FOUR Muslims who raged in Britain against Danish newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were jailed for a total of 22 years yesterday. They had joined 500 demonstrators outside the Danish Embassy in London 17 months ago, calling for terror atrocities. Judge Brian Barker told them at the Old Bailey: “You subjected the multicultural citizens of London to a constant barrage of hatred.” Abdul Muhid, 24, of Whitechapel, East London; Umran Javed, 27, of Birmingham, and Mizanur Rahman, 24, of Palmers Green, North London, got six years each for inciting murder. Abdul Saleem, 32, of Poplar, East London, got four years for race hate.
PARIS — A gang of young Muslims wielding iron rods has forced a Paris cafe to censor an exhibition of cartoons ridiculing religion, the owners of the establishment said on Friday. Some 50 drawings by well-known French cartoonists were installed in the Mer a Boire cafe in the working-class Belleville neighborhood of northeast Paris, as part of an avowedly atheist show entitled, “Neither god nor god”. The collection targeted all religions – including Islam – but there were no representations of the Prophet Mohammed such as sparked the recent crisis between the West and the Islamic world, according to Marianne who is one of the cafe’s three owners. “We used to give glasses of water to a group of local boys aged between 10 and 12 who played football across the street. On Tuesday a few came in, flung the water on the ground and accused us of being racists,” said Marianne, who did not wish to give her family name. “Later more of them came back with sticks and iron rods and tried to smash the pictures. They managed it with a few of them. With the customers we chased them away, but they kept coming back,” she said. Later the cafe-owners were approached by a group of older youths. “They said they did not approve of what the youngsters had done. But what we were doing was unacceptable, too. They warned us that if we didn’t take down the cartoons they would call in the Muslim Brothers who would burn the cafe down,” said Marianne. “They kept saying: ‘This is our home. You cannot act like this here’,” she said. Refusing to dismantle the exhibition, the owners have placed white sheets of paper inscribed with the word ‘censored’ over the cartoons that were targeted by the gang. “To take down the cartoons would have been a surrender. But on the other hand we cannot expose ourselves to this kind of violence. This way you can still see the pictures if you lift the paper,” said Marianne. One of the cartoons that aroused the wrath of the youths was a bar scene, in which the barman offers a drink to an obviously inebriated man who says “God is great”. The caption is: “The sixth pillar of Islam. The bar pillar.” In France a “bar pillar” is a barfly or drunk. The aim of the exhibition was to poke fun at all religions, according to cartoonists who took part. “Putting on this type of show in this place was not in the least a provocation. Unless you think that freedom of expression in itself is a provocation,” the cartoonist Charb told Le Parisien newspaper. The Belleville neighborhood of Paris’ 20th arrondissement is racially-mixed, with a large population of North African origin, but Marianne said that there were few outward signs of religious extremism. “There are areas near here which do have a reputation for Islamists. But here it’s different. These are street gangs for whom religion has become a kind of mark of identity,” she said. The owners of the Mer a Boire, which means “the sea you can drink” and opened in September, have filed suit with the police.
The controversial Danish imam accused of stirring uproar in the Muslim world over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has defended his actions, saying they were aimed at forging peace, not causing bloodshed. “History will give us credit because of our efforts to keep Europe away from any further violence,” said Ahmed Abu Laban, the leader of the Islamic Community in Denmark, in an interview with AFP. Abu Laban, who is accused of instigating a mass campaign against Denmark in the Arab-Muslim world which sparked deadly riots that killed more than 50 people, said the protests were not the start of a clash of civilizations. “Some people would presume it is the beginning of a clash of civilization, but we call it the engagement of civilizations,” said Abu Laban. He spoke to AFP while attending the “International Conference for the Defense of the Prophet” organized by Muslim religious leaders and being held Wednesday and Thursday in Bahrain. Abu Laban brought the cartoon matter to Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the top Islamic scholarly institution, shortly after caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper in September 2005. Abu Laban and other Danish imams then took a 43-page dossier on a tour of the Middle East, including the 12 controversial cartoons and three other pictures that had been sent to Muslims by anonymous people. “We sent our delegation to Egypt, we were trying to expand the platform of dialogue to the concerned people and more countries,” he said. In his view, Denmark became the focal point of Muslim rage because of the refusal of Danish leaders to heed the Muslim point of view in the controversy that pitted Western values of free speech against religious beliefs. Muslims believe any images of the prophet are blasphemous. “Denmark paid for the Islamic-European conflict,” said Abu Laban, the leader of the Muslim Faith Society in Copenhagen. Despite widespread calls for a formal apology, the Danish government refused, citing its belief in protecting freedom of speech. However, the editor of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that initially published the cartoons eventually issued an apology. The cartoons included portrayals of the prophet wearing a time-bomb shaped turban and showed him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women. Initially passing with little comment, they were later reprinted in a Norwegian magazine and then by European, Arab and online media, prompting international uproar. Many Danish products were also the subject of widespread boycotts in the Muslim world. Abu Laban stressed that Muslims in Denmark, who make up about three percent of the population, suffer discrimination and that he was made a “scapegoat” by the Danish press for his role as a Muslim community leader. “We suffer marginalization… In the subconscious of most of the leaders in Denmark they reject us. This is the name of the game. They don’t like to deal with us like partners,” he said. “Our center (Muslim Faith Society) is the most important one,” he said. The Danish press “cannot attack somebody who is not known, so they decided to choose me as a scapegoat,” he said. “I predicted that the government will face trouble and will search for