French Weekly Prints Prophet Drawing, Free Press Plea

A French satirical weekly published a new cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on its cover, as a French Muslim group condemned the violence that Danish caricatures sparked in Muslim countries. The wave of protests, “orchestrated four months after the facts, aims at caging all freedom of thought by artists and intellectuals,” Tewfik Allal, of the Association of the Freedom Manifesto, a Muslim organization, wrote in the weekly Charlie Hebdo. “Other communities — Jews, Christians — have felt insulted by this or that text, drawing or thought, but they reacted by going to court.” Charlie Hebdo, on the inside pages of today’s issue, also published the 12 Danish cartoons, first carried by Jyllands- Posten in September, joining newspapers in a number of countries that have printed them in the name of free speech. French President Jacques Chirac, speaking to the weekly cabinet meeting after Charlie Hebdo went on sale, said “freedom of expression should be used responsibly,” government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told reporters. “Anything that can harm convictions of faith, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,” Cope cited Chirac as saying. Chirac criticized “all manifest provocations that are liable to dangerously arouse passions. He condemned equally all types of violent” reactions. The Danish cartoons have been published in countries including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland. `Right to Caricature’ The French newspaper France Soir published the 12 cartoons on Feb. 1, with a headline that claimed “the right to caricature God.” The newspaper’s editor, Jacques Lefranc, was dismissed the following day by France Soir’s publisher, Egyptian-born Raymond Lakah, a Christian. MRAP, one of France’s biggest anti-racism associations, is suing France Soir for the publication of one cartoon, a depiction of Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb, MRAP’s president, Mouloud Aounit, said by telephone. MRAP hasn’t yet taken any action against Charlie Hebdo, he said. The cartoon’s “manifest intention is to provoke, hurt, humiliate, stigmatize, and participate deliberately in the racist amalgam between Muslims and terrorists,” Aounit said. Because visual representation of Muhammad is considered blasphemy by Muslims, the cartoons sparked the anger of believers. Danish Boycott In countries including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Muslims are boycotting Danish goods, and, in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants threatened to kidnap Westerners if governments don’t apologize for the actions of newspapers in their countries. Iran cut trade relations with Denmark when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 4 issued a decree calling on the Trade Ministry to terminate economic agreements with all Western countries where the cartoons were published. The protests prompted United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to call on Muslims to refrain from violence on Feb. 6, after crowds set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut, and after the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria’s capital, Damascus, were attacked.

Niger: Thousands Protest Caricature Of Prophet Muhammad

Thousands of Muslims took to the streets of the capital of Niger this week as protests against the publication of controversial cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad reached West Africa. Organisers said 50,000 people had turned out Tuesday in the dusty streets of Niamey after a call from religious leaders to press the government to cut diplomatic relations with Denmark, where the caricatures were originally published. An IRIN correspondent estimated the turnout at 10,000. Muslim rage has swept Europe and the Middle East after the publication of the caricatures, some showing the prophet wearing a turban resembling a bomb. And Niger’s Muslim leaders dubbed Denmark “an enemy of Islam.” “The amalgam knowingly maintained between Islam and terrorism is simply coarse and unacceptable,” said protester Elhaj Tahir Ousmane. “The provocation was too much, it is necessary to put an end to it by all means.” In northern Nigeria, where some states have adopted Islamic Sharia law, protestors took to the streets on Monday chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is great]” and burning the Danish flag. The caricatures, first published in September, angered Muslims in part because Islam bars any depiction of the image of the Prophet Muhammad. And many Muslims have called for boycotts of Danish goods, or held protests outside Danish facilities. In Niger, security forces looked on as Tuesday’s demonstrations passed off without violence. Ranked by the UN as the world’s poorest country, Niger is 98 percent Muslim and most Nigeriens practice a moderate form of Islam, often infusing local cultural practices into their worship. But in recent years, Nigeriens have become increasingly aware of a rise in fundamentalism, particularly in the east of the country bordering northern Nigeria. The United States military has chosen Niger as one of a handful of countries on the fringes of the Sahara desert for a half-billion-dollar programme for training security personnel in tackling terrorism.

Denmark: European Papers Join Danish Fray

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.”

Denmark: Lebanon Apologizes to Denmark After Protestors Torch Danish Mission in Beiruit

BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon apologized today to Denmark after rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to its diplomatic mission in Beirut, while violent protests escalated throughout the Muslim world against the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Western newspapers.

Denmark: Jordanian Paper Reprints Danish Prophet Cartoons

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.

Denmark: Danish paper Apologizes to Muslims over Insulting Them

A Danish newspaper on Monday issued an apology to the world’s Muslims for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that had sparked a furor in the Islamic world, and major boycott of Danish company products The drawings “were not in violation of Danish law but have undoubtedly offended many Muslims, which we would like to apologize for,” said the Jyllands-Posten’s editor in chief, Carsten Juste, in a statement.

The Fiqh Council Of North America Wishes To Reaffirm Islam’s Absolute Condemnation Of Terrorism And Religious Extremism

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.” The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32) Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi) God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur’an: “We made you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143) In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbid evil.” (Qur’an, 3:104) Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God’s creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to the worlds” said: “All creation is the family of God, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family.” {In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state}: 1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam. 2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence. 3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians. We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners. We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of our country, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of all inhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

‘Muhammad’ Is Growing Popular In Britain

LONDON, Jan. 6 (Reuters) – Muhammad joined the perennial favorites Jack and Joshua in 2004 as one of the most popular names given to British boys, a sign of growing ethnic diversity and a legacy of Muslim immigration decades ago. The Office of National Statistics said Thursday that Muhammad, meaning “one who is praiseworthy” or “exalted,” had moved up two places, to enter the top 20 for the first time. “It is all about demographics,” said Dr. Jamil Sherif, of the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group of 400 organizations. “There are now more Muslims being born in Britain than previously. About 40 percent of Muslims here are under 25; there are a lot of young families.” Immigration from Asia and Africa surged during the 1960’s and 70’s and Britain, with about 61 million people, is home to about 1.6 million Muslims. But despite its increased popularity, Muhammad has a long way to go before it takes the laurels from Jack, which has topped the charts for 10 years. Joshua was No. 2, Thomas at 3, James at 4 and Daniel at 5. For girls, Emily held the top spot for the second year running, and Ellie was again No. 2.