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Muslim Cleric in Turkey Criticizes Pope for Comments on Islam

Turkey's top Muslim cleric has criticized Pope Benedict for comments the pope made about Islam during his recent trip to Germany.

Ali Bardakoglu, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, told Turkish television that the pope has a grudge against Islam and he should reconsider a planned visit to Turkey.

In a speech Tuesday to academics at Regensburg University, the pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying that the Prophet Muhammad had brought "only evil and inhuman things." Benedict referred to the Islamic concept of holy war or Jihad. He called violence incompatible with the nature of God and said it should be rejected.

Bardakoglu said the pope has what he called "a crusader mentality," referring to the medieval crusades to the Holy Land to free Jerusalem from Muslim rule.

The Vatican spokesman Thursday said the Pope respects Islam and did not mean to offend Muslims. He said the Pope rejects the religious motivation of violence.

In France, the head of the French Council of the Islamic Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, said the pope should not confuse the Islamic faith with "Islamism," which he said is a political ideology.

The pope is scheduled to visit Turkey November 28, at the invitation of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. He also will meet with the patriarch of Orthodox Christians in Istanbul.

Turkey is 99 percent Muslim but has a secular political system.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.