Egypt bans Der Spiegel issue for ‘insulting Islam’

Egypt has ordered the seizure of a special edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel after it was deemed to be insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, newspapers reported on Wednesday. Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi took the decision “to defend Islamic values and confront attempts to damage the prophet, the Muslim religion and religion in general,” the state-run daily Al-Gomhuriya said. It reported Fiqi as saying Egypt would not allow any publication damaging to monotheistic religions “because that is nothing to do with the freedom of information that the West talks about”. Al-Gomhuriya said the March 25 special issue of Der Spiegel contends that Islam is a Christian offshoot and contains several images and comments insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, citing a “German orientalist” according to whom Islam incites violence and terrorism. In February, Egypt banned the sale of four international newspapers — Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, Britain’s The Observer and the US Wall Street Journal — for publishing cartoons of the prophet. Der Spiegel was banned by the Egyptian government. It is not the regular Spiegel, but a Spiegel Special on Islam in Germany. Actually, I proof-read some of the articles (for example the interview with the German intelligence chief, and the article on the history of contacts between Germans and Muslims).

Dutch raise terror threat alert over anti-Islam film

On Thursday, the Netherlands raised its national risk level of a terrorist attack to substantial, ahead of the launch of a film by right-wing politician Geert Wilders. In a report to the Dutch parliament, he Dutch counter-terrorism agency said that the assessment was also influenced by increased arrests and threats of individuals and groups suspected of associating with, planning, or carrying out terrorist attacks in Europe. The Dutch government warned that the film, to be released later this month, might spark unrest similar to that triggered when Danish newspapers published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2006. The government has twice failed to convince Wilders not to broadcast his film, fearing a repeat of the worldwide protests that erupted following the printing of the Danish cartoons; it has warned its embassies in Muslim countries to be on alert.

German Minister Calls on EU Press to Publish Mohammed Cartoon

More European newspapers should publish the hotly disputed Mohammed cartoons, said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as violent protests broke out in Sudan over the recent reprinting of the caricatures. “All European newspapers should print the [Mohammed] caricatures with the explanation, ‘We also think they’re pathetic, but the use of press freedom is no reason to resort to violence,” Schaeuble told the weekly edition of Die Zeit. The minister added that he “respected” the decision of 17 Danish newspapers earlier this month to reprint a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a turban that resembled a bomb with a lit fuse. The re-publication came a day after Danish authorities uncovered and foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist whose drawing first appeared in 2005.

Danish newspapers re-publish Muhammad cartoon; imams urge calm

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.

Analysis: Islamist terror back in Europe

Islamist terrorism is back in Europe after Spain arrested a group of terror suspects and Germany warned its Jewish community of concrete attack plans. Spanish authorities over the weekend arrested 14 terror suspects and searched several buildings in Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city. Police said the group, which included 12 Pakistanis, an Indian and a Bangladeshi, was planning a terror attack in Barcelona. Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Spain’s interior minister, said the detainees belonged to a “well-organized group that had gone a step beyond radicalization.” Authorities confiscated explosives and four timing devices, Rubalcaba said. “When someone has timers in their home, you have no option but to think violent acts are being planned,” he said. Spanish authorities got tips from foreign intelligence services, the interior minister said, and Spanish newspapers have since reported it was a hint from Pakistan that triggered the raids. The arrests come less than two months before Spain faces its general elections on March 9. Stefan Nicola repots.

Demonization of Muslims confirmed in some western media

A “torrent” of negative stories, showing a “hostile and scare mongering attitude” has been revealed in a new study into the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in the British media. The research, commissioned by London mayor Ken Livingstone, found that 91 per cent of articles in national newspapers about Muslims were negative during just one week of news coverage. Livingstone slated the findings as a “damning indictment” of the media and urged editors and program makers to review the way they portray Muslims in their broadcasts and publications.

Spanish press mulls bombings verdict

As the verdicts were delivered in the Madrid bombing trial, Spanish newspapers focus on the political capital that the government and opposition are believed to have made from the situation. Several newspapers highlight that the court ruled out any involvement by the ETA in the bombings. The Popular party, which was the rling party at the time, initially blamed the Basque separatist group for the attacks. At least one of the papers notes that the court avoided linking the Madrid bombings to the Iraq war, whereas the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party has maintained the belief that there was a connection.

