Church In Wales Recalls Magazine With Mohammed Cartoon

The Anglican Church in Wales said it was recalling all copies of its Welsh-languge Y Llan (Church) magazine that features a French cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Taken from the France-Soir newspaper, the cartoon shows Mohammed on a heavenly cloud with Buddha, Moses, and God who tells him: “Don’t complain, Mohammed, we’ve all been caricatured here.” “The Church in Wales is thoroughly investigating how this cartoon came to be reproduced in Y Llan,” a spokesman for Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, said Tuesday. He added that Morgan had sent apologies to the Muslim Council of Wales for any offence caused. The cartoon was used to illustrate an article in Y Llan — which has a circulation of about 400 copies — about the shared ancestry of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It first appeared in France-Soir on February 2, a day after the Paris-based daily reproduced a collection of Danish cartoons which touched off a wave of sometimes violent protests by Muslims around the world. Last month, a Cardiff University student union newspaper was withdrawn after it printed one of the Danish cartoons.

Govt Launches A New Campaign Against Forced Marriages

LONDON – The British government has launched a new campaign against forced marriages, a common practice among the Asian community in Britain. The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness against the practice as an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence. The campaign, launched by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office forced marriage unit (FMU), contain a series of radio and Press advertisements, TV fillers and posters. Leading British actors like Meera Syal and Ameet Chana are spearheading the campaign. “Forced marriage affects children, teenagers and adults from all races and religions, including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs,” says Baroness Scotland QC, Home Office Minister. “And it is not solely an issue facing Asian communities. We deal with cases in the Middle East, western Balkans and Africa. Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and a human rights abuse. The victims often face emotional and physical abuse. We are determined to help young people at risk and protect their right to choose whom they marry.” The new campaign aims to increase awareness of the issues surrounding forced marriage. It will highlight the difference between forced and arranged marriage, and make clear that forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence. The campaign will also publicise the support available to young people affected by forced marriage and encourage them to seek help. It will highlight the damaging emotional consequences to families and the crimes involved in forcing someone into marriage. “We increasingly have to tackle complex issues such as forced marriage in the UK and overseas and we want to highlight that there is help available for people who are facing this abuse of human rights,” says Lord Triesman, Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister for Consular Policy. “The joint forced marriage unit, which has recently celebrated its first anniversary, engages more widely than ever before to deliver effective support to people forced into marriages. We remain committed to providing confidential support and practical assistance for those at risk of being forced into marriage here and abroad.” Celebrated author and actress Meera Syal said the marriage is a bond between two individuals and it needs consent from both the parities. “This is an extremely important campaign for all members of the community – young and old,” says Meera. “For young people, they need to know that there is help out there and that it is okay to ask for help. And we want the older generations to know that we respect their culture, tradition and we understand that arranged marriages have a place in society. But there is a vast difference between an arranged and a forced marriage – consent.” “I, probably like most people, believed that only women were affected and forced into marriage, but I was amazed to find that 15 per cent of the cases that are currently reported to the unit are men,” says dormer Eastenders star Ameet Chana. “I bet that the numbers are far greater, but it’s hard for men to come forward and admit they need help and are being forced into a situation like this. This campaign is a key to reassuring them that they are not alone and help is available.” Around 250 forced marriages are made known to the government every year, but there is believed to be a massive number of unreported cases. In around 85 per cent of cases the victims are women, with some girls as young as 13. The issue is not only linked to so-called honour killings, where families take revenge on individuals who resist their wishes, but a high suicide rate among young Asian women.

Dutch Convert To Islam: Veiled And Viewed As A ‘Traitor’

