Monday, October 02, 2006

A top German politician and close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Islam was one of the main factors in religiously motivated violence


But Ronald Pofalla, general-secretary of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, also acknowledged that many Muslims would find it painful that their religion was being abused for violent ends.

"Certainly it is painful for many Muslims that their religion is misused for violence," Pofalla wrote in a guest column for Sunday's Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"But ... the problem of religiously motivated violence is today almost exclusively a problem of Islam. In addition, many of the victims are Muslims themselves," he said, according to extracts released in advance on Saturday.

His comments follow a row that erupted after a Berlin opera house on Monday cancelled performances of Mozart's "Idomeneo" over worries it might enrage Muslims and pose a security threat. The decision triggered condemnation from politicians and artists, who warned Germans not to bow to fears of terrorism.

Germany has about 3.2 million Muslims, including some 1.8 million Turks who have lived harmoniously alongside Germans for some 50 years. But the opera row highlighted growing fears about Muslim radicalism.

Earlier in September, Pope Benedict enraged many Muslims by quoting from a medieval text linking the spread of Islam to violence.

The opera production, which contained a scene showing the severed heads of the Prophet Mohammad, Jesus and Buddha, overshadowed a summit last Wednesday to boost dialogue between the government and German Muslims. The cancellation of the opera instead raised tensions.

"There was supposed to be a spirit of tolerance and dialogue for this important conference, but that has been spoiled to some extent," Ali Kizilkaya, head of Islamrat, a leading German Muslim group, told Reuters.

Pofalla urged Muslim groups to reject all forms of violence.

"Muslims must be prepared to accept criticism. For our part, we must be prepared to stand up for our Christian, Western values," he said.

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