BY ANABEL INGE
IN THE Mail on Sunday Peter Hitchens urged readers to "back the Pope", seeing hypocrisy in the reaction to the speech given the emphatic denial of "all the central doctrines of the Christian faith" in the Muslim world.
The Daily Mail accused Muslim leaders of putting "the
worst possible construction on words (helped by the tone of BBC reporting, which credulously suggested their complaints were justified)."
How, asked the Sun, did the burning of effigies of the Pope show respect to the one billion Catholics he leads? "It is absurd," added the paper, "that the Pope cannot quote dispas
sionately from an ancient text about the Prophet Mohammed without the entire Muslim world flying off the handle."
The News of the World defended the Pope's freedom of speech: "In tolerant Britain, marching Muslim protestors can demand death for nonbelievers, with near impunity. So surely the Pontiff can quote
from an ancient text without unleashing bloodthirsty riots."
The Daily Mirror said the Pontiff would now agree that in such sensitive, volatile times, his message was going to be open to misunderstanding.
The Sunday limes said that having apologised, the Pope "should certainly not be pushed into withdrawing his remarks".
It argued that the reaction showed that many Muslims were intent on imposing their restrictions on freedom of expression in the West and "mindful as we should be of religious sensitivities, that cannot be allowed to happen".
The Guardian argued that although the Muslim world should "take pains to be thoughtful in its response, and perhaps less quick to take offence", the Pope's use of the quote was ill-judged.
The Sunday Telegraph observed a "new and alarming development", namely "the readiness of some Muslim political and ecclesiastical leaders, if not exactly to endorse this violence, at least to hang
back from condemning it, or to seek to tie it to questions of Western foreign policy".
In the Times Lord ReesMogg said: "Islam is the only major religion in which violence is a serious doctrinal issue." He added that Pope Benedict would have done "Islam a service if he has started a debate within Islam and
between Islam and the critics".
The Daily Telegraph said: "We suspect that Western public opinion is not displeased that Benedict has said the unsayable. Now it is time for other churchmen to tell their Muslim counterparts that, in addition to dishing out criticism, they must learn how to take it."