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Pope's remarks deeply troubling: UN expert

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Senegalese rights expert Doudou Diene said he did not consider Benedict's remarks in Germany last week to be an attempt to legitimise Islamophobia.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2006 11:29 IST

A UN investigator on acts of xenophobia and racism has called Pope Benedict XVI's remarks on Islam "profoundly troubling."

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Senegalese rights expert Doudou Diene said he did not consider Benedict's remarks in Germany last week to be an attempt to legitimise Islamophobia.

However, considering the current trend to associate Islam and terrorism, the Pope's lecture was "bound to nourish and give legitimacy" to the hatred of Islam, he said, recalling the violent protests throughout the Muslim world sparked by the newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

In his September 12 address at the University of Regensburg in Germany, Benedict cited a dialogue between a Persian scholar and a Byzantine Christian emperor.

Benedict had said later that the remarks did not reflect his own opinion and were meant as part of a broader message rejecting a link between religion and violence.

The UN Human Rights Council, which is meeting until October 6, addressed the issue of the Pope's remarks after a special request from Islamic countries.

Diene said Benedict should have presented both sides of the historic debate he was quoting from. Such a balanced approach, Diene said, would have underlined the fact that "the debate on violence and faith has a long history of controversy."

Asma Jahangir, the special rapporteur on freedom of religion, who teamed up with Diene to write the report on Incitement to Racial and Religious Hatred and Promotion of Tolerance, warned that "adverse comments about the beliefs of religious groups by public figures and state officials can have significant repercussions and implications.