A Woman’s Experience Illustrates Europe’s Struggle With Its Identity Rabi’a Frank sees her Dutch home town through the narrow slit of the black veil that covers her face. The looks she receives from the townspeople are seldom kindly. On a recent winter afternoon, the wind tugged at her ankle-length taupe skirt, olive head scarf and black, rectangular face veil as she walked to her car from an Islamic prayer meeting in downtown Breda. Two blond teenagers on bicycles stared, their faces screwed into hostile snarls. Other passersby gawked. Some stepped off the sidewalk to avoid coming too near. She tried to act like it didn’t offend her. But it did. She knows what they think of Muslim women like her. “If you cover yourself, you are oppressed — that’s it,” said Frank, a lanky, 29-year-old Dutch woman who converted to Islam 11 years ago, about the time she married her Moroccan husband. “You are being brainwashed by your husband or your friends.” Or, you’re a potential terrorist. “Sometimes I make a joke and say, ‘Oh, you don’t have to be scared of me.’ ” Other times, she gets so fed up that she yanks up her hand under her robe like it’s a pistol and shouts, “Boom!” Frank spoke on a recent day in her living room in this city of 162,000 people near the Netherlands’ southern border with Belgium. “They don’t have the right to treat me different,” she said. “It’s like staring at someone in a wheelchair. It’s not polite. I’m human, even if you don’t like the way I appear.” This day-to-day struggle for acceptance on the streets of her home town is one woman’s confrontation with a deepening rift in West European societies, where the emergence of a 15 million-member Muslim minority is reshaping concepts of national and personal identity. Some European governments have passed laws they say are intended to help preserve national identity. Critics argue that the measures reflect Islamophobia and fears of terrorism triggered by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent transit bombings in Madrid and London. The Netherlands, with nearly 1 million Muslims, almost 6 percent of its population, is particularly on edge. The 2002 assassination of an anti-immigrant politician, Pim Fortuyn, by an animal rights activist was followed by the execution-style murder in 2004 of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had just released a controversial film seen as anti-Islamic. A young Muslim radical admitted to the killing. A country with a history of tolerance is now adopting or debating some of the most restrictive anti-immigration and anti-Muslim laws in Europe. One proposed measure would ban women from wearing face veils, called niqab , in public. Another would outlaw the speaking of languages other than Dutch on the street. Immigrants must learn some Dutch, pass a history and geography test and, to get a feel for whether they can live in this society, watch a film on Dutch culture that includes two gay men kissing and a topless woman walking on a beach. Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, said he was drafting a bill that would ban all immigration for the next five years. “Our culture is based on Christianity, Judaism and humanism,” Wilders said in an interview in his tiny office in the parliament building in The Hague. “We should not be ashamed of it. This is who we are and who we should stay.” In Belgium, some cities have banned women from wearing face veils and burqas , which cover the entire body and face, in public places. A year ago, France barred women and girls from wearing head scarves in public schools. A London school district has imposed a similar ban. The Path of a Convert For natives such as Frank who have converted to Islam, the hostility is often greater than that directed at immigrants. “They think you are a traitor,” said Frank, whose thin, pale face is framed by long blondish-brown curls. “You’re not acting like a Dutch girl anymore. “I’m a Muslim, a woman and also Dutch,” she continued. “What upsets people is that I’m a Muslim first.” Frank can recall the instant she decided to wear a face veil: She had just stepped into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last year after making her first hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and going to Medina, in Saudi Arabia. They are the holiest sites in Islam. It is more difficult, she said, to describe the evolution that took the former Rebecca Frank to her dramatic decision. It began at age 14 as teenage defiance. She developed a crush on a 16-year-old Moroccan boy named Ali who had moved to the Netherlands as a child with his parents. He was exotic, he was different — and, to the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, he was off-limits. Over the years, as the relationship became more serious, Ali told Rebecca he could not marry her because she was not Muslim, even though he was not particularly religious. It’s not about Islam, he explained, it’s about culture. Without consulting him, she began reading books about Moroccan culture and Islam. Then she decided to read the Koran. “I felt like, ‘This is it,’ ” said Frank, whose parents were divorced and who, like many teenagers, was searching for an identity. When Ali took her to meet his mother and announced they planned to marry, his mother said she would “break both legs” if he did that, Frank said. Her future husband didn’t see his family for the next three months. Her own mother was so upset over the wedding that she brought flowers to the 18-year-old bride, broke down in tears and left before the Islamic ceremony began. Her father did attend the wedding. Clothing as a Statement Like most of her Muslim convert friends, Frank said, she found that the process of fully embracing Islamic thinking and dress was gradual. But eventually the clothing became the outward statement of her identity. “I smiled at all the Muslim women I saw in the streets,” she said. “But to them, I was just a plain Dutch girl with brown hair and blue eyes. I wanted to be recognized as a Muslim woman.” She changed her name from Rebecca to Rabi’a and began giving lectures about Islam. After she published an article on Islam in a local newspaper, a woman wrote her a letter demanding: “Go back to your own country.” “I’m in it now!” she thought angrily. The more Frank studied her religion, the more convinced she became that she should take the final step and wear not only a head scarf but a face veil. “It took me two years to convince my husband I wanted to do it,” Frank said. “He really didn’t want me to wear it because of the reaction when we go out together.” Frank had begun focusing on the words of one of the Koran’s foremost ancient interpreters, Rasulullah, who warned that “a woman who reveals her body” violates the tenets of Islam. During her pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with her husband and mother-in-law, she covered her face in public for the first time. Far from feeling oppressed, she said, she felt liberated. “It’s like the song,” Frank said. She began softly singing the English lyrics of “The Veil,” a popular song on Muslim Web sites. They tell her, ‘Girl, don’t you know this is the West and you are free? / You don’t need to be oppressed, ashamed of your femininity.’ / She just shakes her head and speaks so assuredly. . . ./ This Hijab, this mark of piety / Is an act of faith, a symbol / For all the world to see. But on the streets of Breda, covered by her veil, Frank stands out as an anomaly — a curiosity to some, a freak to others. A few weeks ago, her middle son, 7-year-old Ismail, pleaded with her, “Why don’t you take it off? The children are laughing at you at school.” “I won’t take it off,” she insisted. “For me, it’s like driving a car without a seat belt.” She gazed out her living room window at the street that winds through her suburban enclave of brick townhouses and front gardens browned by winter frosts. “I am a Muslim,” she said with finality. “That’s my identity.”

Denmark: Danish Muslims To Take Cartoon Issue To Human Rights Court

COPENNHAGEN: A network of Danish Muslim organisations will bring Denmark before an international human rights court for not pressing charges against the newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] cartoons, Danish radio reported on Friday. The 27 Muslim groups said they would file a complaint against Denmark at the human rights court to determine the balance between freedom of speech and freedom of religion, national broadcaster DR reported. It was not immediately clear to which court the group was referring. Denmark’s top prosecutor said on Wednesday that he would not press charges against Jyllands-Posten because the drawings did not violate Denmark’s blasphemy and racist speech laws. Ahmad Akkari, a spokesman for the Muslim network, was not available for comment. The 12 drawings, one of which shows Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon] wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, were published in Jyllands-Posten on Sept 30. The cartoons, which were reprinted in European and American papers in January and February, sparked a wave of protests around the Islamic world. Protesters were killed in some of the most violent demonstrations and several European embassies were attacked. A boycott of Danish goods started in Saudi Arabia on Jan 26 and spread to dozens of Muslim countries.

Denmark: India, Denmark Agree To Delay Danish Pm’s Visit

A visit to India by Denmark’s leader has been delayed, the Indian foreign ministry, amid reports New Delhi feared the trip could provoke new anti-Danish protests by Muslims. “The two sides have found that the proposed timing for the visit was not optimal,” the ministry said in a statement. “India and Denmark look forward to the visit of the Danish prime minister to India at an early date.” Newspapers said the Danish government had agreed, at New Delhi’s request, to delay Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s visit which the reports said was due to begin April 2. India, the reports said, was worried the controversy surrounding the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed would overshadow the visit. In February, large but peaceful protests were staged in several cities against controversial images of the Prophet Mohammed by Danish cartoonists that sparked anger among Muslims worldwide. The protests created tension in some flashpoint areas of India known for communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. Police blamed the increased temperatures for providing the spark which saw demonstrations against the visit to India of US President George W. Bush in early March degenerate into rioting in the north Indian city of Lucknow, in which four people were killed. The caricatures were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September and later reprinted in other mainly European dailies. They have sparked protests and riots worldwide that have left dozens of people dead. Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet to be blasphemous. Last month, an Indian Islamic court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh issued a fatwa, or religious decree, condemning to death the 12 artists who drew the cartoons. A minister in the state government also offered a reward of 11.5 million dollars for the beheading of any of the cartoonists. Muslims make up around 130 million of mainly Hindu India’s billion-plus population.

German Paper Accused Of Insulting Islam

BERLIN – A Turkish lobby group said yesterday it has filed a criminal complaint against a German newspaper for printing a series of blasphemous Danish cartoons last month. It said the complaint was filed with prosecutors in the northern city of Cologne, charging the daily Die Welt with violating Germany’s criminal code by printing 12 cartoons despite global unrest sparked by their initial appearance in a Danish paper. While freedom of the Press is guaranteed by the German constitution, the country’s law forbids public insults against religious societies, beliefs and groups that support specific world views. It is not the point of a free Press to insult the religious sensibilities of nearly 3 million Muslims in Germany with provocations of this kind, Abdullah Emil, general secretary of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), said. Guenther Feld, a public prosecutor in Cologne, where the UETD is based, confirmed receiving the complaint and said he would study it. Even if the prosecutors decided to formally press charges, Feld told Reuters it was unclear whether it would be handled in Cologne or Hamburg, where the daily’s owner, German newspaper publisher Axel Springer, is based. Axel Springer’s spokeswoman, Silvie Rundel, said there were currently no official legal complaints, or complaints by the German media watchdog pending against Die Welt. On Wednesday, Denmark’s own public prosecutor decided not to press charges against a newspaper for allegedly violating Denmark’s blasphemy law by printing the 12 blasphemous drawings which triggered widespread Muslim anger. The cartoons, later reprinted in other countries, provoked protests among Muslims. At least 50 people were killed in protests in the Middle East and Asia, three Danish embassies were attacked and many Muslims boycotted Danish goods. Last month a German court convicted a businessman of insulting Islam. He was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service.

Denmark: Danish Newspaper Won’t Face Charges Over Cartoons

A Danish newspaper will not face criminal charges over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that prompted international protests by Muslims, the country’s public prosecutor said. The drawings of Muhammad, an article and other cartoons published last September by Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s biggest broadsheet, were neither “scornful” nor “degrading” of Muslims as a group and the newspaper can’t be prosecuted under the criminal code, Director of Public Prosecutions Henning Fode said in a statement issued yesterday. “The drawings that must be assumed to be pictures of Muhammad depict a religious figure and none of them can be considered to be meant to refer to Muslims in general,” the prosecutor said. There was no basis for assuming that the intention of one of the drawings, which depicted Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, was “to depict Muslims in general as perpetrators of violence or even as terrorists.” The drawings sparked protests in the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia, and a boycott of Danish goods. Fode’s decision reaffirms a Jan. 6 ruling by a prosecutor in the city of Viborg who received a complaint against the newspaper. A number of organizations and individuals appealed the local prosecutor’s ruling, Fode said in the statement. Jyllands-Posten said the cartoons were published as a reaction to comments made by a Danish illustrator, who said he was afraid to draw the prophet for a children’s book as he feared he would become the target of threats by militants. The newspaper apologized for offending Muslims. `Scorn, Mockery, Ridicule’ The cartoons were reprinted by news media in Europe, and in other parts of the world including Egypt. While there’s no basis for prosecution in the case, Fode said, it’s “not a correct description of existing law when the article in Jyllands-Posten states that it is incompatible with the right to freedom of expression to demand a special consideration for religious feelings and that one has to be ready to put up with `scorn, mockery and ridicule’.” The decision can not be appealed further in Denmark, Fode said. Some 27 organizations and individuals appealed the original decision, including the Islamiske Trossamfund, an umbrella group for Muslim associations in Denmark, Copenhagen-based daily Politiken said today. “The lawyers that evaluated the case had no knowledge of Islam and its religious symbols,” Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the group, told the newspaper. “It’s slipshod,” he said, referring to the DPP’s decision. The groups may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the newspaper reported.

Immigrants Have To Pass A Racy Test; Netherlands Shows Its Liberal Culture

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Want to go Dutch? The Netherlands now has a test for would-be immigrants to see whether they’re ready to participate in the liberal Dutch culture. It includes watching a film of gay men kissing in a park and a woman, topless, emerging from the sea to walk on a crowded beach. Can’t stomach that, don’t apply. Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands’ new entrance examination. The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies. Taking the exam costs $420. The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD-ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is $75. The test is part of a broader crackdown on immigration that has been gathering momentum in the Netherlands since 2001. Anti-immigration sentiment peaked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s murder by a Dutch national of Moroccan descent in November 2004. Both praise and scorn have been poured on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, the architect of the new test and other policies that have reduced immigration by at least a third. “If you pass, you’re more than welcome,” Verdonk said. “It is in the interest of Dutch society and those concerned.” Not everyone is happy with the new test. Dutch theologian Karel Steenbrink criticized the 105-minute movie, saying it would be offensive to some Muslims. “It is not a prudent way of welcoming people to the Netherlands,” said Steenbrink, a professor at the University of Utrecht. “Minister Verdonk has radical ideas.” But Mohammed Sini, the chairman of Islam and Citizenship, a national Muslim organization, defended the film, saying that homosexuality is “a reality.” Sini urged all immigrants “to embrace modernity.”

Muslim, French – And Proud To Be Both

PARIS He was born in Algeria, heads the main mosque of Paris and is the most prominent Muslim in a predominantly Catholic country. But Dalil Boubakeur, president of France’s officially sanctioned Muslim Council, can sound Frencher than the French. “I am not in favor of multiculturalism,” Boubakeur, 65, said recently at his ornate office at the mosque, a soaring structure surrounding a mosaic-lined courtyard on the Left Bank. In a secular country like France, he added matter- of-factly, “there is only one culture: French culture.” This may not play well with the entire five-million-member Muslim community here. But Boubakeur shrugs off criticism, explaining that he considers himself a forerunner of a modern, liberal, apolitical Islam – an Islam he reckons will take root this century in Europe and beyond. “When you’re ahead, you are lonely,” he said. “I was born a Muslim, I am of French culture and I love Europe. There is no contradiction.” These are tricky times to be in charge of Western Europe’s largest Muslim community. The war against terrorism and bloodshed in the Palestinian territories and Iraq have added a broader sense of global injustice to the exclusion many Muslims feel in France. But Boubakeur does not believe in a clash of civilizations pitting Islam against the West. Rather, he sees a battle playing out among European Muslims, between those willing to adopt Western values and those hostile to assimilation. His attitudes made Boubakeur a natural choice three years ago when the government was seeking a president for its newly formed council, an umbrella organization set up to represent France’s Muslims at a time when Paris was waking up to the need to address the concerns of this community, rather than leaving that task to foreign governments. Boubakeur’s secularist vision of the state, his opposition to affirmative action, and his classical French education had won him the trust of France’s political class, starting with President Jacques Chirac, who knew Boubakeur’s father (a previous director of the Paris mosque) and calls Boubakeur a friend. It also helped that Boubakeur oozes European sophistication. His attire is Western, his face clean-shaven. His secretary in the front office does not wear a head scarf. He cites Voltaire, speaks German and holds France’s highest honor, the L_gion d’Honneur. He is what the newspaper Le Monde last month dubbed “the ideal Muslim.” But many French Muslims, most of whom are descendants of working- class immigrants, feel resentment toward a man they say is not one of them. They say that Boubakeur, who has never lived in an immigrant suburb and rarely visits one, does not understand their plight and that he has bought into a Republican vision of integration that has left them in limbo between formal equality and de facto discrimination. “He is a good person, but he is the antithesis of a Muslim representative,” said Mohammed Henniche, leader of the Union of Muslim Associations in the Seine-Saint-Denis district north of Paris, which is home to many families of North African origin and was a hot spot in last year’s riots. “He speaks the language of the French elites, not that of ordinary Muslims. The youth in the suburbs don’t understand him, and he does not understand them.” Boubakeur replies that his acceptance of French values is the wave of the future. “That for me is being a modern man,” he said, “and that is the message I would like to pass on to my Muslim brothers and sisters. I want them to adapt European culture without fear and to embrace it wholeheartedly.” It is a message with a powerful biographical undertone. Born in 1940 in the Mediterranean port of Skikda, in northeast Algeria, Boubakeur spent most of his childhood in Algiers, where his father, a conservative Algerian lawmaker and theologian close to the French colonial administration, drilled into him the notion that studying hard and absorbing French culture was a way of overcoming prejudices. Boubakeur was 16 when he came to Paris, the age of many of the rioters who burned cars in the suburbs last November. He attended the distinguished Louis-le-Grand high school and went on to study literature in Cairo and medicine in Paris, becoming a respected cardiologist. He married a mayor’s daughter from a village in Auvergne who converted from Catholicism to Islam after they met. Although Boubakeur recognizes that there are “socioeconomic reasons” why many young Muslims do not share his views, he has little time for young fundamentalists who reject Western values. “I don’t like the bearded ones very much,” he said. “They are small- minded and dangerous. Political Islam is the illness of the modern state.” For Boubakeur, who has written several books on the issue, religion is not political identity but rather spirituality, even poetry, and a way of life. He argues that Muslim youths need not just jobs but a stake in France’s heritage, a point he will make publicly in June when he joins Chirac in Verdun at the unveiling of a memorial honoring Muslims who died fighting for France during World War I. At the council, which oversees Islamic affairs from the training of imams to mosque construction and halal markets, and is supervised by the Interior Ministry, Boubakeur has been presiding over a fragile collection of Muslim organizations often in disagreement. One of them is the main Paris mosque, his own fiefdom, which is funded mainly by the Algerian government. Others include the National Federation of French Muslims, supported by the Moroccan government, and the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Boubakeur has seen his authority challenged more than once. One test was a law passed two years ago that banned ostentatious religious garb, including head scarves for Muslim girls, in public schools. Most Muslim groups opposed the legislation. Boubakeur says that he, too, would have preferred to avoid a law, but when there was one he did not challenge the government. Last year, when Iraqi militants kidnapped a French journalist, Florence Aubenas, and threatened to kill her unless the head-scarf ban was lifted, Boubakeur managed to forge a united stance among French Muslims rallying behind the government and rejecting such blackmail. More recently, when several French newspapers reprinted Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Boubakeur distanced himself from a protest march organized by some Muslim groups but eventually spearheaded legal action against two newspapers that published the cartoons. For him, these three challenges were milestones, not only for his own legitimacy but also for the evolution of the Muslim community. The fact that the cartoon controversy did not lead to any violence or sustained protests in France, Boubakeur says, “was a crucial moment, a real turning point.” “It was reassuring that in France we managed to channel the anger into the legal system,” he said. “Our communities are maturing; they are beginning to act like Europeans. Here you have Muslims appealing to European institutions not to be discriminated against.” On a personal level, Boubakeur refuses to say whether he feels Muslim first and then French, or vice versa. “I am completely Muslim and I am completely French,” he says. “There is perfect harmony.” If a day comes when such questions of identity are no longer asked, he adds, “we will have come a long way.”

Denmark: Denmark Seeks To Rebuild Relations With Islam

WASHINGTON — Denmark is determined to rebuild ties to its own Muslim population and to the greater Islamic world — and may look to the United States as a model, Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen said yesterday. Denmark found itself at the center of a global firestorm after a local newspaper last fall printed a series of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. After other European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, angry demonstrations — some violent — erupted across the Islamic world — and several Danish diplomatic posts and businesses were targeted in the outburst. “I think we can learn from the United States, on matters such as integration and assimilation of our minority communities,” Mr. Petersen told a forum sponsored by the Pakistan chapter of the Universal Peace Foundation and the Ambassadors for Peace Foundation held at The Washington Times. “I think we in Denmark and in Europe generally have to become more aware of religious sensibilities. We are interested in building bridges, not burning them,” he said. The government of center-right Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has turned aside demands from some Muslim leaders for an official apology for the cartoons, saying freedom of expression and a free press are bulwarks of Danish democracy. But Mr. Petersen said Danish officials also have looked for ways to use the crisis to improve relations with the country’s Muslim minority and with Islamic states. A major conference Friday in Copenhagen brought together Muslim and Christian scholars, many of whom urged the West and Islam to come together to foster understanding and rebuild ties damaged in the cartoon controversy. At yesterday’s forum, Mr. Petersen said moderates on both sides of the global debate had to “transcend” the temptation to paint the cartoon uproar as a stark choice between pure freedom of expression and respect for religion. “Democracy is the basis of the discussion, but for us Danes, the dialogue must be based on mutual respect,” he said. “There can never be any doubt about that.” The diplomat said Danes traditionally have enjoyed frank debate, questioning authority and a reputation for tolerance, but conceded that his small country was still reeling from the fact that it was at the center of a worldwide controversy. “We Danes tend to see our country as a role model,” he said. “We never could have imagined that we would see Danish embassies burning. “We never wanted this; we never asked for it,” he added. “Some Danes do not understand the reaction, and so we get worried, we get disturbed, we get overwhelmed.” Mr. Petersen said most Muslims in Denmark are being accepted into society, although some still resist learning the language and accepting all of the country’s traditional political values. He said countries across Europe are increasingly working with religious leaders, scholars, private groups and other governments on how best to accommodate sizable Muslim populations now in Europe. He said many on the continent are looking to the American model for ideas. “Look at any European country today, and I would say they have not been as successful as the United States in this matter,” he said.