ROME: Senior politicians in Italy’s government launched a policy manifesto on Thursday vowing to protect Western civilisation from what they said were the twin threats of Islamic fundamentalism and a moral vacuum. Marcello Pera, speaker of the Senate and a friend of Pope Benedict, said people in the West were ashamed to stand up for their values and often blamed themselves for being victims of terrorism. The West has difficulty recognising itself, Pera told a news conference to launch the manifesto. As Pope Benedict said: _the West doesn’t love itself any more’, he said. The document, entitled For the West, Force of Civilisation, begins: The West is in crisis. Attacked externally by fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism, it is not able to rise to the challenge. Undermined internally by a moral and spiritual crisis, it can’t seem to find the courage to react. Pera, a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, wants centre-right politicians to sign up to the manifesto ahead of an April general election which polls say the centre left, led by Romano Prodi, is more likely to win. Many politicians and some business and media figures have expressed support for the text, which calls for the spread of Western civilisation’s universal and inalienable principles. Berlusconi himself has yet to sign the document, Pera said, adding however that the prime minister backed the project. Pera’s manifesto was launched to a background of protests throughout the Muslim world against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in European newspapers. Many of the protests have turned violent and at least 11 people died in a riot outside an Italian consulate in Libya last week. Pera said the bloodshed could not be blamed on Europe. I don’t think this can be seen as a response to something which happened in Italy and the West, he said. In those places, fundamentalism was already getting ready and waiting for someone to put a match to the gunpowder. Violence by Islamist extremists in Britain and France had shown those countries had failed to integrate immigrants into society, Pera said, insisting Italy must make newcomers respect the Italian way of life. Pera denied any suggestion that his rallying cry to the tendency Italy’s media has dubbed the theo-cons – available online at www.perloccidente.it – was in any way inflammatory. There’s nothing that suggests a clash of religions or a clash of civilisations in this document, he said. . Berlusconi, who in September 2001 outraged Muslims by saying the West was a superior civilisation, gave an interview to Arab TV station Al-Jazeera on Wednesday where he dismissed talk of any clash of civilisations and condemned the Muhammad (PBUH) cartoons.
ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sought on Wednesday to distance Italy from Muslim outrage over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) by condemning the images, after anti-Italian rallies in Libya left 11 dead. Satire must not be disrespectful, he told the Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera in an interview to be broadcast later Wednesday.
DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) – A German court on Thursday convicted a businessman of insulting Islam by printing the word “Koran” on toilet paper and offering it to mosques. The 61-year-old man, identified only as Manfred van H., was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service, a district court in the western German town of Luedinghausen ruled. The conviction comes after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad — sparking violent protests around the world from Muslims who saw the images as sacrilegious and an attack on their beliefs. Manfred van H. printed out sheets of toilet paper bearing the word “Koran” shortly after a group of Muslims carried out a series of bomb attacks in London in July 2005. He sent the paper to German television stations, magazines and some 15 mosques. Prosecutors said that in an accompanying letter Manfred van H. called Islam’s holy book a “cookbook for terrorists.” He also offered his toilet paper for sale on the Internet at a price of 4 euros ($4.76) per roll, saying the proceeds would go toward a “memorial to all the victims of Islamic terrorism.” The maximum sentence for insulting religious beliefs under the German criminal code is three years in prison.
By Kate Holton London – The far-right British National Party (BNP) said on Wednesday it planned to distribute a campaign leaflet featuring the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which have enraged Muslims around the world. A spokesman for the fringe party, which has no seats in parliament but a handful on local councils, said its use of the images was not intended to cause offence, but illustrated how Islam and Western values do not mix. The party says it is not racist, but its leader Nick Griffin and another activist are due in court on race hate charges in October. Claims that Islam and Western values do not mix The 12 cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper and were later reprinted in other European countries, have sparked violent protests across the Islamic world. Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. At least 50 people have been killed during demonstrations around the world, and a Pakistani Muslim cleric last week offered rewards amounting to more than $1-million (R6,1-million) to anyone who killed any of the Danish cartoonists. The cartoons have not been published in Britain. About 15 000 Muslims staged a peaceful protest against the drawings in London last week. A demonstration earlier in the month provoked outrage because masked men held up placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam, and praised the London bombings last July which killed 52 people. The content of the leaflets can already be seen on the group’s website and the leaflets will be circulated ahead of local elections in May. ‘Mild and inoffensive’ The leaflet asks “Which Do You Find Offensive? A cartoon of Mohammad with a bomb for a turban or Muslim demonstrators calling for terrorist attacks on Europe and the ‘extermination’ of non-Muslims?” “By showing you just how mild and inoffensive the cartoon is, we’re giving you the chance to see for yourself the huge gulf that exists between the democratic values that we share, and the mediaeval views that dominate Islam, even supposedly ‘moderate’ versions,” the leaflet said. The party spokesman said the BNP wanted the cartoons to provoke debate. “We published the cartoon not to offend individual Muslims – that’s most important – but to make a stand for freedom,” he said. Ian McCartney, chairman of the ruling Labour Party, condemned the leaflets as “straight out of the Nazi textbook”. The BNP commands a fraction of the support of far-right parties elsewhere in Europe but has several seats on local councils, mainly in poorer areas with large ethnic populations.
