Chief Islamic Justice for Palestine, Sheikh Taysir Al Tamimi, said Monday that
attacks on churches in Palestine and anywhere in the Islamic world
contravene the teachings of Islam, and that people should not allow
themselves to be provoked by the inflammatory speech made by Pope
Benedict XVI last week.
Tamimi stated that the principles of Islam include tolerance for all religions, including Christianity, and that Islam's teachings provide equal citizenship and religious freedom for all.
Particularly in Palestine, the Sheikh said today, Christians and Muslims are bonded by a common tragedy, as all Palestinians live under occupation. Sheikh Al Tamimi reiterated his point by saying that “attacks on Islamic and Christian holy places only serve the interests of our shared enemies.”
He emphasized the strength of the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the Islamic world, which is based in mutual respect and coexistence, and respect for the doctrines of each.
The Sheikh said that Pope Benedict XVI’s statements, which were meant to sow strife, must not be allowed to have such an effect. He called on the Vatican and the Pope to apologize to all Muslims and to desist from insulting Muslims.
In his speech, made last Tuesday, the Pope quotes Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus as saying, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." In the context in which he said it, the Pope was contrasting Islamic thought, which he equated with irrationality, blind faith, and 'things evil and inhuman', with the 'rationality' of Greek/Byzantine thought, which he equated with Christianity. At the time of Paleologus' statement, the Christian church had been engaging in a violent 'Inquisition' against non-believers that had been going on for three centuries.
Sheikh Al Tamimi is calling on Muslim scholars the world over to join in nonviolent marches and demonstrations Friday against the Pope's statements and against the ensuing attacks on churches. “Islam requires us to preserve and defend Christians and their churches. Doing anything else serves the interests of the enemies of Islam.”
Palestinian government orders protection for Christians as churches attacked over Pope's comments
Comments made last Tuesday by Pope Benedict in which he appeared to endorse a
Christian view that early Islam was spread through violence, and was
'evil and inhuman', but that Christianity was not spread through
violence, sparked outrage among Muslims throughout the Arab World. Two
Christian churches, in Tulkarem and Nablus, in the West Bank, were
targets of arson attacks over the weekend.
The Palestinian Authority immediately condemned the attacks, and ordered protection for Christian churches throughout Palestine, while Christian leaders in Palestine made statements distancing themselves from the Pope's remarks.
Mohammed Dahlan, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, stated that "Palestinian Christians are partners in the same homeland and bear no responsibility for the Pope's remarks", adding that the illogical and inflammatory Papal remarks must not be used as a pretext to start a religious dispute between Muslim and Christian members of the united Palestinian people.
Archbishop Atallah Hanna, spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox church in Jerusalem, said that the Christian leadership in Palestine "wholeheartedly rejects the Pope's insult against Islam." He added, "We oppose any position which may arouse religious extremism, and we consider that what hurts Muslims will naturally hurt Christians."
In Tubas, outside Jenin, a group of Palestinians set fire to a Roman Catholic church on Saturday, causing minor damage before the flames were put out, witnesses said. A Roman Catholic church in the town of Tulkarem also sustained damage in a fire, apparently started in the early morning Sunday. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Father Yousef Sa'adi, head of St. John's Catholic Church in Nablus, one of the churches attacked, stated, "Since the Pope made this speech, tension has risen in Nablus. It is a very bad situation now."
But the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, in a visit to Nablus after the church was burned, stated, "The attacks will not affect the solid relations among Muslim and Christian Palestinians."
The Pope has not retracted his remarks, but a statement from the Vatican stated that he is sorry for the reaction his comment sparked. Neither the Pope, nor his representatives, however, have made a direct apology for the comment itself.