NEW YORK — The Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the few U.S. newspapers to publish a caricature of the Prophet Mohammad from a series that sparked a wave of protests by Muslims, defended the action on Sunday by saying it was just doing its job. “This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do,” said Amanda Bennett, the newspaper’s editor. The Inquirer on Saturday published the most controversial image, which depicted the Prophet with a turban resembling a lit bomb, and it posted on its Web site an Internet link to the rest of the cartoons.
For the first time since the international crisis began, Israeli Arabs took to the streets yesterday afternoon to protest cartoons deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed that were published in the European press. At least 500 demonstrators gathered peacefully in the Galilee city of Nazareth. A procession set off from the Al-Salaam mosque toward the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Christian tradition says Mary was informed of Jesus’ impending birth. Sheik Raed Salah, a radical leader of the Islamic Movement, was to address the crowd later. “Allah is the only God, and Mohammed is his prophet,” loudspeakers blared as the march began. Meanwhile in the Palestinian Authority, hundreds of Palestinians stormed European institutions and burned German and Danish flags in Gaza City. About two dozen protesters stormed the German cultural center, smashing windows and breaking doors. Down the street, about 30 Palestinians threw stones at the European Commission building, and replaced the EU flag with a Palestinian flag, before police brought them under control. About 50 schoolchildren and teenagers gathered on one corner of the street shortly after to try to resume the attacks on the two buildings, but Palestinian riot police, armed with batons, pushed them back. The youths threw stones at the police, then fled. Later in the day, about 400 protesters marched on the European Commission building, accompanied by a loudspeaker car that blared, “Insulting the prophet means insulting every Muslim,” and urged merchants to boycott Danish products: “With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet.” Protesters also set fire to a Danish flag. Police set up a cordon at the building to prevent stone-throwing, but protesters heeded organizers’ appeals and didn’t attack. Most of the demonstrators were merchants who called for a boycott of European goods, and many carried small books of the Koran. Elsewhere in Gaza City, armed men with links to the Fatah Party handed out red carnations to students, nuns and the priest at a Roman Catholic school to apologize for other Fatah gunmen who threatened earlier in the week to target churches as part of their protests. Danish and French members of the international observer team at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt stayed away from Gaza on Thursday, and instead worked from the group’s headquarters in the nearby Israeli city of Ashkelon, said a spokesman, Julio de La Guardia. Meanwhile in Damascus, demonstrators set fire to the building that houses the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish embassies in Syria. While no diplomats were reported injured, these attacks were the most violent so far in the protests against the cartoons. The cartoons have caused a furor across the Muslim world, in part because Islamic law is interpreted as forbidding any depictions of Islam’s holiest figure. Aggravating the affront was one caricature of Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. The cartoons were first published in Denmark, and then in newspapers elsewhere in Europe in a show of solidarity with freedom of the press. In Brussels, the European Union called on the Palestinian Authority to protect EU buildings from attack. Danish Foreign Minister Stig Moeller called the Damascus embassy attack “horrible and totally unacceptable” on public television. He said he telephoned his Syrian counterpart, Farouk al-Sharaa, “to tell him it was totally unacceptable that Syrian authorities have not been able to protect the embassy.” He said al-Sharaa said he regretted the incident. The United States condemned the cartoons, siding with Muslims outraged that newspapers put freedom of the press over respect for religion. “We … respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable,” said State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper. Major U.S. publications have not republished the cartoons. The U.S. response contrasted with that of European governments, which have generally accepted the newspapers’ rights to print the cartoons. The furor cuts to the question of which is more sacred in the Western world – freedom of expression or respect for religious beliefs. Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, applauded the U.S. position. The State Department reaction “was a strong statement in support of Muslims around the world,” he said.
AMMAN (AP) In one of several Middle Eastern protests Thursday, a Jordanian newspaper took the bold step of publishing the Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that have outraged Muslims, saying it was reprinting them to show readers “the extent of the Danish offense.” The Arabic weekly Shihan ran three of the 12 cartoons, including the one that depicts Muhammad as wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. The headline said: “This is how the Danish newspaper portrayed Prophet Muhammad, may God’s blessing and peace be upon him.” The drawings first appeared in a Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten, in September. They were reprinted in a Norwegian magazine in January and in newspapers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain on Wednesday as editors rallied behind them in the name of free expression. Armed Palestinians protested the cartoons Thursday outside the EU Commission’s office in the Gaza Strip, and more than 300 Islamic students demonstrated in Pakistan, chanting “Death to Denmark” and “Death to France.” In Damascus, about 300 Syrians staged a sit-in outside the Danish Embassy and distributed leaflets calling for a boycott of European products. The leaflets named Danish products sold in Syria and added: “We do not want civilization from those who insult our Prophet.” Shihan’s editor-in-chief, Jihad al-Momani, told The Associated Press that he decided to run the cartoons to “display to the public the extent of the Danish offense and condemn it in the strongest terms. “But their publication is not meant in any way to promote such blasphemy,” al-Momani added. Shihan ran an article next to the cartoons that gave examples of the protests, condemnations and diplomatic initiatives that Muslim nations have launched. It bore the headline: “Islamic intefadeh against the Danish offense.” Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry. What has heightened the offense is the fact that several of the cartoons portray the prophet as a man of violence. In other moves Thursday, two Iraqi cities, Baghdad and Basra, issued calls for demonstrations against the caricatures after Friday prayers. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood also called for a protest after Friday prayers in Alexandria. About 100 Lebanese women staged a similar sit-in in the southern city of Sidon. And Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit met EU ambassadors to Cairo and urged them to ask their governments to “adopt quick and decisive measures” to contain the issue. “Freedom of expression should guarantee respect for each others’ religious beliefs and values,” Aboul Gheit told the ambassadors, according to a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul-Illah Khatib protested the cartoons in a meeting with the Danish ambassador on Sunday, describing them as an “intentional insult to Islam, its message and its honorable Prophet.” He urged Denmark to take steps against their republication. In Tehran on Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry delivered a similar protest to the ambassador of Austria, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. The same day Syria recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen over the cartoons. The Danish government has until recently expressed regret for the furor, but refused to become involved, citing freedom of expression. On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that while he cherishes freedom of expression, “I would never myself have chosen to depict religious symbols in this way.” However, on Thursday Fogh Rasmussen invited ambassadors to meet him to discuss the controversy. In October he had declined to meet ambassadors from 10 predominantly Muslim countries who objected to the drawings.