By DEEPTI HAJELA NEW YORK — The political piling-on over a state-owned Arab business’ plan to run some American ports is causing concern among Arab American and Muslim American groups, which say the furor is fueled by racism and bigotry. “We’re very concerned about the level of rhetoric and the way that there seems to be the assumption that because a company is Arab it can’t be trusted with our security,” said Katherine Abbadi, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York.
Muslims protesting the publication in European media of cartoons depicting Mohammed have once again directed their anger at the United States despite the fact most American mainstream newspapers have not reproduced them. Sentiment about the allegedly blasphemous cartoons appears increasingly to be blurring into a broader anti-U.S. feeling in some parts of the world, with some angry Muslims using President Bush’s scheduled tour to India and Pakistan early next month as a rallying point.
LONDON (Reuters) – Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia, or Islamic law, introduced in predominantly Muslim parts of the country, a poll showed on Sunday. One in five of those polled for the Sunday Telegraph also said they sympathised with the “feelings and motives” of suicide bombers who killed 52 people in attacks on the London transport system last July. British Muslims emerged from the poll as becoming more radicalised and alienated from mainstream society but 91 percent did say they feel “loyal” to the United Kingdom. Sharia is implemented to varying degrees in several Muslim countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia, where religious courts can impose punishments including stoning, amputation and execution. In other countries sharia is applied to specific areas such as family law, banking, or religious rituals. The poll came just one day after 10,000 Muslims took to the streets of London to express their anger and hurt over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. They were first published in September in a Danish newspaper and were then reprinted by papers in other countries but not Britain. The publication prompted uproar in the Islamic world, with thousands taking to the streets to protest. Five people were killed in protests in Pakistan and 10 people were reported to have died in clashes in Libya. Sixteen died in Nigerian riots. Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. In London, a small demonstration in front of the Danish embassy earlier in the month provoked outrage as masked men called for those who insulted Islam to be beheaded.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy today, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates. Several people were injured. Pakistani security forces, meanwhile, sealed off the capital of Islamabad to block a planned mass demonstration and fired tear gas and gunshots to chase off protesters. In Turkey, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul chanting slogans against Denmark, Israel and the United States.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Bill Clinton says he thinks Muslims have “squandered” an opportunity to build bridges to the West. The former president today denounced the violent protests that have rocked the Muslim world in recent weeks. The cartoons depicting Muhammad were first published in Denmark last fall but have since sparked destructive riots, including protests aimed at the U-S. Clinton commented during a visit to Pakistan, one of the countries rocked by violence.
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Spain asked the Vatican on Friday to back an initiative promoting Western-Arab understanding, in a bid to give fresh impetus to the plan after Muslim protests against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos made the request for support of the “Alliance of Civilisations” during talks with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Foreign Minister Giovanni Lajolo, a Vatican statement said. Spain and Turkey launched the initiative last year and this month called for calm and respect after violent demonstrations by Muslims against the cartoons. Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet Mohammad blasphemous. Pope Benedict has condemned the cartoons, which were first published in Denmark and reprinted in Europe and the Middle East, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person’s religion. Spain and the Vatican have had strained relations since the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero legalised homosexual marriages last year despite strong opposition from the country’s powerful Catholic Church. Moratinos’ visit to the Vatican appeared to be an attempt by Madrid to mend ties ahead of a visit by the pope to Valencia in July to attend a rally of Catholic families.