By Alan Cowell COPENHAGEN In a remarkable escalation of a dispute over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, newspapers in several European countries reprinted the images on Wednesday, supporting a Danish newspaper that triggered a huge outcry in the Islamic world by publishing them initially. The newspapers’ action fed into a sharpening debate here over freedom of expression, human rights and what one Danish editor, Flemming Rose, called a “clash of civilizations” between secular Western democracies and Islamic societies. Indeed, said Rose, culture editor of Jyllands-Posten – the newspaper which first published the cartoons last September – “this is a far bigger story than just the question of 12 cartoons in a small Danish newspaper.” “This is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society – how much does an immigrant have to give up and how much does the receiving culture have to compromise,” he said in an interview. In recent days, Denmark has become the target of a widespread boycott of its goods, like dairy products and pharmaceuticals, in the Muslim world, its diplomats have been summoned to be dressed down in Tehran and Baghdad, and protesters have taken to the streets of Gaza. While Jyllands-Posten has apologized for giving offense, it has not apologized for publishing the cartoons, one of which depicts the prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Images of Muhammad are regarded as blasphemous by many Muslims. The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has rejected demands by Arab governments for an official apology, saying, “A Danish government cannot apologize on the part of a Danish paper. I can’t call a newspaper and tell them what to put in it. That’s not how our society works.” Rose called the decision not to apologize “a key issue of principle.” In support of the Danish position, newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland reprinted some of the cartoons on Wednesday. A small Norwegian evangelical magazine, Magazinet, also published the cartoons last month. The dispute has been likened to a string of earlier cultural confrontations between Islam and the West, beginning with the death sentence declared in 1989 on the British author Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Iran after the publication of “The Satanic Verses.” In 2004, the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was murdered after making a film called “Submission” that dealt with violence against women in Islamic societies. Robert Menard, secretary general of Reporters Sans Fronti_res, a Paris-based body that monitors media developments, said: “All countries in Europe should be behind the Danes and Danish authorities to defend the principle that a newspaper can write what it wishes to even if it offends people.” Arab regimes “do not understand there can be a complete separation between what is written in a newspaper and what the Danish government says,” he said in a telephone interview. “I understand that it may shock Muslims, but being shocked is part of the price of being informed.” He noted, too, that many attacks on Denmark came from countries like Libya and Saudi Arabia, “where there’s no press freedom” and where governments routinely steered newspapers. Several Muslim leaders in Copenhagen have said they accept the apology from Jyllands-Posten, but in the Middle East, Arab and Islamic governments continued to express outrage. On Wednesday, Syria became the latest Arab country after Saudi Arabia and Libya to withdraw its ambassador from Denmark, saying publication of the cartoons “constitutes a violation of the sacred principles of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims,” according to SANA, Syria’s state press agency. The Danish Embassy in Damascus was evacuated after a bomb threat on Wednesday, but no bomb was found. On Tuesday, the offices of Jyllands-Posten were evacuated under similar circumstances. The contentious cartoons include one showing the Prophet Muhammad telling dead suicide bombers that paradise has run out of virgins – a reference to the 72 virgins accorded a Muslim martyr. In Paris, the newspaper France Soir, printed all 12 cartoons, saying it did so “not from an appetite for gratuitous provocation, but because they constitute the subject of a controversy on a global scale which has done nothing to maintain balance and mutual limits in democracy, respect of religious beliefs and freedom of expression.” The French newspaper ran a headline declaring: “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God.” It published a cartoon showing Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods on a cloud. The Christian god was depicted saying: “Don’t complain, Muhammad. We’ve all been caricatured before.” The newspaper declared: “No religious dogma can impose its view on a democratic and secular society.” Arnaud Levy, editor-in-chief of France Soir, said there had been no coordination between European editors. Asked if they had been in touch to publish the cartoons simultaneously, he said in a telephone interview: “Absolutely not.” A commentary in France Soir declared: “Enough lessons from these reactionary bigots! Just because the Koran bans images of Muhammad doesn’t mean non-Muslims have to submit to this.” The decision by France Soir to publish the cartoons drew a sharp response from French Muslims. Dalil Boubakeur, head of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, called the publication of the cartoons a “provocation” and an abuse of press freedom, adding that it reflected “Islamophobia” and was disrespectful of the world’s more than one billion Muslims. “The publication of the cartoons can only revive tensions in Europe and the world at a time when we are trying to unite people,” he said. In Germany, the conservative Die Welt daily printed one image on its front page and declared in an editorial: “The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical. When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were quiet.”
Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten has been forced to hire security guard to protect employees from angry Muslims, after it printed a series of cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed. Death threats have forced daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten to hire security guards to protect its employees, after printing twelve cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed. The newspaper has been accused of deliberately provoking and insulting Muslims by publishing the cartoons. The newspaper urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet, after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. The author claimed that illustrators feared that extremist Muslims would find it sacrilegious to break the Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed. Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper’s call, and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper earlier this month. Muslim spokesmen demanded that Jyllands-Posten retracted the cartoons and apologised. ‘We have taken a few necessary measures in the situation, as some people seem to have taken offence and are sending threats of different kinds,’ the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, told national broadcaster DR. The same day as the newspaper published the cartoons, it received a threatening telephone call against ‘one of the twelve illustrators’, as the caller said. Shortly afterwards, police arrested a 17-year-old, who admitted to phoning in the threat. Since then, journalists and editors alike have received threats by email and the telephone. The newspaper told its staff to remain alert, but then decided to hire security guards to protect its Copenhagen office. ‘Up until now, we have only had receptionists in the lobby. But we don’t feel that they should sit down there by themselves, so we posted a guard there as well,’ Juste said. Muslim organisations, like the Islamic Religious Community, have demanded an apology, but Juste rejected the idea. He said the cartoons had been a journalistic project to find out how many cartoonists refrained from drawing the prophet out of fear. ‘We live in a democracy,’ he said. ‘That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures. Religion shouldn’t set any barriers on that sort of expression. This doesn’t mean that we wish to insult any Muslims.’ Juste’s opinion was not shared by _rhus imam Raed Hlayhel, who gave an interview to the internet edition of Arabic satellite news channel al-Jazeera to protest the newspaper’s cartoons. Hlayhel told al-Jazeera’s reporter that he considered the cartoons derisive of Islam, and described one of the drawings as showing Mohammed wearing a turban-like bomb, and another as brandishing a sabre, with two burka-clad women behind him. Hlayhel said he did not understand how such illustrations could be printed with reference to freedom of expression, when Denmark did not tolerate the slightest sign of anti-Semitism. Al-Jazeera concluded that the drawings seemed bizarre.
M. Elizabeth Roman, Telegram & Gazette WORCESTER – On the door outside Juan Perez’s home, a hand-written sign asks visitors to respect the Islamic custom of removing shoes before entering. The sign is one of the only indicators that this young Latino father, his wife and four small children tend an Islamic household. Inside, a person is likely to see the Hispanic cartoon character “Dora the Explorer” on the television, hear the sound of a rhythmic salsa band on the radio, or smell the aroma of adobo cooking in the kitchen. “As Latinos, we are a passionate people,” Mr. Perez says as he cradles his 1-1/2-year-old baby while his 3-year-old daughter, Mia, lightly kisses the child on the cheek. “Islam covers every aspect of your life; it’s not just going to church and praying. It deals with marriage, divorce, wills, orphans, what to eat, what not to eat. As Latinos, when we do something, we go full-fledged into it.” The Perez family is among an estimated 150 Latino converts to Islam in Worcester, reflecting a trend that researchers have taken note of in recent years. A 2001 study on faith communities, coordinated by Hartford Institute for Religious Research and conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, indicated Latinos made up 6 percent of all converts, which at approximately 60,000, made them the third-largest segment. The growth of this population can also be seen by the creation of bilingual Islamic centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, California’s San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Florida, New York and Atlanta. Each site reports having hundreds of members and offers publications translated into Spanish. In addition, chapters of the Hispanic Muslim organization Latino Dawah are located in Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and Arizona. “It is easy to accept once they found out what it is,” said Jason Perez, who, like his brother Juan, converted to Islam. “It is almost impossible to find a Latino that is an atheist because of our struggle. Being poor, we know it is the miracle of God when we get food. We know that it is not just our own work that helps us survive; we survive with the help of God.” In addition, many Latino converts profess that they do not give up any of their heritage to convert to Islam, but in fact learn more about their cultural roots. “Islam connected me with the struggle for self-determination and the struggles with the natives of Puerto Rico,” Mr. Perez says, adding that many Latino expressions and surnames originate in Islamic culture. “It’s not an Arabic culture thing,” said Adolfo Arrastia, executive director of the Worcester Youth Center for 10 years. “Only 15 percent of the Islamic population around the world is Arab. It’s amazing the amount of people that are Muslim, including people from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Mexico.” Mr. Arrastia converted 31 years ago in New York City. “It fit me like a hand in a glove,” he said. “Islam tells you to be a part of the community; to stand up against injustice. It gives me guidelines in how to be an activist without hurting and causing injury.” Juan and Jason Perez grew up down the street from the mosque in Plumley Village with a group of close friends, most of whom have also converted to Islam. Some of the friends, including Jason, now live in Pennsylvania, where they are learning how to translate ancient African manuscripts at the Sankore Institute. They were raised Catholic and even attended Catholic school, but when they had questions about the Holy Trinity and other Catholic doctrine, the brothers say, they were admonished, which made them move away from the church. “But I was involved in the street life and it wasn’t bringing me happiness,” Jason Perez said in a telephone interview from the institute. So despite the fact that neighborhood friends used to think the mosque was a satanic church, Jason decided to visit after his Islamic roommate encouraged him. “I jumped in and loved it,” he said. He said his mother was not opposed to him converting to Islam because he stopped smoking marijuana and began respecting and helping her any way he could, as instructed by the religion. “Latinos love Jesus and Mary – the Muslims do too,” Juan Perez said when describing the similarities between Islam and Christianity.