By David Rennie in Brussels Newspapers across Europe yesterday defended what one editor called the “right to blasphemy” by printing Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have provoked fury in the Arab world. A slow-burning row over the cartoons, originally published in Jyllands-Posten in September, exploded after they were denounced by a senior Saudi Arabian cleric last week. Protests have included street demonstrations, flag burnings, death threats, bomb scares and a crippling consumer boycott of Danish goods by businesses in several Gulf states. That anger spread across Europe after the cartoons were published yesterday in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Syria became the latest nation to withdraw its ambassador from Copenhagen, after Saudi Arabia and Libya. In France the front page of the France-Soir tabloid carried the headline “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God” and a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian divinities floating on a cloud. Inside, the paper re-ran the Danish drawings. “The appearance of the 12 drawings in the Danish press provoked emotions in the Muslim world because the representation of Allah and his prophet is forbidden,” it said. “But because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society, France Soir is publishing the incriminating caricatures.” France has western Europe’s largest Muslim community, with an estimated five million people. Mohammed Bechari, the president of the National Federation of the Muslims of France, said his group would start legal proceedings against France Soir because the pictures were “hurting the feelings of 1.2 billion Muslims”. The drawings were originally commissioned by Jyllands-Posten from Danish artists after an author could not find an illustrator to depict Mohammed in a biography of the Prophet. The Danish cartoonists submitted a range of images, all banned by Islam, which strictly forbids depictions of the Prophet to avoid encouraging idolatry. One depicts a grinning, knife-wielding Mohammed flanked by two veiled women. Another, which appeared on the front page of Die Welt in Germany, and in La Stampa in Italy, shows the Prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban, topped by a hissing fuse. The Spanish newspaper ABC used a photograph of the original Danish newspaper, with its 12 cartoons. Die Welt also ran an editorial regretting a decision by the Danish newspaper to apologise for the upset caused. The Jyllands Posten has not apologised but its editor, Carsten Juste, said he would not have printed them “had we known that it would lead to boycotts and Danish lives being endangered”. Die Welt described the “right to blasphemy” as a key freedom of an open society. Roger K_ppel, the editor of Die Welt, said his main motive for running the cartoon had been the “news value of the story”. But he stood by the decision. “In our culture, we have a tradition that even our most holy things can be subjected to satire or criticism. Muslims have to understand that in our culture, the representation of a holy man has another meaning.” The Left-wing Berliner Zeitung daily printed two of the caricatures as part of its coverage of the controversy, but said Denmark should accept the boycott of its goods as the price to pay for freedoms of speech. “If we really want to protect our values, then we should respect this call for boycott and just accept the sacrifices they will incur.” Armed militants in the Palestinian territories this week warned Danish, Norwegian and Swedish citizens to leave the Gaza Strip and West Bank or risk being killed.
TUNISIA, (AFP) – Cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish and Norwegian press provoked boycotts and angry protests across the Muslim world yesterday as interior ministers from 17 Arab countries called on the Danish government to punish the authors. “The council of Arab interior ministers strongly denounce the offence to Islam and the prophet published in the Danish press and ask the Danish government to firmly punish the authors of these offences,” the council said in a statement after a meeting in the Tunisian capital. Saudi Interior Minister Nayef Ben Abdel Aziz called on other Arab countries to recall their ambassadors from Copenhagen. Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador last week and a boycott of Danish products is under way in the kingdom. Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa said before the meeting that the European press “fears being accused of anti-Semitism, but invokes freedom of expression when it caricatures Islam.” The Moroccan Islamist newspaper Attajdid praised protests across the Arab world. “A strong cry of fidelity to this great prophet must emanate from Morocco,” the paper said. A council of 15 senior Moroccan theologians condemned the association of Mohammed with “execrable” actions “diametrically opposed to what the messenger of God came to fight against”. The 12 cartoons, entitled “The Faces of Mohammed”, originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September, were reproduced in the Norwegian magazine Magazinet on January 10. They include a portrayal of Mohammed wearing a time bomb-shaped turban and show him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding Bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black. The Algerian foreign ministry denounced the “outrageous injuries” to the prophet and warned that the cartoons were harmful to religious dialogue and relations between nations. Sudan turned down a visit by Denmark’s defence minister and urged all firms to boycott Danish products, the official news agency SUNA reported. In Gaza, a picture of Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was set alight during a protest outside the UN compound in Gaza City. Protestors also torched pictures of Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert and US president George W Bush while gunmen fired bullets into the air. “This barbarous offensive on Islam is the result of a campaign of incitement against Islam waged by Bush,” Nafez Azzam, a Jihad leader, told reporters.
In a recent communication, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), whose charge is to address only questions linked expressly to religious practice, seemed to refuse the French political parties the right to criticize or even to address the question of French Islam with regards to the presidential election.