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West Bank Churches Attacked as Muslims Protest Pope's Remarks on Islam


There is growing anger in the Muslim world over remarks this week by Pope Benedict XVI seen as criticizing Islam. Protests have erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, amid a wave of criticism from Muslim leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Palestinians threw firebombs at two churches in the West Bank town of Nablus. A group called the Lions of Monotheism claimed responsibility, saying the attacks were in protest against the pope's remarks about Islam. The firebombs caused no injuries or serious damage.

Palestinian Christian leaders played down the attacks as isolated incidents. Victor Batarseh, the Christian mayor of Palestinian-ruled Bethlehem, says relations between Muslims and Christians are good.

"We have been living together here for hundreds of years and we'll keep living together as good neighbors and good friends forever," he said.

On Friday, 2,000 Palestinians held a protest in Gaza, accusing the pope of leading a new Crusade against the Muslim world.

Palestinians and other Muslims are furious over these remarks by Pope Benedict:

During a trip to his native Germany, the pope cited a medieval text that describes some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman." It objects to jihad, or holy war, and Mohammed's command to spread the Muslim faith by the sword.

The Vatican issued a statement Saturday saying Pope Benedict is sorry that Muslims found his speech offensive. He expressed respect for their faith, saying Muslims "worship the only God."

But that may not quell the outrage. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said the Pope's statement does not go far enough. The Brotherhood, which has inspired Islamic movements across the Arab world, said the pope made a grave mistake, which can only be corrected by a personal apology.

In Cuba, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, had this to say: "Our strategy must clearly oppose the sinister tendencies to associate terrorism with Islam and discrimination against Muslims."

The rage unleashed by Benedict's comments has raised fears of violent anti-Western protests like those that followed the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper in February.

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