- (Photo: REUTERS/Mohsin Raza)
Hafiz Saeed, one of the most dangerous Islamist extremists in Pakistan linked to the deaths of hundreds of people, has slammed President Barack Obama for his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, saying that his lack of consideration to Muslim sensitivities is starting a "religious war."
"Obama's statements have caused a religious war," Saeed said in an interview with Reuters. "This is a very sensitive issue. This is not going to be resolved soon. Obama's statement has started a cultural war."
Saeed was referring to Obama's speech at the General Assembly at the United Nations on Tuesday, where the president stated that he will defend religious freedom and free speech and stand up against calls for a global blasphemy law.
The president addressed the slaying of Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens who was among four Americans killed at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi after protests broke out in several Middle Eastern countries over an anti-Islam YouTube video made in the United States. The escalating turmoil has prompted a number of Muslim-majority nations, including Pakistan and Egypt, to call for a global blasphemy law to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, but the U.S. has remained firmly opposed to such plans.
"I know there are some who ask why we don't just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech," Obama said at the General Assembly in New York City. "Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. Moreover, as president of our country, and commander-in-chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views -- even views that we disagree with."
But Saeed, who is accused by India of masterminding a 2008 attack on its financial capital Mumbai that left 166 people dead and operating as leader of the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah terrorist organization in Pakistan, said that if Obama has no plans to bring to justice the filmmakers of the controversial "Innocent of Muslims" video, then others will.
"Obama has said he cannot block the film. What does that say?" Saeed said. "If not, then hand them to us."
Saeed, officially declared a terrorist by the U.N. and the subject of a $10 million reward issued by the White House for his capture, has denied any wrongdoings, and has mocked the bounty placed on his head.
"I am wandering in my own country," he said from the safety of a hotel in Islamabad.
"So, what right does America have to put a bounty on my head? I have told America to start a case against me in court. So I can give my point of view. This is terrorism by putting a bounty on people's heads."
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who spoke at the U.N. for the first time since taking office, has also attacked the U.S. for its support of Israel in its dispute against Palestine, saying that Americans practically "purchased" the hatred of Islamists in the region.
"Successive American administrations essentially purchased, with American taxpayer money, the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians," Morsi said in an interview with the New York Times.
"The United States must respect the Arab world's history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values," Morsi added.