ROME – The leaders of Muslim communities in Italy endorsed on Monday statements by pope Benedict XVI who warned that Africa and Asia feel threatened by the West’s materialism and secularism. “We agree with the pope,” said Roberto Piccardo, the spokesman of Italy’s largest Muslim group UCOII. “It is true that Muslims are puzzled by a West which is hostage to a materialistic system.” Mario Scialoja, the former president of the World Muslim League, also expressed support for the pope’s words, saying that the “West’s exclusion of God leads to the wrong life models.”
ROME (AP) – The editor of an Italian monthly has apologized for any offence to Muslims over a humorous caption for a drawing showing the Prophet Muhammad in hell, Italian news reports said Sunday. The journal Studi Cattolici (Catholic Studies), which offers a variety of opinions on cultural issues, ran the caption and drawing in its March issue. Italian news agencies Sunday quoted the journal’s editor, Cesare Cavalleri, as “apologizing, as a Christian,” for any offence. Milan daily Corriere della Sera said that the journal had run a caption next to the drawing, which was inspired by Dante’s depiction of Muhammad in hell in his Divine Comedy. The Union of Italian Islamic Communities said it had protested the caption. The organization’s secretary, Roberto Piccardo, declined to comment on the reported apology. Cavalleri was quoted as saying the vignette “was interpreted as being anti-Islam when, if anything, it was a denunciation of a cultural identity crisis in the West,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Cavalleri as saying. “In any case, if, contrary to my and the author’s intentions, someone felt offended in his religious feelings, I willingly apologize as a Christian.” News reports said Cavalleri is a member of Opus Dei, a conservative religious organization that had the favour of the late pope John Paul. Opus Dei on its website said that while it had no responsibility for the magazine, “we desire to apologize for any offence that was made.” Muslims make up a small percentage of people in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy. Earlier this year, a minister in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government was forced to resign after wearing a T-shirt with a caricature of Muhammad on state TV. The incident was blamed for rioting in Libya against Italian interests.