Arabic School Ex-Principal Fights to Get Her Job Back

The founding principal of the city’s first Arabic-language school said yesterday that the Bloomberg administration forced her to resign in August by threatening to shut the school. She said she was applying to get the job back. In her first detailed public account of what led her to step down after defending the word ”intifada” on a T-shirt, the principal, Debbie Almontaser, presented herself as the victim of an anti-Arab ”smear campaign” from conservative newspapers and blogs and of pressure from city officials…

Muslim Media Coverage Scrutinized

The way that the British news media covers Muslim stories is challenging some of its most basic editorial values. Many Muslims feel that all British news outlets have a liberal, anti-Muslim slant, and as a result turn to outside news outlets such as al-Jazeera. But journalists who report on political Islam say that there is an equal danger in neglecting to challenge radical Islamist views. The role of the news media, they say, is to pose the difficult questions. They cannot back down from this responsibility just to maintain an appearance of total cultural sensitivity. What would help mutual understanding would be if more Muslims worked in the news media, and if a wider range of Muslims, not just extremists, sought and were given a voice in newspapers and broadcast news.

Yemen Editor Faces Death Penalty Over Mohammed Cartoons

Authorities in a number of Muslims countries have acted against newspapers for publishing the controversial Mohammed cartoons, but in Yemen a journalist may soon be fighting for his life after prosecutors demanded his execution. Yemen Observer Editor-in-Chief Muhammad al-Asadi was arrested after his English-language weekly paper published the cartoons early last month to illustrate how news reporting about their publication in European papers had sparked a global uproar. According to the paper, the cartoons were presented in “thumbnail” size, and “obscured with a thick black cross.” Nonetheless, al-Asadi was accused of violating a law prohibiting the publication of anything that harms Islam, and the government suspended the Observer’s license. Two independent Arabic-language papers are also facing legal action separately for reproducing the cartoons. Al-Asadi appeared Wednesday before a Sana’a court, where prosecutors called for the death penalty, and for the paper to be shut down completely and its assets confiscated. A report on the Yemen Observer’s website — which continues to publish although the paper edition has been frozen — said prosecution lawyers had recounted a story from the life of Mohammed in which Islam’s prophet had praised the killer of a woman who had insulted him. The lawyers argued that the same punishment should be applied in the case of those who “abuse” the prophet. “They also demanded personal financial compensation for the psychological trauma they claimed they suffered by the actions of the newspaper, which they said has impaired their ability to do their jobs and follow their normal daily lives.” The case was adjourned for two weeks. The Observer said the prosecution lawyers, of which there were more than a dozen, were being funded by Sheikh Abdel Majid Zindani, a religious leader and senior Islamist opposition party member. Zindani’s name appears on a U.S. list of suspected financiers of terrorism, and Yemeni media reported two weeks ago that Washington was urging the government to freeze his assets and prevent him from traveling abroad, in line with U.N. resolutions. A U.S. Treasury statement issued in 2004 called Zindani a loyalist of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and said the U.S. government had credible evidence that he “supports designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.” According to the State Department’s annual report on global human rights, released Wednesday, Yemen’s government does not respect freedom of the press despite a constitutional provision providing for it “within the limits of the law.” The report noted that Yemeni press laws criminalize certain criticism of the head of state, the publication of “false information” that can spread “chaos and confusion,” and “false stories intended to damage Arab and friendly countries.” “Yemen’s press freedom has been tested often lately and in the eyes of the outside world it remains a measure of the extent of democratization that Yemen would like to claim,” a contributor to another paper in the Gulf state, the Yemen Times, wrote in a column on the al-Asadi case. The media freedom lobby group Reporters Without Borders has recorded arrests of journalists in Yemen, Syria, Algeria and India for reprinting the cartoons caricaturing Mohammed, and the temporary or permanent closure of at least 14 publications in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia for the same reason. “Whatever one thinks of the cartoons or whether they should be published, it is absolutely unjustified to jail or prosecute journalists, threaten them with death or shut down newspapers for this reason,” the group said earlier.