Niger: Thousands Protest Caricature Of Prophet Muhammad

Thousands of Muslims took to the streets of the capital of Niger this week as protests against the publication of controversial cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad reached West Africa. Organisers said 50,000 people had turned out Tuesday in the dusty streets of Niamey after a call from religious leaders to press the government to cut diplomatic relations with Denmark, where the caricatures were originally published. An IRIN correspondent estimated the turnout at 10,000. Muslim rage has swept Europe and the Middle East after the publication of the caricatures, some showing the prophet wearing a turban resembling a bomb. And Niger’s Muslim leaders dubbed Denmark “an enemy of Islam.” “The amalgam knowingly maintained between Islam and terrorism is simply coarse and unacceptable,” said protester Elhaj Tahir Ousmane. “The provocation was too much, it is necessary to put an end to it by all means.” In northern Nigeria, where some states have adopted Islamic Sharia law, protestors took to the streets on Monday chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is great]” and burning the Danish flag. The caricatures, first published in September, angered Muslims in part because Islam bars any depiction of the image of the Prophet Muhammad. And many Muslims have called for boycotts of Danish goods, or held protests outside Danish facilities. In Niger, security forces looked on as Tuesday’s demonstrations passed off without violence. Ranked by the UN as the world’s poorest country, Niger is 98 percent Muslim and most Nigeriens practice a moderate form of Islam, often infusing local cultural practices into their worship. But in recent years, Nigeriens have become increasingly aware of a rise in fundamentalism, particularly in the east of the country bordering northern Nigeria. The United States military has chosen Niger as one of a handful of countries on the fringes of the Sahara desert for a half-billion-dollar programme for training security personnel in tackling terrorism.

Chirac Slams Media “Provocation” in Printing Mohammad Cartoons

PARIS – French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of “provocation,” after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages. “Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility,” Chirac told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman.

Denmark: Lebanon Apologizes to Denmark After Protestors Torch Danish Mission in Beiruit

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon apologized today to Denmark after rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to its diplomatic mission in Beirut, while violent protests escalated throughout the Muslim world against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Western newspapers.

Newspapers Challenge Muslims Over Cartoons Of Mohammed

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.

Denmark: Jordanian Paper Reprints Danish Prophet Cartoons

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.

On the eve of the trial regarding the caricatures of the Prophet, the French Muslim Council voices disapproval

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.

Denmark: Danish paper Apologizes to Muslims over Insulting Them

A Danish newspaper on Monday issued an apology to the world’s Muslims for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that had sparked a furor in the Islamic world, and major boycott of Danish company products The drawings “were not in violation of Danish law but have undoubtedly offended many Muslims, which we would like to apologize for,” said the Jyllands-Posten’s editor in chief, Carsten Juste, in a statement.

Denmark: Jordanian parliament calls for Danish cartoonists to be punished

Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the Jordanian parliament’s call on this week for the punishment of the cartoonist who drew 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Danish daily “Jyllands-Posten” on 30 September 2005 and were reprinted in the Norwegian publication “Magazinet” on 10 January.

Denmark: EU Backs Denmark in Caricature Dispute

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union backed Denmark Monday in a diplomatic dispute with Muslim countries over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, saying that any retaliatory boycott of Danish goods would violate world trade rules. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said an EU foreign affairs ministers meeting condemned Saudi Arabia’s call to boycott Danish goods and all threats made against Danish, Swedish and Norwegian citizens in recent days.