From Mr Colin Riley
SIR — Generally speaking, in this country everyone (except for Catholics who are excluded by law from becoming monarch or marrying a member of the royal family unless that royal person renounces their right to succession) has more or less equal rights. Every Muslim in this country has the right to say that I am wrong in my belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Am I, as a Christian, permitted to say that Mohammed is a false prophet?
The Pope was not saying anything of this kind, even though 1 would expect him to believe it, when he spoke at the recent meeting of religious academics in Regensburg which has caused all this recent upset. He was saying nothing even vaguely like it; in fact, he was quoting the words of a 14th-century' emperor who was talking about things as he saw them then 700 years ago.
The reason why this situation has been blown up out of all proportion is because of the antics of Islamic fundamentalists, who are so insecure in their beliefs that they find it necessary to burn an effigy of the Pope as a protest and chant slogans such as "Death to the Pope". How pathetic.
From a Christian point of view, I cannot help but notice that it is only in western Christian countries that freedom of religion is permitted (though this has not always been the case). The Church has learned that belief cannot be enforced and it is high time that Islam did likewise. There are no churches not located in foreign embassies in Saudi Arabia. But Christians are regularly persecuted in India and Pakistan.
This is really the state of affairs that the Pope was trying to emphasise and to show that there is no religious justification for violence. 1, like him, firmly believe that every Muslim has the right to practise their faith and keep their customs, provided the law of the land allows this — and in general it does. They must reciprocate, not just here but internationally.
Yours faithfully, COLIN RILEY Royton, Oldham