Israel-Iran problem has nothing to do with Islam: envoy

July 25th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Israel’s problem with Iran has nothing to do with religion and it should not be seen as a fight against Islam, Israeli ambassador to India Mark Sofer said here Friday. “Israel has over 12 percent Muslims and has the highest regard for Islam or for that (matter) for the Iranian civilization and culture,” Sofer said.

He added: “The difficulty that we have with one of the Muslim countries should not be seen as Israel being anti-Islam. It has nothing to do with religion. We have the highest respect for Islam and we have good relations with a number of Arab and Muslim countries.”

The ambassador was speaking at a function here after Israel became the first foreign mission in India to launch a website in Urdu and Hindi. The attempt on Israel’s part seems to be to reach out to the people in India’s hinterland through two of its major languages to allow them to appreciate Israeli position better on a number of important political, economic and cultural issues.

During an interaction with journalists, the ambassador was asked to explain the perception that a lot of people have in India and elsewhere that Israelis were “anti-Islam”.

“I want to dispel this false aspersion. If there is one country that is not anti-Islam that is Israel,” Sofer said.

But a number of statements that have been coming out of Israel, especially against Iran and its controversial nuclear programme, have led many countries to condemn the hardline position taken by the government in Tel Aviv. The Indian government also criticised the possible military strike against Iran and made it clear that it wanted the Iranian issue to be resolved through negotiations and peacefully.

“We don’t have a problem with the Iranian people, we have a problem with the Iranian government,” Sofer said.

He pointed out that the Iranian government has been consistently making derogatory remarks against the Israeli government and Jewish people and have even raised doubts about the “Holocaust” in which millions of innocent people had died.

“Any civilized government or person will find such remarks to be repulsive. How does one want us to react to a country which keeps talking about wiping us off the map of the world?”

Sofer stressed that two websites along with the publications in Hindi and Urdu will give a large number of people in India a “better knowledge” about Israel and what it stands for.

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