a scapegoat.” Five other Danish imams attended the conference with Abu Laban, which organizers said brought together around 300 scholars, preachers, heads of Islamic associations as well as Arab and Muslim community leaders from Europe. The aim was to explore a strategy that could prevent a possible repeat of the crisis sparked by the publication of the cartoons. “We are in the focal point in Denmark, under the constant attack by the global media. We are here because it has become a global issue for Muslims,” said Abu Laban. “This conference is not meant to expose or blackmail Denmark, it is a rather progressive attitude on how Muslims can be united in this noble cause, to honor and to guarantee the respect their Prophet deserves. Abu Laban also blasted Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for his “ineffective” response to the crisis. “I am more concerned with the interests of Denmark than the prime minister. He is playing in a very ineffective way.” Abu Laban criticized the premier’s reaction to advertisements put out over the weekend by Arla Foods, a Danish-Swedish dairy firm, which was a victim of a Danish boycott. “The Arla Foods company denounces and rejects the cartoons published by the Danish newspaper, mock the Prophet Mohammed and refuses any justifications for the act,” the corporation said in full-page advertisements taken out in papers across the Middle East. Rasmussen said he “disagreed” with the campaign. “Yesterday, he criticized Arla Foods,”said Abu Laban. “If this campaign shows some respect… it should be encouraged, not the opposite.”
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.
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.
As protests against the Danish cartoons fade, Europe’s moderate Muslims are facing difficult choices about their faith, identity, and values. “The middle ground in Muslim communities is between a rock and a hard place,” says Omar Shah, an Afghan-Danish commentator on Muslim affairs. “The moderate majority is having to decide where they stand.” During a month of flag-burning protests in Europe against cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, the voices of Islamic radicals were the loudest. As the flames die down,however,it is increasingly clear that the cartoon affair has reignited difficult debates within Europe’s 20-million-strong Muslim community. Though radical organizations have gained strength, new “progressive” Muslim groups are beginning to challenge traditional ideas. In Denmark, where the cartoons were first published, Muslims who want to live in a pluralistic, secular, and tolerant Danish society have formed a new group to publicize their ideals. “We want to use this group to tell ordinary Danes that we are also Danes first and foremost, ” says Fathi El-Abed, a spokesman for the group, Democratic Muslims. ” We want to [tell them], ‘We are democratic just like you – the only thing different is that we come from a Muslim background.’ ” “I have been in Denmark for 17 years but I was not part of the integration debate because I just thought that everything would work out,” says Mr. El-Abed, who is of Palestinian origin. “But since this crisis came, I decided that I can no longer allow others to speak on my behalf … many others are in the same position.” The new group’s leader, Naser Khader, a Syrian-born Social Democrat MP and self-described “cultural Muslim,” is already a well-known figure in Danish politics. His fame stems partly from his “Ten Commandments of Democracy,” which include a strict separation of religion and politics, unreserved support for freedom of expression, and a rejection of violence. “Danes see him as a role model – as the ideal Muslim – but many immigrants see him as a sell-out,” says Mr. Shah. “A lot of them see [him] as someone attacking Islam. And some of them really despise him actually.” In Britain, meanwhile, the new Progressive British Muslims group defended newspapers’ right to publish drawings of the prophet. “Although it is forbidden for Muslims to pictorially display the Prophet Mohammed, it should be remembered that living in a pluralistic and secular society Muslims cannot expect those who do not follow Islam to respect its boundaries,” said their spokesman, Dr. Shaaz Mahboob, in a statement. As moderate Muslim groups have begun to organize more aggressively, so, too, have radical groups.After months of keeping a low profile following the London bombings, Britain’s most prominent radical group – Al-Gharabaa – reemerged to protest outside the Danish embassy, demanding the murder of the cartoonists. “This rally was a way for them to reassert themselves within the Muslim community,” says Abdulrahman Malik, contributing editor of the Muslim news magazine Q News. “They are trying to regain the ground they had lost.” The group used the publicity to attack multiculturalism and integration, and to reach out to Muslims disillusioned with life in the West. Anjem Choudhary, the group’s spokesman, also attacked mainstream groups like the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), who try to work with the British government to promote their agendas. “The MCB and the MAB don’t represent anyone apart from themselves,” said Mr. Choudhary. “They are the lackeys of Blair’s government. If the MCB held a demonstration how many people would come? Nobody.” Across London, Choudhary’s group has since become more visible. One Saturday last month in East London, three members of Al-Ghurabaa were openly recruiting new members on a busy shopping street. “We say to the West you are not allowed to dictate to us what we say,” explains a young man, Ali, as his colleagues hand out brochures on Islam to non-Muslims. For Muslims, he had pamphlets such as “Joining the Police: contribution or apostasy?” “Whatever our religion allows us to say we’ll say it,” Ali adds, as his colleague quietly hides a stack of leaflets reading, “Kill those who insult the Prophet.” The three volunteers estimate they’ve handed out more than 500 leaflets that morning, with many people stopping to talk to them. In an effort to compete with groups like Al-Ghurabaa, mainstream groups in Britain have become more radical. “If you insist on stepping on us, it’s not peace you get. Let it be understood – don’t mess with the prophet,” the MAB’s Dr. Azzam Tamimi thundered during a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square last month. Such inflammatory talk might be expected to lead many Muslims toward the progressive organizations. But even non-practicing Muslims are often wary of groups led by people like Khader, who criticize not just extremists but traditional Islamic practices, says Shah. “All these groups who call themselves progressive are just marginal at the moment,” concludes Malik. “But they are a voice that needs to be heard … only time will tell if they turn out to be significant.”
