Influential figures from the world of politics and the arts added their voices to the protests by Muslims worldwide over the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that were published in the European media as the holiest day for Shiites, Ashura, was observed in various countries. Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa condemned the publication of a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed by a top-shelf Polish national daily newspaper. The legendary freedom fighter of the 1980s anti-communist Solidarity trade union criticized the “disturbing activities of media in Poland, propagating texts impinging on the good principles of respect and value for religious convictions … which strike Muslims in a painful manner.” Two Nobel Prize-winning authors blasted the media that published the caricatures as irresponsible or arrogant in interviews with the Spanish daily El Pais. “It would not be a question of censoring oneself, but of using common sense,” said Portugal’s Jose Saramago, winner of the 1998 literature Nobel. “This was a conscious and planned provocation by a right-wing Danish newspaper,” said German Guenter Grass, who took the Nobel Prize in 1999. Grass described the Danish publishers of the caricatures as “xenophobic right-wing radicals” and the subsequent violent Muslim protests as “a fundamentalist response to a fundamentalist act.” “Where does the West take that arrogance to impose what must and must not be done?” Grass asked, stressing the relativity of the freedom of opinion in the West where the media are controlled by conglomerates “monopolizing the public opinion.” Others called for a redefinition of the freedom of expression that incorporates “standardized” universally-accepted religious taboos, prominent Muslim scholars said. “There are religious axioms which are enshrined in the well- established international norms and conventions, and the Western world does know they should be respected,” said Ibrahim Ezzedine, chairman of Jordan’s state-run Higher Media Council. The condemnation came as hundreds of thousands of Shiites and followers of the Hezbollah movement marched through the streets of Beirut’s southern suburbs in protest against the caricatures. Several thousand South African Muslims staged a demonstration in the streets of Cape Town. The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), the body that organized the march, handed to Danish Ambassador Torben Brylle a memorandum calling on the Danish government to apologize to Muslims around the world. Protests were also planned for Hong Kong, the city’s 70,000-strong Muslim community has announced. Meanwhile in Denmark, the newspaper at the centre of the ongoing row refuted reports that it planned to publish anti-Semitic or anti- Christian caricatures, the chief editor said Thursday. Jyllands-Posten’s editor Carsten Juste’s statement was published on the newspaper’s website after a Danish television channel reported that publication was pending this Sunday. Websites have in recent days been set up in Denmark and elsewhere offering people a chance to send an apology to Muslims offended by Jyllands-Posten’s publication as one group of Arab and Muslim youths apologized for the violence that followed the caricatures. The government continued efforts to defuse the crisis Thursday. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was “prepared to listen to all proposals,” a Rasmussen aide told Deutsche Presse- Agentur but was unable to meet Thursday with a parliamentary deputy of Turkish origin to discuss an idea of Turkey mediating in the ongoing row over the controversial Mohammed cartoons. In a related development, Aarhus police said they would not pursue a complaint of blasphemy filed against Jyllands-Posten over the publication last September of the controversial caricatures. In Norway, the Muslim al-Jinah Foundation filed a police complaint against Vebjorn Selbekk, chief editor of Christian weekly Magazinet that recently reprinted the Mohammed caricatures. In Iran, Vice President Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee denied US accusations that his country was inflaming Muslim anger against the West over the caricatures. “It’s a lie, 100 per cent baseless,” Mashaee told reporters after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Vice President Yusuf Kalla, in Jakarta. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday accused Iran and Syria of stoking anti-Western sentiment among Muslims for their own purposes. Attempts to publish the controversial caricatures in the Muslim world have met fierce opposition. Malaysian cabinet members demanded the immediate suspension of a major newspaper after it reprinted the caricatures. The editor of the English-language Sarawak Tribune had resigned Sunday after admitting to approving the publication of the caricatures. Station directors, editors and journalists were suspended from their posts at two Algerian television stations because their news programmes showed the Mohammed caricatures. An American university professor in the United Arab Emirates was fired after distributing among her students a copy of the caricatures, saying her action was within the rights of “freedom of opinion and expression.” Protests in the Muslim world took a back seat as Shiites celebrated their holiest festival, Ashura, that commemorates the martyrdom of Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein, who they believe to be the prophet’s true successor. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites marched in the holy city of Karbala in tribute to Hussein who was killed in battle there in the year 680. Clashes between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the western Afghan city of Herat left at least four people dead, while violence also clouded Ashura commemorations in Pakistan, where at least 12 people were killed and 20 wounded when two bombs ripped through a procession of Shiite Muslims in the Hangu district of North-Western Frontier Province, 245 kilometres west of Islamabad.
