Al-Azhar condemns anti-Islam cartoons on Dutch television

© epa
© epa

Al-Azhar, one of the most prominent sunni Islamic institutes of higher learning, has condemned a broadcast on Dutch television that showed cartoons about the Islamic prophet Muhammed. According to the institute located in Egypt the caricatures conceal a “sick fantasy”.

The video was produced by the anti-Islam political party PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid) of Geert Wilders and was showed during the Dutch Broadcasting Time for Political Parties. In a declaration Al-Azhar calls upon Muslims to “ignore this act of terror.” “The stature of the prophet of mercy and humanity is too high and honorable to be damaged by drawings that do not respect moral or decent norms.”

The PVV leader Geert Wilders preceded the video with the words: “The best way to show terrorists that they will never win is by doing that which they are trying to prevent us to do. The cartoons were not shown to provoke but to show that we defend freedom of speech and will never bow to violence. Freedom of speech should always win vis-a-vis violence and terror.”

Chicago man convicted of supporting terrorist group that attacked India sentenced to 14 years

CHICAGO — A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for providing material support to overseas terrorism, including a Pakistani group whose 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, left more than 160 people dead.

Tahawwur Rana did not address the court before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber imposed the sentence and did not react afterward. But his defense attorneys said the judge was right to reject prosecutors’ arguments that Rana deserved a stiffer sentence because the charges were related to terrorism.

Jurors in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the prophet are prohibited in Islam.

But jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in the three-day rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest city, which has often been called India’s 9/11.

The judge also rejected the government’s argument that the plot against the Danish newspaper was meant as a broader attack against the Danish government, amounting to an act of terrorism that should mean a harsher sentence. Leinenweber said it seemed clear the plot was solely targeting an independent newspaper on private property, and was likely intended to intimidate other media outlets that might defame Islam or its prophet.

The defense attorney, Blegen, also noted that there was no shortage of government targets in Copenhagen if they had wanted to strike at Denmark’s leaders.

He argued for a more lenient sentence for the 52-year-old Rana that would take into account his poor health and the emotional impact of his separation from his wife and children. He said the Pakistani-born Canadian citizen had suffered a heart attack while in the federal lockup. He also argued that Rana did not present a future risk.

French magazine sparks another controversy over Mohammed cartoons

News agencies – January 2, 2013


French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a special issue containing cartoons on the life of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. Similar images, which are deemed blasphemous by Muslims, have sparked international protest in the past. But the publisher of magazine said the 64-page issue, titled ‘The Life of Mohammed,’ is “halal” because it was researched and edited by Muslim scholars and historians.


The French government has spoken out against the cartoons: “There is no necessity to pour oil on fire,” spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told France 2. Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy related to Islam. In September, the magazine published nude cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, sparking worldwide protests and forcing French embassies and schools to temporarily close in 20 countries. The French government condemned the publication as being needlessly provocative.

In 2011, the magazine’s Paris office was firebombed after it named the Prophet Mohammed as ‘editor-in-chief’ of a weekly issue titled ‘Charia Hebdo.’


French Muslim groups sue magazine over Prophet Mohammed cartoons

News Agencies – December 7, 2012


Two Muslim organizations launched legal proceedings against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, accusing it of inciting racial hatred after it published provocative cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The allegations concern cartoons that caricatured the Prophet, including two drawings which show him naked, published at a time, on September 19, when violent anti-Western protests were flaring across the Muslim world in response to an US anti-Islam amateur film. The Algerian Democratic Union for Peace and Progress (RDAP) and the Organization of Arab Union are claiming a total of €780,000 in costs and damages. According to the complainants’, the drawings were “damaging to the honour and reputation of the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim community”.


Thousands of extra copies of the weekly had to be ordered after the publications usual print-run of 75,000 sold out within hours of going on sale. The first hearing in the case has been scheduled for January 29 at a court in Paris.


The Imam of Madrid about the cartoons: We demand respect for the King; and the Muslims to Muhammad

19 september 2012

Riay Tatary, president of the Union of Islamic Communities, accused of “deliberate provocation” the different publishing of Muhammad’s cartoons.
The Imam of Madrid condemns the “acts of violence that are happening in the Arab world” because they are “neither justified nor do they lead to anything good.”

“In the Spanish Constitution, says that the King is inviolable and that His figure is out of range of any defamation. We demand respect for our King for the same reason that Muslims demand it for Muhammad” “.
“I condemn the violent reactions and deaths that have occurred.”

