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Tutu apologises to Muslims over cartoons, urging tolerance

Former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu
Noble Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has apologised to the global Islamic community over cartoons in a Danish newspaper caricaturing the prophet Muhammad, but urged Muslims incensed over the publication to exercise tolerance and forgiveness in their protests.

"We would wish to send to the [Muslim] community the message of our distress, and hope they will be able … in the end to forgive what has really upset them very deeply," said Tutu while attending the dedication of an All Africa Conference of Churches ecumenical centre named after him in Nairobi on 9 February

In his message, Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, said Christians would be distressed if someone had portrayed Jesus in an offensive way, and Jews if someone depicted the holocaust was depicted in a dismissive manner.

"We pray their hearts will be persuaded and if protests have to continue, we hope the protests would be peaceful and dignified, as it is befitting of people of faith," said Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 leading peaceful protests against South Africa’s racist apartheid system.

Muslims across the globe have protested, sometimes violently, against the cartoons which they say are a blasphemy because they carried an image of Muhammad.

In Rome Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped the death of Andrea Santoro, a 60-year-old Italian missionary slain in Turkey by a mob protesting against the cartoons, would serve to promote dialogue between believers of various religions.

The Zenit news agency reported that at the end of his 8 February daily audience, "a visibly moved Pope remembered this priest of the diocese of Rome, who was murdered last Sunday while praying in his parish church in Trabzon, Turkey."

"May the Lord receive the soul of this silent and courageous servant of the Gospel and permit the sacrifice of his life to contribute to the cause of dialogue between religions and to peace among peoples," said Benedict about the death of the priest serving in Turkey on a one year assignment.

The cartoons have been reprinted world-wide as protests continued, while in South Africa a court imposed a ban on their publication.

The Jordanian weekly newspaper al-Shihan reprinted three of the cartoons, saying people should know what they were protesting about. "Muslims of the world be reasonable," wrote editor Jihad Momani. "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Momani and Hisham Khalidi of the newspaper al-Mehwar, also in Jordan, were arrested and charged with blasphemy for publishing the cartoons

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : Former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu