Twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, published in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten daily last September and reprinted by newspapers and magazines in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy this week, have sparked uproar in the Muslim world where images of the prophet are considered blasphemous.
The Arabic language website Middle East online reports extensively on the growing furore in Europe, and notes that the cartoons were also reprinted in the Jordanian weekly magazine, Al-Shihan. Under the headline - “Muslims of the world, be reasonable”, the magazine editor asked readers the rhetorical question: “Who harms Islam more, a western cartoonist who depicts the Prophet, or a Muslim who ties explosives round his waist and blows up a wedding party in Amman or any other place?”
The issue of the cartoons is being exploited by leaders in the Arab world to try to divert Muslims’ attention from the corruption and failings of their regimes, according to an analysis published on the same website.
The website - Or does it explode? - describing itself as ‘Awakening a Civil Rights Movement in the Middle East’ agrees that the issue of the cartoons is being exploited by dictators.
“The ‘cartoon crisis’ has suddenly become a Satanic Verses redux for 2006 - and the dictators seem desperate to get in on the act. In a telling campaign that reflects their world view, they are boycotting the government of Denmark. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have announced a boycott of Danish goods. Qaddafi has closed Libya’s embassy in Denmark,“ says the blog.
The Turkish online newspaper http://www.zaman.com/?bl=international&alt=&trh=20060202&hn=29317</a>">Al-Zaman, reported on Wednesday that the Organisation of Islamic Conference will refer the issue of the cartoons to the United Nations. It cited Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC Secretary-General, as saying the issue would “definitely be referred to the United Nations”.
Al-Jazeera’s English language website reported that armed groups in the Palestinian territories had threatened to attack Danish, French and Norwegian nationals in retaliation for the publication of the cartoons.
Two militants groups released a joint statement on Thursday that said: “All nationals and those who work in the diplomatic corps of these countries can be considered targets of the Popular Resistance Committee and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.”
Lebanon’s Daily Star cited an email circulating in Lebanon this week urging people to: “Stop using Danish goods! Ban Denmark’s Products!” Some supermarkets and groceries in Lebanon have joined their Arab brethren in boycotting Danish products, while others, such as Al-Amlieh supermarket in Chiyah, are awaiting official word from religious authorities to do the same, the paper reports. But when contacted by The Daily Star, one store manager, Mohammad Abbas, said: “We are still waiting for a decision from religious authorities in order to start the boycott.”
Publications that printed part or all of controversial cartoon
Jyllands-Posten (Danish); WeekendAvisen (Danish); Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (German); Magazinet (Norwegian); Brussels Journal (Belgium); DV (Icelandic); Die Tageszeitung (German); France Soir (French); Die Welt (German); Tagesspiegel(German); Berliner Zeitung (German); La Stampa(Italian); El Periodico(Spanish); Volkskrant (Dutch); NRC Handelsblad (Dutch); Elsevier (Dutch); Die Zeit (German); al-Shihan (Jordanian); Le Soir (Belgium); Le Monde (French); BBC (UK). Spain’s El Pais printed the cartoons on its front page on Friday.
World leaders’ reaction
“Muslims should display firm reaction to such disgraceful acts.” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt warned of, “the near and long term repercussions (of the) campaign of insults against the noble Prophet. Irresponsible management of these repercussions will provide further excuses to the forces of radicalism and terrorism.”
Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, said he believed “freedom of the press should always be exercised in a way that fully respects the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions.”
“The cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad are an attack on our spiritual values. There should be a limit to press freedom.” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Former US President Bill Clinton called the cartoons ``appalling,’’ according to Agence France-Presse. “So now what are we going to do? Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?’’
“I want to emphasise that in Denmark we attach fundamental importance to the freedom of expression, which is a vital and indispensable part of a democratic society. This being said I would like to stress as my personal opinion that I deeply respect the religious feelings of other people. Consequently, I would never myself have chosen to depict religious symbols in this way.“ Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister.
Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, said “freedom of speech” did not carry “any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory”.
“I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong,’’ he said, adding that he thought the British media had shown “considerable responsibility and sensitivity” in its approach to the issue.
“Any insult to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, is an insult to more than 1 billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated,” Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.