Salafist Activism in Germany

April 13/ May 8


This spring, Salafi activism and reactions to it have been at the centre of public attention in Germany.


At the end of April, the “Read the Koran” initiative took place: Salafi activists distributed free copies of the Koran to passers-by in several German cities. The event has triggered a discussion among German authorities on how to deal with the recent activities of the radical Islamist branch. Politicians and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution have expressed great concern about the Koran distribution initiative, interpreting it as propaganda and a destabilizing factor for religious peace. Journalists who were reporting about the Salafist activities were threatened by some Salafi adherents. The latter have also released intimidating videos on the internet platform You Tube.


Days later, as the date of elections of the German Federal State North RhineWestphalia was drawing close, the far right-wing movement (Pro NRW) has initiated a German wide “Muhammad cartoon contest”, displaying provoking Muhammad cartoons in front of mosques. On May 1st, Pro NRW gathered a group of its adherents in the German city of Solingen, and about thirty Salafi activists used this opportunity to protest against the anti-Islamic cartoons. The Salafi protest turned to violent confrontation, when some radical Islamists begun to attack German police by throwing stones and wielding poles from protest banners.


Confrontation escalated dramatically in Bonn on May 6th. Approximately 200 Salafists attacked about 30 far right-wing extremists, belonging to Pro NRW, who were showing posters of the Muhammad cartoons. More than 29 police men were injured through stone and knife attacks by violent Salafi. Rather than spontaneous, the Salafi counter protesters are said to have been mobilized in advance. The North RhineWestphalian Minister of Interior Ralf Jäger (SPD) called for strict legal consequences against the violent extremists and condemned the provocation of Pro NRW as an attempt of sedition against the four millions of peaceful Muslims in Germany.



The context: Salafi leaders and associations


There are about 4000 Salafi adherents in Germany, living all over the country but mostly in its Western regions, like North Rhine-Westphalia (Cologne, Moenchen-Gladbach, Iserlohn), as well as in Berlin.


Among leading figures for the movement there is Ibrahim Abou Nagie, a preacher and project initiator from Cologne. He is said to be a Palestinian from Gaza who migrated to Germany as student of electric engineering. He claims then to have made a multimillionaire fortune as a businessman but that he had changed his mind when he found the internet platform “The True Religion”. While he was one of the leaders of the campaign “Read the Koran”, he does not seem to be involved in the anti-cartoons demonstrations. German authorities regard his platform as one of the political strands of Salafism but suspect him to be close to violent Jihadi circles, radicalizing Muslims with hate speeches. Some of these hate speeches have called to execute homosexuals and called to persecute Jews.  Organization-wise, since 2005, Abou Nagie used the online platform “The True Religion” to preach and address young Muslims. He and other Salafi members invite young Muslims to become conscious about their religion. Skype conferences are also offered, to invite conversions and offer advice about religious jurisprudence.


Pierre Vogel is another central figure among the Salafi. He belongs to the political arm of Salafism refusing the Jihad approach in his official speeches. A former boxer, the German man converted to Islam and started preaching on You Tube, mainly addressing young Muslims with messages about the Sharia and whether the fundamental values of 7th Century Islam would be conform with today’s cultural and societal forms of life. He uses examples related to leisure time, disco, music, alcohol and unveiled women to attract the interest of young Muslims. Despite, or probably because of his popularity among younger Muslims, he has denied any active involvement in the recent Salafi actions. He has actually condemned the violence, while still supporting the spirit of the anti-cartoons protest.


A third important Salafist, the Austrian Islamist Muhammad Mahmud, has been deported at the end of April by the German State of Hessen. Mahmud, also known as Abu Usama al-Gharib (Name in Jihadi milieu), was convicted and found guilty of creating the German speaking branch of the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), an organization supporting and advertising the actions of Al Qaida in the media. He perceives himself as a neo-fundamentalist who would convert Germans to Salafi Islam.


Last, Sheikh Hassan Dabbagh who is an Imam and preacher of the Al-Rahman mosque in the German city of Leipzig. He uses the internet platform to speak about Islamic practice, family issues and the prophet Muhammad. He belongs to the political strand of Salafism and has criticized the Salafi protests appealing them to reject violence. Preaching the Islamic missionary approach of Dawa, he eschewed the recent escalation that would only serve German authorities and media to condemn the Salafi and isolate Islam from Germany.      


