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ADDIS ABABA, February 3, 2009
[caption id="attachment_3879" align="alignright" width="466" caption="Gaddafi declared to be the "king of Kings" by African leaders."][/caption]
President Muammar Gaddafi whose public statements have had the potential of worsening the delicate Muslim-Christian relations in Africa was on Monday elected chairman of the African Union (AU).
The Libyan leader replaces Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete in the one-year-term position that is held on a rotational basis by a head of state from Africa's four regions. His pet subject is greater African unity.
"I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa," Gaddafi said in his inaugural speech, but admitted that African leaders were "not near to a settlement" on the issue.
Gaddafi, on his 40th year in power, has for the past decade pushed the unity agenda, but without sensitivity to the continent’s religious reality. Christianity and Islam are Africa’s main religions.
The man who has previously dismissed the Bible as a forgery and Christianity as a religion not meant for Africans will for the next year be the spokesman for a continent where religious tensions have sometimes erupted into violent confrontations.
On the other hand, Christian minorities, especially in North Africa, do not enjoy freedom of worship and continue to suffer official discrimination.
In the past two years, Gaddafi has used celebrations to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammed to disparage Christianity. Last year while visiting Uganda, he delivered a tirade against the Bible, dismissing it as a forgery.
"The Bible we have now is not the one that was revealed to Issa [Jesus], and the Old Testament is not the one that was revealed to Musa. Mohammed is mentioned in both (original versions), but in the Torah and Bible we have now, there is no mention of him," he said.
"It means that it (Bible) has been forged. Prophet Mohammed was sent to mankind. Allah wanted mankind to have one religion. The Koran that we have is the only book that was sent by Allah."
In 2007, the Libyan leader said it was a mistake to believe that Jesus had been crucified and killed. "It is not correct to say that. Another man resembling Jesus was crucified in his place," Gaddafi told a mass prayer meeting in Niger to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammed.
Christianity, he added, was not a universal faith alongside Islam. "There are serious mistakes - among them the one saying that Jesus came as a messenger for other people other than the sons of Israel," he said.
"Christianity is not a faith for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Other people who are not sons of Israel have nothing to do with that religion."
"All those believers who do not follow Islam are losers," Gaddafi said. "We are here to correct the mistakes in the light of the teachings of the Koran."
The Libyan leader seized power in a military coup d'ÃƒÂ©tat in 1969, deposing the monarchy and imposing socialism and Islamic orthodoxy on the country.
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