PARIS: A few sentences spoken by Pope Benedict XVI were sufficient to touch off a firestorm of impassioned reaction. Throughout the Muslim world, religious leaders, presidents, politicians and intellectuals joined their voices with protesting masses angered by a perceived insult to their faith. Most did not read the pope’s speech; others had relied on a sketchy summary according to which the pope had linked Islam and violence. But all railed against what they saw as an intolerable offense.

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