The association “Invitation to Paradise” was a center for mobilization and organization of Salafi activities. Social and cultural activities such as collective prayers, pilgrimages and protests against the ban of Burqa were organized in Cologne and Moenchen-Gladbach. Parts of its activities were webinars, which offered courses on Islamic studies. Together with other Salafi organizations, “Invitation to Paradise” became the object of a police investigation in the aftermaths of a terrorist attack in March 2011: two American soldiers had been shot by a self-radicalized young Islamist. Before the State authorities took any action to ban the association, “Invitation to Paradise” dissolved itself.


(Die Zeit Online PDF Version)


(Spiegel Online International – English Version),1518,830775,00.html


(Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution –Report Salafism)


(Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution –Report 2010)


(Replaced webpage of “Invitation to Islam”)


(Political Missionary Salafism)


(SWP Study 2012)


Far-right-wing demonstration provokes violent protest of Salafists in Solingen

May 1


A far-right movement in the western state North RhineWestphalia (Pro NRW) has initiated a German wide “Muhammad cartoon contest”, displaying provoking Muhammad cartoons in front of mosques. On May 1st, Pro NRW gathered a group of its adherents in the German city of Solingen. The German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had previously raised concerns about these activities, which would provoke violent clashes and threaten German security.


Some 30 radical Islamist Salafists used this opportunity to protest against the anti-Islamic cartoons. The Salafist protest turned to violent confrontation, when some radical Islamists begun to attack German police by throwing stones and wielding poles from protest banners.

How are Muslim women doing in political cartoons?

Political cartoons are a powerful medium because, although they are not news, they facilitate the delivery of specific messages. Political cartoons work in two ways: they reflect particular ideas and/or aspects of pop culture, and they influence the audience’s own views. Due to their simple approach (drawings and funny dialogue), they are often more accessible than regular newspaper coverage or even TV.

Yet, because political cartoons tend to be a safe mode of expression, they can easily become influenced by gendered stereotypes. This is not because cartoonists are evil misogynists (although some might fit this description), but because they need to connect with particular cultural-accepted views on gender and gender relations. Women are treated differently than men, in that they tend to be taken less seriously, they rarely have agency, they are often hyper-sexualized and many times examined under a “virgin-whore” framework.

When it comes to Muslim women as represented in political cartoons catered to non-Muslim Western audiences, a few prevalent themes can be easily identified. I tend to collect political cartoons of Muslim women, posted on Facebook and elsewhere online. The themes I mention in this post are pretty representative of many other cartoons out there, and the images included here are just a sample. Muslim women seem to look the same, and usually wear hijabs, niqabs and/or abaayas (the blacker, the better!) When it comes to the niqab in political cartoons, it tends to serve the purpose of deleting the women’s presence, voice and agency. This resonates with the idea that niqabi women are already oppressed, so why depict them with an agency that they do not have?

Another theme present in political cartoons is the prevalent attention to Muslim women’s bodies. While Western women (such as female politicians) tend to be hyper-sexualized through sexy clothing, over-done makeup, and high heels, Muslim women are hyper-sexualized through the cartoonists’ obsession with their “exotic” way of covering. This reflects the “covered vs. uncovered” dichotomy that is often discussed in the Western media where uncovering is equated with freedom and covering with oppression (see Sex and the City 2). It is also commonly expressed that Muslim women’s bodies are not their own, but someone else’s (like the state, their male relatives, secular and religious institutions, or the media).

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyeb from the Al-Azhar University supports Espersen and says that she did not directly apologize for the drawings.

Espersen herself suggests that the misunderstanding may have occurred as a result of her explanation of Danish law: “I can confirm that I have told several of my conversation partners that freedom of speech is not without limits in Denmark. There are two limits: the blasphemy paragraph, which is paragraph 140 in criminal law and the racism paragraph as in paragraph 266b,” Espersen says.
The Danish embassy in Cairo has issued a news release in which it has clarified what Espersen said. Linguistically, the part of the statement concerned could be misinterpreted as an apology for the cartoons, as it is not fully clear what the regret refers to, and in translation into Arabic, or in oral conversation, could easily be misconstrued as an apology for them.

Danish Minister of Foreign affairs “I did not apologize for the Muhammad Cartoons”

October 14, 2010

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lene Espersen says that claims in Egypt that she should have apologised for the media printing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, are a misunderstanding.

The English-language Egyptian Gazette has reported under the headline ‘Denmark apologises to Musims for cartoons’ that Espersen apologised for the cartoons during a visit to Cairo recently.

In response Lene Espersen says: “I fully refute having apologised… I am always very careful in explaining exactly what Denmark’s position is on this issue. So I can fully deny having apologised”.