The Muslim clerics on Tuesday asked India to recall its ambassador to Denmark in the wake of publication of the Prophet’s caricature in a Danish newspaper. They also decided to hold demonstrations in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Parliamentary constituencies of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively, to protest the government’s vote at the IAEA meeting against Iran for its controversial nuclear programme.
TEHERAN – Police used tear gas to briefly disperse hundreds of angry protesters who hurled stones and fire bombs at the Danish Embassy in the second attack on a Western mission in the Iranian capital on Monday over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. Police had encircled the embassy building but were unable to hold back the mob of 400 demonstrators as they pelted the walled brick villa that houses only the Danish mission with stones and Molotov cocktails. At least nine demonstrators were hurt in the melee, police said. About an hour into the demonstration, police fired tear gas into the mob, driving it into a nearby park. Later about 20 protesters returned and tried to break through police lines to enter the compound but were blocked by security forces. As the tear gas clouds dispersed, most of the rest of the crowd filtered back to the embassy and continued burning Danish flags and chanting anti-Danish slogans and God is Great. Two trees inside the embassy compound were set on fire by the gasoline bombs. The embassy gate was burned as was a police booth along the wall protecting the building. The Danish Foreign Ministry said it was not aware of any staff inside the building, which had closed for the day before the demonstration began. In a live television interview with the DR public television in Denmark, Ambassador Claus Juul Nielsen said the protesters vandalised the ground floor of the embassy, which included the trade and the visa departments. It now seems that the police control the situation, Juul Nielsen said. We have had no injuries among our staff, we were able to get out before it all started. The mob, which included about 100 women, ignored police orders to disperse continued to hurl firebombs, before they were hit with tear gas. The crowd disperesed by midnight. Earlier in the day, 200 student demonstrators threw stones at the Austrian Embassy, breaking some windows and starting small fires. Also on Monday, 200 members of Iran’s parliament issued a statement warning that those who published the cartoons should remember the case of Salman Rushdie – the British author against whom the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death warrant for his novel The Satanic Verses. Apparently they have not learned from miserable life of the person who wrote Satanic Verses, the lawmakers said in the statement, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Parliamentarians do not have the authority to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, like the one in which Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death in 1989. The Austrian mission in Teheran was targeted because Austria currently holds the presidency of the European Union. The demonstration at the Austrian Embassy lasted two hours, with protesters also throwing firecrackers that sparked the fires. Police quickly extinguished the blazes and stopped some protesters from throwing stones. On Monday night, a firebomb was thrown at the Austrian Cultural Centre in Teheran, causing no injuries, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said. Outside the embassy – located in a four-storey building in Teheran, the protesters chanted, Death to Denmark, death to Israel, and some burned flags of Germany, Denmark and France. One protester carried a caricature of German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was the first instance of violence over the drawings in Iran, though protests have occurred there. It came a day after thousands of Muslim demonstrators in Beirut set fire to the building housing the Danish mission in Beirut.
The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri’s launching of an international caricature contest on the holocaust as “retaliation” against insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed caused a big reaction. The newspaper’s act has been perceived as provocation and Jewish establishments interpreted the contest as ” vidence that the spirit of Hitler is still alive in the Muslim world.” The newspaper published by the Tehran Municipality announced it will award prizes to “12 people” at the end of the contest. The responsible for the crisis Denmark-based Jyllands-Posten newspaper had published 12 caricatures. Meanwhile, both the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Tehran were attacked by demonstrators yesterday.