Madrid: Jose Maria Aznar, former Spanish prime minister, defended Pope Benedict XVI's comments about Islam, saying on Friday the pontiff had no need to apologise and asking why Muslims never did. the Spanish media said yesterday.
“Why do we always have to say sorry and they never do?'' Aznar told a conference in Washington on “global threats'' on Friday.
On Saturday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was quoted as saying that more European leaders should have spoken out in support of the Pope after he made his disputed comments on Islam.
"I was disappointed there were not more European leaders who said 'naturally the Pope has the right to express his views'," Barroso was quoted as saying to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
"The problem is not the statements of the Pope but the reaction of the extremists," the paper quoted him as saying.
Referring to the Moorish conquest of much of the Iberian Peninsula from the eighth to the 15th century, Aznar said: “It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the Pope to apologise for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries.''
Aznar, who was the Prime Minister from 1996 to 2004, took Spain into the American-led war in Iraq, against massive public opposition.
Addressing Friday's conference in Washington on “global threats'', Aznar said: “We are living in a time of war ... It's them or us. The West did not attack Islam, it was they who attacked us.''
“We must face up to an Islam that is ambitious, that is radical and that influences the Muslim world, a fundamentalist Islam that we must confront because we don't have any choice.
“We are constantly under attack and we must defend ourselves,'' he said.
“I support Ferdinand and Isabella,'' he proclaimed, in reference to the medieval Catholic monarchs who drove the Moors out of Spain in 1492.
Barroso said the caution on the part of European leaders was probably due to "worries about a possible confrontation" as well as a "certain form of political correctness."
"We have to defend our values," he said. "We should also encourage the moderate leaders in the Muslim world - and they're the majority - to distance themselves from this extremism," Barroso was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile,the Pope is due to meet Muslim envoys on Monday as part of a diplomaticc initiative to boost inter-faith dialogue.
The meeting is to be held at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence.