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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 04:37 GMT 05:37 UK
Pakistan clerics say Pope must go
Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful in St Peter's Square at the Vatican during his weekly general audience
The Pope says he was trying to spur theological debate
Radical Muslim clerics and scholars in Pakistan have demanded the removal of Pope Benedict XVI for what they called "insulting remarks" against Islam.

The Pope should be dismissed for "encouraging war and fanning hostility between various faiths" the hundreds of senior Muslims said in a joint message.

The Pope has said he is "deeply sorry" that his words, quoting a 14th Century Christian emperor, had upset Muslims.

But his apology was rejected by the Muslims meeting in Lahore, Pakistan.

"The Pope, and all infidels, should know that no Muslim, under any circumstances, can tolerate an insult to the Prophet [Muhammad]. If the West does not change its stance regarding Islam, it will face severe consequences," said the joint statement.

The group behind the meeting, Jamaat al-Dawat, has been listed by the US government as a "terrorist" group for its alleged links with Kashmiri militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba.

"The Pope's statement against Prophet Muhammad was not unintentional," said Sajid Mir, a religious scholar and MP who took part in the meeting.

"He has opened a new and an organised front against Islam and Muslims should prepare themselves for jihad because the Pope's insulting remarks against Islam follow President George W Bush's statement on crusades," he said.

Effigies burned

Muslims around the world were outraged when the Pope quoted medieval Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos criticising some teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as "evil and inhuman".

The comments related to the spreading of Islam by force. The Pope said he used them during a thesis in which he said religion should never be used to justify violence.

The Pope has since stressed that the emperor's views did not agree with his own.

"This quotation unfortunately was misunderstood," he said.

He went on to express "deep respect" for Islam.

However there have been demonstrations in many countries, most peaceful, but some in which protesters have burned papal images.

Benedict did not retract his comments, saying they were meant to spur philosophical and theological debate.

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