Denmark has sent a video tape to Arab television stations in which Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller presents some initiatives aimed at easing global tensions over the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The message is that we have listened to reactions from abroad and now launch a number of forward-looking and constructive initiatives aimed at promoting respectful dialogue, a foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday.
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.
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.
The cartoon crisis has once again reminded Europe of Turkey’s importance. The European Union (EU) Term President Austria emphasized Turkey’s vital importance in maintaining dialogue with Muslim countries, and the union expects Ankara to play a pivotal role in the solution to the crisis. The insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed created a troublesome situation for European countries. The Council of Europe, the European Commission and European Parliament (EP) representatives emphasized freedom of expression must be used in a responsible way. Austria, leading the opposition to Turkey’s full membership on October 3, announced that a joint dialogue initiative will be instigated with Muslim countries and declared Turkey will play a key role in solving the crisis. Former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen said the publishing of the controversial drawings was a big mistake. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso mellowed in support to Denmark and said freedom of expression must be used responsibly. A bill on the cartoon crisis will be put to the vote at an EP General Council assembly today. Austrian Minister for European Affairs Hans Winkler, in the speech made during yesterday’s meeting, underlined that freedom of expression cannot be used irresponsibly. He said that limits must not be exceeded when dealing with the religious freedoms. The cartoon crisis shook the mutual confidence that existed between the EU and the Muslim world at its foundations. We must ask ourselves where we went wrong. The Austrian minister reminded that an initiative of dialogue must begin to overcome the crisis, and that Turkey will play a crucial role in the process. Winkler said he is in close contact with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Barroso, who earlier gave full support to the Danish government, has recently softened his discourse and said: Freedom of expression is not a disputable right but is based on the individual using it in a responsible way as it is with other rights. We must respect the Muslims’ religious sensitivities and tolerate them to protest the caricatures in a peaceful way. Barroso reminded that freedom of expression is not limitless and there are restricting articles in all European Union countries. I agree with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said he respects Islam and supports no action intended to degrade Muslims. I want to tell the Danish people, the most open and tolerant society of the world, that the EU is with them. Former Danish PM: Cartoons were mistake Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen received a severe rebuke from his predecessor Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen. The former prime minister said the publication of the scandalous cartoons was outright irresponsibility, and that Rasmussen’s refusal to meet ambassadors from Islamic countries was an incomprehensible attitude. In his speech at the European Parliament, the former prime minister said on behalf of the Social Democrats that it is wrong to force the entire Danish population to pay for the mistake made by one Danish newspaper. Other Danish parliamentary members focused on the issue of the commercial boycotts. Karin Riis Jorgensen argued that European Union officials had failed to support Denmark in handling the cartoon crisis: How sensible would it be to talk of European camaraderie when a European company boycotts goods from another European country? asked Jorgensen in condemnation of Carrefour, a French company participating in the boycott of Danish products. Jens Peter Bonde, a Danish Democratic parliamentarian, said: Islam is not above Danish laws. Denmark cannot make concessions to freedom of expression. The Christian Democrats and the Socialists, the two largest groups in the European Parliament, shared the opinion that careless use of the right of freedom of expression cannot be tolerated, because respect must be shown towards religious values. We need to show far more respect for Muslims in Europe if we want them to show equal respect to us too, said Cohn Bendit, spokesman for the Greens, criticizing discrimination against Muslim migrants. Several French rightwing extremists believe that Turkey’s membership to the European Union should be shelved because of what happened during the cartoon crisis. According to Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Defense Policies, the United Nations will have the assurance that respect for different religions will not be violated. The idea is to bridge the gap between Europe and the Islamic world once again, said Solana at a meeting with Jordanian King, Abdullah II. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero meeting with representatives of the Islamic Society in Spain reiterated the joint call for calm, an appeal that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier shared with his Spanish counterpart.