LONDON: Two hundred students, giggling and gathering on the playground, are the best antidote to Islamic extremism, although they may not realise it yet. Students at Britain’s first state-funded Islamic school are pint-sized but carry the huge responsibility of forging a new identity for Muslims, one which is neither secular nor extremist, but “organic, dynamic and chaotic”, according to their headmaster. “We’re creating a British-Muslim identity and ethic, and we’re not in the business of preserving any particular culture,” Abdullah Trevathan said, describing the motley group of 23 nationalities, mostly of mixed descent, that make up the Islamiya Primary School. The youths are famous across Britain, and not just because their north London school was founded by the folksinger Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, in 1983. A decade after winning state funding-a right long accorded to Protestant and Catholic schools-they now attend one of the top primary schools in the country, learning the required state curriculum, plus religion and Arabic. At seven, pupils begin attending services at the mosque. Headscarves are optional for the youngest, and become part of the uniform at nine years of age. Cartesian analysis, questioning and debate are encouraged, replacing madrassa-style rote learning of the Quran. At its founding, during the era of Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, there were “fears about us having Molotov cocktail classes”, Trevathan told AFP in a recent interview. Such blatant Islamophobia has been largely silenced in the wake of Islamiya’s successes and in some ways the school has become iconic of the diversity touted by Britain’s Labour-led government. But the chief English schools inspector touched off fresh debate in January, worrying publicly that Islamic schools could pose a “challenge to our coherence as a nation”. Five of some 100 Muslim schools in England are now state funded, with the rest independent, and are joined by more than 50 Jewish schools and about 100 Evangelical Christian schools-in addition to existing Catholic and Protestant structures. Far from teaching radicalism and separatism, Islamiya has become a model of diversity, preaching tolerance not only to students but their families and the larger community, assembled from a jumble of Sunni and Shiite Muslim, Arab, Asian and European, privileged and poor backgrounds. “Islam is not served by centralization, it is served by diversity,” Trevathan said. The school’s adherence to traditional classical Islam, or the “scholastic approach responding to the problems of modern-day Britain”, contrasts with the “modernist” stand he said was embodied by both secularists and fundamentalists seeking to impose their uniform, universal view.
By Martin Wainwright Forget Superman, Wonderwoman and even the Incredibles. The new kid on the block from one of America’s “big two” comic publishers is a teenage Muslim from Bradford, where his father runs a successful chain of corner shops. Bucking the trend for largely negative portrayals of young Asians, particularly in the United States, Ali is an eager livewire whose arranged bride, Sofia, the source of much angst in early frames, turns out to be equally quick-witted, as well as a babe. The 40-page first episode of the story, Vimanarama, went on sale in Britain yesterday, after a launch on Tuesday in the US, where critics gave it a warm reception. Reviews commented on the cartoons’ “infectious sense of wonder” and gripping plot, “whether it’s in the rain-soaked streets of Bradford or in the brightly lit underworld at the end of the book”. The initially unlikely setting is down to the story’s British author, Grant Morrison, a major name in comic writing, particularly in the specialist field sold through outlets such as Forbidden Planet and Where the Wild Things Are shops. A Glaswegian, his 25-year career includes stories for Marvel Comics’ The X-Men and for Batman and Superman, whose publishers DC Comics have brought out Vimanarama. Morrison turned to Britain’s Asian community for a storyline during the aftermath of the World Trade Centre disaster, when the media were full of debate and discussion about Islam and the West. In a recent interview with comics website Newsarama, he said: “There are devout Muslims in the book and couldn’t-care-less Muslims, so everyone gets a shout.” But the story is primarily a ripping yarn, with Ali and Sofia discovering a subterranean world beneath Bradford when a crate of turkish delight cracks open a hidden entrance in one of the family’s shops. Promotional material from DC Comics sums up the plot as “a modern-day Arabian Nights in the form of a Bollywood romantic comedy set on a celestial stage”. The contents include fossilised demons, a 15,000-year-old Asian superman, and too many frames of pouring rain on Bradford streets for the local tourist board’s taste. While the comic has been welcomed as a positive promotion for the city, a spokeswoman said: “They seem to have got our weather mixed up with Manchester’s.” The story – in three parts costing _1.95 each – faithfully portrays the variety in the local British Asian community, with some women decorously wearing headdresses while others have jeans and trainers. American readers are given occasional cross-cultural references in case the setting all becomes too foreign: one double-page image by the story’s illustrator, Philip Bond, has the 19-year-old hero speeding into action on a mountain bike in front of a line of British Asian cheerleaders in short skirts and bobby socks. Morrison says that he immersed himself in research about Islamic history and theology, which figures in crisp word-bubble exchanges and the exotic population of the secret underworld. But the core of the story, he told Newsarama, should appeal to “anyone who’s ever been a teenager in the grip of immense and ridiculous forces beyond one’s control and understanding. Which is surely everybody who gets past the age of 12.”
Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite TV did not mean to defy France by choosing its only veiled presenter to interview French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, editor Ibrahim Hilal said Thursday.