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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Call for ban on 'defamation of Islam'

PAKISTANI President Pervez Musharraf today called for a ban on the "defamation of Islam" in a speech to the UN General Assembly in which he took a veiled swipe at Pope Benedict XVI for his remarks linking the Muslim faith to violence.

"We also need to bridge, through dialogue and understanding, the growing divide between the Islamic and Western worlds," General Musharraf told the 192-member assembly.

"It is imperative to end racial and religious discrimination against Muslims and to prohibit the defamation of Islam."

In an indirect reference to Pope Benedict XVI, he said, "It is most disappointing to see personalities of high standing oblivious of Muslim sensitivities at these critical moments".

On Monday, the pope said he was "deeply sorry" for sparking worldwide Muslim anger with a speech he made last week in which he quoted an obscure medieval text that criticised some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman".

The speech sparked several days of protests in Muslim countries against the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

General Musharraf also addressed the issue of global terrorism, noting that Pakistan's cooperation with many countries, including the United States and Britain, had "pre-empted several terrorist plots, such as the one uncovered recently to blow up airliners flying from London".

"While we confront terrorism, our strategy must seek to eliminate this phenomenon comprehensively," he said, proposing a two-pronged strategy combining the anti-terror fight with efforts to resolve conflicts afflicting the Islamic world.

"Across the Muslim world, old conflicts and new campaigns of military intervention have spawned a deep sense of desperation and injustice," the Pakistani leader said.

"Each new battleground involving an Islamic state has served as a new breeding ground for extremists and terrorists. Indiscriminate bombings, civilian casualties, torture, human rights abuses, racial slurs and discrimination only add to the challenge of defeating terrorism."

"Unless we end foreign occupation and suppression of Muslim peoples, terrorism and extremism will continue to find recruits among alienated Muslims in various parts of the world," he said

Agence France-Presse
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