News Agencies – September 19, 2012
The French government stepped up security at its embassies across the Muslim world after a French satirical weekly published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam.
The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film Innocence of Muslims and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire.
The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure in about 20 countries, according to the foreign affairs ministry. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy last Friday.
The principle of freedom of expression “must not be infringed,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, speaking on France Inter radio. But he added: “Is it pertinent, intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire? The answer is no.”
“This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation,” said Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque. “We are not Pavlov’s animals to react at each insult.”
A far-right movement in the western state North Rhine–Westphalia (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.
Ulf Erik Knudsen of the right-wing Fremskrittspartiet (Frp) uses the infamous cartoon of Kurt Westergaard on his Facebook account.
“I use it as a sign of sympathy with someone that’s been threatened by forces that wants to limit our freedom of speech,” Knudsen says.
Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical publication, has congratulated a Daniel Laconte film, C’est Dur d’_tre Aim_s par des Cons (It’s Hard to be Liked by Idiots), being shown at the 61st Cannes Film Festival. The film examines the Muhammad cartoon controversy.
Danish Muslim imams sought to soothe Muslim anger on Friday after newspapers reprinted a drawing of the prophet Muhammad that caused outrage in Islamic countries two years ago. The newspapers republished one of the drawings in protest against what they said was a plot to murder the cartoonist who drew it. Mostafa Chendid, an imam at the Islamic Faith Community, said Danish media had confused freedom of expression with the freedom to insult others. He also called for Muslims to turn the other cheek rather than pursue violence. Several hundred Muslims gathered in central Copenhagen on Friday to protest the publication of the cartoon, shouting, God is great. Five major Danish newspapers, 10 smaller papers, and a Swedish daily reprinted the drawings. “Freedom of expression gives you the right to think, to speak and to draw what you like… no matter how many terrorist plots there are,” an editorial in the Berlingske Tidende paper noted.
He has offended Muslims worldwide and al-Qaida wants him dead, but the Swedish artist who portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a dog said Monday he has no regrets. Lars Vilks, 61, told The Associated Press he might use the uproar over his drawings as the subject of a musical, with prominent roles depicting Iran’s president, Sweden’s prime minister and al-Qaida terrorists. “The Muhammad cartoon project must be made into an art work,” said Vilks, breaking away for an interview during a business seminar in Klippan, a small town in southern Sweden. “A musical comes to mind … I think it would help the debate.” The eccentric sculptor said previously that the cartoons weren’t meant to insult Islam but rather to test the boundaries of artistic freedom.
In light of the Muhammad cartoon scandal in 2006, carnival jokesters in Germany went easy on Islam. This year, Muslim satire will return to at least one parade–the D_sseldorf carnival parade. Last year, 43-year-old Jacques Tilly’s float was called off because of fears it would provoke violence. The float he designed was of four Muslim women in a row, each more covered than the last. At the end, a woman tied inside a large trash bag. This year, though, Jacques Tilly has some catching up to do. “The clash of civilizations is still high up on the agenda of world politics,” the artist says. And this time, it’s fair game. On Feb. 19, Muslims will be fair game again. Only one motif has become public to date: A Hamas militant and an orthodox Jew hug each other while a Shiite cleric and an Indian cuddle each other and an Indian and a Pakistani dance together. It’s all too cuddly to be true Tilly, and the apparently conciliatory gestures are immediately unmasked: The display’s motto is “Peace Between Religions — The Greatest of Illusions.” Controversy is not new to the parade. In 2005, parade organizers were threatened by Catholics offended by a portrayal of conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner. He was shown preparing to burn a woman at the stake. The puppet of the woman featured the words: “I had an abortion.” Last year, a George W. Bush float was banned. In Cologne, Muslim satire will again be kept at a minimum. The director of the Rose Monday parade in Cologne, Christoph Kuckelkorn, does admit that one display features a Torah, a Bible and a Koran whose peaceful co-existence is disturbed only by fundamentalists and terrorists. “But we’re not injuring anyone’s religious sentiments,” he says — before defending the decision in light of Cologne’s traditionally live-and-let-live attitude. Kuckelhorn’s has tried to win Jacques Tilly for his own parade but Tilly has been uninterested. For it to be worth his effort, “There has to be a real ruckus,” Tilly says.