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Muslims Denounce Danish Cartoon Caricature of Prophet

Date Posted: Monday, January 30, 2006

Muslim and Arab countries have called for a boycott of Danish products after publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (saw) in Scandinavian newspapers.

CAIRO, Jan 30 (MASNET & News Agencies) - The Muslim world's two main political bodies have said they were seeking a U.N. resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions following an outcry caused by publication in Scandinavia of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (saw).


Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told reporters in Cairo Sunday that the international body would "ask the U.N. general assembly to pass a resolution banning attacks on religious beliefs."


The deputy secretary general of the Arab League, Ahmed Ben Helli, confirmed that contacts were under way for such a proposal to be made to the United Nations.


"Consultations are currently taking place at the highest level between Arab countries and the OIC to ask the U.N. to adopt a binding resolution banning contempt of religious beliefs and providing for sanctions to be imposed on contravening countries or institutions," he said.


Twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (saw), published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily last September and reprinted in a Norwegian magazine earlier this month, sparked uproar in the Muslim world where images of the prophet are considered blasphemous.


Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry, reports the Associated Press (AP).


Officials in Muslim countries and various religious bodies have expressed anger at the cartoons, while the editors of the newspapers have defended their publication on the grounds of freedom of expression and have refused to apologize, but have said they did not mean to insult Islam.


Denmark, citing freedom of expression, also defended Jyllands-Postens right to publish the satirical drawings that seemed to portray the prophet as a terrorist, reports Reuters news agency.


Danish government officials have expressed regret over the furor but have refused to get involved, reports the AP.


Denmark's Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, refused on Sunday to apologize, defending the right of free speech and saying he could not influence the media, but he condemned attempts "to demonize people because of religious beliefs".


Muslim wrath has spread rapidly in the Middle East with Gulf retailers pulling Danish products off their shelves and protestors gathering outside Danish embassies.


Emirates' Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Mohammed Al Dhaheri said publishing the "blasphemous" cartoons was "disgusting and irresponsible," according to comments released Monday by the official WAM news agency.


"This is cultural terrorism, not freedom of expression. The repercussions of such irresponsible acts will have adverse impact on international relations."


Syria and Bahrain were the latest Arab countries to join the chorus.


"Syria calls on the Danish government to take the necessary measures to punish the culprits. The dialogue of civilizations is based on mutual respect," said an official quoted by the official Syrian news agency on Sunday.


The Bahraini cabinet, at a meeting on Sunday, condemned the cartoons "which are a deliberate attack against the glorious Prophet Mohammed and have angered Muslims the world over."


State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmed Attiyatallah al-Khalifa said the government "warned against the negative repercussions" of the cartoons' publication.


Sheikh Adel al-Mouwdah, a conservative member of the Bahraini parliament, also announced that Islamist organizations had set up a "committee for the defense of the Prophet Mohammed".


"We demand an apology from the Danish government and from the newspaper that published the caricatures," he told AFP.


"We are going to launch a campaign for the boycott of Danish products in order to send a message to the Danes and to the Danish government, he added.


"Regardless of all the acts of extremism and terrorism that are taking place, there are red lines," said the official, one of the main vocal Muslim leaders in Bahrain.


Other Arabs and Muslims also are calling for a boycott of Danish foods, including popular cream cheese, butter and cookie brands. Arla Foods said the boycott of its products in the Middle East was almost total, reports the AP.


"Sales have come to a standstill in almost all markets," said Jens Refslund, the foods production division manager.


Arla Foods has $430 million in annual sales in the Middle East and about 1,000 employees in the region, the news agency reports.


Saudi Arabia recalled its envoy from Denmark, Libya has closed its embassy, and thousands of Palestinians marched in protest on Monday, reports Reuters.


Denmark warned citizens not to go to Saudi Arabia, and Gaza gunmen said any Danes or Norwegians who came there would face attack, the news agency reports.


The Danish Foreign Ministry warned against non-crucial travel to Saudi Arabia and urged Danes to be cautious in other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Algeria, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.


"In the current situation where the drawings of the Prophet Mohammad have caused strong negative reactions among Muslims, Danes who choose to stay in Saudi Arabia should show extraordinarily high watchfulness," it added on its website.


The Danish Red Cross said it had pulled two employees out of Gaza and one from Yemen, reports Reuters.


Ten Palestinians armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers rallied outside the European Union headquarters in Gaza City and fired in the air, demanding an apology and saying Danes and Norwegians there would be at risk of attack, the news agency reports.


"We warn the citizens of the above-mentioned governments to take this warning seriously because our groups are ready to implement it across the Gaza Strip," one of the gunmen said, reading from a prepared statement.


Protestors set fire to Norwegian and Danish flags and painted a footprint on the Danish flag, a severe insult for Arabs, reports Reuters.


Thousands of protesters in the West Bank town of Qalqilya marched through the streets, demanding an apology and burning Denmark's flag, a white cross on a red background, the news agency reports.


Groups linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction issued a statement saying, "We call upon all Danish citizens in [Palestine] to leave immediately."


The Egyptian parliament's Economic Committee refused to discuss a $72.5 million loan from Denmark to Egypt, with newspapers quoting lawmakers as saying they do not want to cooperate with a country that has insulted the prophet, reports the AP.


In Pakistan, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said the government is "engaged with the Danish government" over the cartoon publication, the news agency reports.


She said Pakistan hopes the Danish government would "try to resolve this issue because you cannot hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims in the name of freedom of press."


The cartoons include portrayal of the prophet wearing a time bomb shaped turban and show him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding Bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black.


A poll published on Saturday showed that a majority of Danes felt their government should not apologize over the cartoons.


Former president Bill Clinton warned of rising anti-Islamic prejudice, comparing it to historic anti-Semitism as he condemned the publishing of the cartoons.


"So now what are we going to do? ... Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?" he said at an economic conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.


"In Europe, most of the struggles we've had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism," he said.


Clinton described the cartoons as "appalling".


"None of us are totally free of stereotypes about people of different races, different ethnic groups, and different religions ... there was this appalling example in northern Europe, in Denmark ... these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam," he said.


Clinton criticized the tendency to generalize negative news of Islam.


"Because people see headlines that they don't like [they will] apply that to a whole religion, a whole faith, a whole region and a whole people?" he asked.


Clinton said the United States should continue to push for a Middle East settlement, in light of the stunning win by Hamas in last week's Palestinian elections.


Hamas urged Islamic countries to take "deterrent steps against idiotic Danish behavior".


"We call on Muslim nations to boycott all Danish products because the Danish people supported the hateful racism under the pretext of freedom of expression," it said in a statement.


"It is important that ... we continue to be heavily involved in the resolution of the issues in the Middle East. [But] it depends in part on what Hamas says and does," said Clinton.


"When we [U.S.] are involved, fewer people [have] died," he said. 

President George W. Bush on Friday warned of cuts in U.S. aid to the Palestinians if Hamas does not dissolve its armed wing and renounce threats against Israel.



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved