing angry demands from Muslims that he apologise for a speech in which he appeared to say the concept of jihad was "unreasonable" and quoted a medieval ruler who said Muhammad's innovations were "evil and inhuman".
Protests swept across the Islamic world and the furore threatened a scheduled visit by the Pope to Turkey.
The Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, told Vatican Radio: "It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of the Muslim faithful."
Father Miguel Ayuso Guixot, head of the Vatican's Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, told the Guardian he feared the Pope's words had been "misinterpreted". He added: "The Pope has worked tirelessly for inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and for tolerance."
In Turkey, however, where the Pope is due to visit in November, the deputy leader of the ruling party said Benedict had "a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the middle ages". Salih Kapusuz added: "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."
Representatives of the two million Turks in Germany, where the comments were made, also expressed deep annoyance. The head of the Turkish community, Kenan Kolat, said they were "very dangerous" and liable to misunderstanding.
In Beirut, Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, one of the world's top Shia Muslim clerics, said: "We demand that [the Pope] apologises personally, and not through [Vatican] sources, to all Muslims for such a wrong interpretation." An influential Iranian cleric branded his remarks "absurd". Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University: "The Pope has insulted Islam."
And we know what radical Muslims want done to those who insult Islam:
So, I ask: who's really medieval here?
See also Michelle Malkins's post: I support the Pope.
Lorie adds: The Anchoress has an excellent post, as would be expected, and some great links. Glenn Reynolds has a great roundup. Robin at Chickenhawk Express says to those demanding the Pope apologize, "you go first."