Here's what Iranian Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani — "one of the dozen or so Grand Ayatollahs in Iran, who has a large following" — wrote on Sept. 16, 2006, responding to the Pope's speech (the one in which the Pope quoted a Byzantine emperor who wrote, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached"):
We can easily prove for [the Pope] that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy. One of Quran's most glorious verses is the verse 12 of Al-An'am chapter which says[, ']He has ordained mercy on Himself[']. Pope Benedict XVI should spend several years to understand this verse.
His statements about Jihad, holy war, emanate from his lack of knowledge and understanding from the reality of Jihad. Obviously he has erroneously taken the Islamic Jihad for what the US government has created and named as 'terrorism'. We wonder why he who is considering himself leader of a divine religion denies God's will outright under the pretext of intellect and logic.
Now here's what Grand Ayatollah Lankarani did a few days ago, with regard to a writer who reprinted the Mohammed cartoons; I quote the BBC account:
One of Iran's most senior clergymen [Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani] has issued a fatwa on an Azeri writer said to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
The call on Muslims to murder Rafiq Tagi, who writes for Azerbaijan's Senet newspaper, echoes the Iranian fatwa against Indian writer Salman Rushdie....
The Iranian media is reporting that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's followers inside the republic of Azerbaijan wrote to him asking for advice about what they called "the apostate writer".
They accuse the Azeri writer of portraying Christianity as superior to Islam and Europe as superior to the Middle East.
They allege that he has ridiculed all the sanctities of Islam and done it knowingly, fully aware of the consequences of his action....
I'm sure there are many Muslims whose Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. But I feel comfortable saying that Grand Ayatollah Lankarani's version of Islam is not.
UPDATE: I initially thought that the fatwa was issued because of several actions on the writer's part, but rereading the article makes me doubt that, and suspect that it might have been based just on reprinting the Mohammad cartoons; I've therefore deleted the "among other things" before "reprinted the Mohammed cartoons." If any of you have more precise information on this, please let me know.