On Islam – 11 November 2012
A group of French Muslim imams arrived in Israel on Sunday, November 11, on a controversial visit to dispel the perceptions that Muslims are harboring hatred against Jews. “Unfortunately French Muslims are seen as being anti-Semitic,” Hassan Shaljoumi, who heads a mosque in the Paris suburb of Drancy, told Maariv daily. Shaljoumi is a member of a 12-strong delegation of French imams, who arrived in Israel for talks with Israeli officials to show that Muslims are not anti-Semitic.
The delegation will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the visit. The visit, funded by the French foreign ministry, follows accusations to the Muslim community of harboring hatred against Jews.
A planned trip to Turkey by a delegation from the Dutch parliament has been cancelled. The trip was scheduled for January, and intended as a “fact finding mission” in connection with Turkey’s hopes to join the EU.
Last week a representative from the foreign affairs ministry stated that Geert Wilders, leader of the right wing Freedom Party (PVV) would not be welcome in the country. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, was free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders, though the statement did not represent an official position from the Turkish government.
In response to the comment, Dutch MPs voted yesterday to cancel the January trip even though politicians, academics and other interest groups had agreed to meet delegates. “The delegation takes the view it is for parliament to decide who should be in the delegation,” the parliamentary European affairs commission said in a statement.
DutchNews.nl reports that Turkish MPs are disappointed by the cancelled trip. “If a Dutch colleague has preconceptions about our country, the best thing to do is welcome him and change his mind,” Yasar Yakis, chairman of the Turkish parliament’s EU harmonisation committee told the NRC.
A planned visit to Turkey by Dutch members of parliament remains unconfirmed, after the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced the delegation would not be welcome if it included Geert Wilders. Foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told AFP that the far-right politician, leader of the Freedom Party and a vocal critic of Islam, is “unwelcome” in Turkey due to his racist views. In response, the parliamentary European Affairs Commission said it would cancel the visit if not all members of the delegation are received by the Turkish authorities.
Wilders has asked Foreign Minister Verhagen to lodge a complaint over the refusal. Verhagen is only willing to point out to Ankara the need for conversations with Dutch MPs and the attending advantages and says his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician.
De Volkskrant reports that the Turkish government is now embarrassed by the situation as refusing to meet Wilders would allow the controversial politician to accuse Turkey of being undemocratic and unable to take criticism.
NRC Handelsblad reports that while Turkish daily Aksam broke the news of the ministry’s worries about Wilders’ forthcoming visit, the controversy got little attention in other Turkish media. The paper also notes that some secular and religious opinion makers in Turkey who are familiar with Wilders say they would welcome a conversation with the polemic politician, for reasons of their own.
As unrest in China continues after bloody weekend riots in the Xinjiang region, police in Munich are investigating an arson attack on the Chinese consulate in Munich early on Tuesday morning. The building’s exterior sustained minimal damage, and a Chinese flag on a flagpole was burned. The city’s criminal investigation department is currently searching for two unidentified men seen around 1 am near the consulate building. Local residents described hearing a car with squealing tires speed off.
The incident follows violent demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy at the Hague in the Netherlands. Police there arrested 142 people for throwing stones at the building on Monday.
“China has made solemn representations to the Netherlands and Germany,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. “We strongly urge the Netherlands and Germany … to take measures to ensure the safety and dignity of Chinese diplomats and institutions, to guarantee the normal work order, avoid this happening again and deal with the perpetrators.”
Munich authorities are not sure whether there is a link between the consulate attack and ethnic violence involving Uighur Muslims in China. Erkin Zunun, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, said he believes the two incidents are linked. “We don’t know who threw the petrol bombs, but we do know that our people hate the Chinese authorities,” he said. Zunun said he was angered by the conduct of Chinese police. According to official figures, more than 150 people have died so far in the riots in the northeast region of China where many Uighurs live.
Indonesia, the world`s largest Moslem country, considers the pro-Koln group`s plan to hold an anti-Islam congress in Cologne, Germany, on Sept 19-20 to be counterproductive to interfaith dialogs, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Any plan to organize an anti-Islam congress would be counter-productive to interfaith dialogs which also involve European nations,” Teuku Faizasyah said on Thursday. The Indonesian government, along with other ASEAN members and other countries through bilateral relations had been active in holding interfaith and cultural dialogs to solve differences and avoid misunderstanding, he said. “We hope there will be sensitivity (on the part of the congress` organizing committee) because such an event will only worsen misunderstanding,” he said. He said the German government had yet to confirm the group`s plan to hold such a congress. “So, we have heard the plan only from a news report,” he said. Last week, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) expressed deep concern about the plan to organize the anti-Islam congress.
A son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is mediating in the case of two Austrians held by al Qaeda in north Africa and believes a release could come within hours, an Austrian politician said on Saturday. Saif al-Islam, who heads the Gaddafi Foundation charity, was in touch with the kidnappers in Mali, a spokesman for Carinthia governor Joerg Haider told Reuters. “Our information from Libya is that the negotiations in Mali have reached a decisive phase and … in the next few hours there could be a decision in this matter … a release,” the spokesman quoted Haider as saying. But he said it could take longer. “It could be tomorrow or the next day,” he said. The mediation of Gaddafi’s son, who has studied in Austria and is a friend of right-wing populist Haider, raised some hopes for the release of the two Austrian tourists who were seized in Tunisia last month and are reported to be held in northern Mali. Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal said a meeting of the crisis team dealing with the hostages on Saturday evening had not been informed of any imminent release. “The crisis team has had no indication of that kind of dramatic development,” he told Reuters. Tiemoko Diallo repots.
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark on Tuesday reopened its embassy in?Syria more than two months after it was set ablaze by demonstrators protesting the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, the Danish foreign ministry said. The ministry said the Damascus mission was now open to the public but cautioned Danes in Syria to be vigilant as the cartoon row could still induce negative reactions in the country. “Recently, there have been several instances of verbal threats against Danes and other Westerners,” it said in a statement on its Web site. On February 4, several thousand Syrian demonstrators set the Danish and the Norwegian embassies on fire in violent protest over 12 caricatures of the Prophet first published by Danish Daily Jylland-Posten in September. The fire badly damaged the building that housed the Danish mission but no one was hurt as the embassy was closed. The cartoons were later reprinted in other European papers and sparked violent protests worldwide by Muslims, many of whom believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. Last month, Denmark reopened its mission to Indonesia saying the security situation there had improved, but embassies in several other Muslim nations remain closed.
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.
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.