Prize for cartoonist Westergaard: Muslims disappointed of Merkel

8 September 2010
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has awarded the Media Prize M100 to the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. In 2005, Westergaard had drawn a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, showing him with a bomb in his turban, which had subsequently caused major upheavals in Europe and the Islamic world. He has received death threats and has been under police protection ever since.
In her speech, Merkel recognised Westergaard’s courage and demanded the consequences of the cartoon publication to be taken as a reminder. Europe should be a place where freedom of speech is possible; “the secret of freedom is courage”, the Chancellor said.
Meanwhile, the Central Council of Muslims condemned the award. Chairman Aiman Mazyek said that such an honour is highly problematic at a time that is already charged and heated. Also the Green Party criticised the move.

Cartoonist’s attacker charged with terrorism

Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who is known for his depiction of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a fuse, was attacked in his home January 1st by a Somali man armed with a knife and an axe. The 28 year old Somali man is now charged with the most severe paragraph of terrorism according to Danish law. The so-called ‘terror-paragraph’ is rarely used and the Minister of Justice has to approve the use of it. He has done so in the case of the attack on Westergaard
The Somali man will not only be indicted on the assault with intent to kill Westergaard but also on assault with intent to kill a police officer who was keeping guard outside Westergaards home.

Danish newspaper apologizes for offending Muslims with the printing of Muhammad cartoons

Politiken newspaper, one of 11 Danish newspapers that reprinted the Mohammed cartoons, has issued an apology to eight Muslim organizations for offending Muslims – allegedly to avoid a lawsuit. The settlement reached between the paper and the organizations does not, however, apologize for the printing of the cartoons, nor prevent the paper from reprinting them in the future. The eight organizations who reached the agreement with Politiken are based in Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Palestine. Together they represent 94,923 descendents of the Prophet Mohammed.

In August last year, the groups’ Saudi lawyer, Faisal Yamani, requested that Politiken and 10 other newspapers remove the images from their websites and issue apologies along with a promise that the images, or similar ones, will never be printed again. Politiken is the only one of the 11 newspapers who has agreed on a settlement. Yamani says that within the next weeks the eight Muslim organizations will announce what kind of legal actions they will now take against the ten newspapers who haven’t agreed on a settlement.

Jyllands-Posten newspaper initially published the drawings in 2005, but following the murder plot in 2008 against one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, 11 major Danish newspapers reprinted them as a symbol of solidarity. Politiken, which had initially been critical of the cartoons, chose to reprint Westergaard’s drawing and an editorial comment that said Jyllands-Posten deserved unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror. However, Politiken’s statement today said the decision to reprint the drawing of a man with a bomb in his turban was never intended as a “statement of editorial opinion or value, but merely as part of the newspaper’s news coverage”. The apology stated that it was “never Politiken’s intention to offend Muslims in Denmark or elsewhere. We apologize to anyone who was offended by our decision to reprint the cartoon drawing”.

Politiken’s editor-in-chief, Tøger Seidenfaden, says he is hoping the agreement will help improve relations between Denmark and the Muslim world and that “other acts of dialogue and reconciliation may follow”. But the move has been derided by other newspapers, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and leading politicians. Other newspapers which reprinted the cartoon, including Berlingske Tidende, Kristeligt Dagblad and the original publisher Jyllands-Posten, refused to enter into the same agreement with the organizations. Jyllands-Posten editor, Jørn Mikkelsen, called it a “sad day for Danish media, for freedom of speech and for Politiken”. In 2006 Jyllands-Posten apologized for upsetting some Muslims with the cartoons, but Mikkelsen believes that Politiken’s apology crosses the line as it was made as part of a deal. Meanwhile, Westergaard accused the Politiken of giving up on freedom of speech and said they had given into the fear of terror. However, professor in rhetoric at University of Copenhagen, Christian Kock says that Jyllands-Posten apology from 2006 and Politiken’s apology are more or less similar. None of them apologizes for printing the cartoons. They apologize for offending Muslims by doing it. The difference is that Politikens apology is part of a settlement with Muslim organizations.

Opposition leaders Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats and Villy Søvndal of the Socialist People’s Party called the move outrageous and said deals should not be done involving freedom of speech. Not all politicians are deriding Politiken. Leader of Danish Social-Liberal Party Margrethe Vestager thinks Politiken acts courageously by choosing dialogue rather than confrontation. Also the Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen praises Politiken for the apology. He doesn’t think the agreement is a threat against freedom of speech: “Politiken doesn’t apologize for printing the cartoons. They apologize for having offended some by doing it” Wahid Pedersen says.

Al-Shabab tries to recruit young Muslims in mosques, Danish Muslims angry

A number of leaders in the Danish and Swedish Somali community are angry that al-Shabab allegedly tries to recruit young Muslims in mosques in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Göteborg. Muslim parents have temporarily stopped allowing their children to attend Qur’an classes, fearing someone will try to recruit them, a Muslim parent says.

The 28-year old Somali man who tried to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard three weeks ago and the Danish-Somali man who killed 23 people and himself in a suicide attack in Mogadishu in December 2009 were allegedly both affiliated with al-Shabab.

Mosque bans political discussion due to public fears of al-Shabab involvement

The Bellevue mosque in Gothenburg has banned political discussion on the premises. The new policy states that all politics are to be kept outside of the mosque and its congregation, and that no one can stay in the mosque after a fifteen minutes period before and after prayers, to prevent “unofficial meetings and ambiguous messages.”

The mosque has been of interest since it was reported that the man who attacked Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and another Danish-Somali man, who later died in a suicide bombing in Moghadishu, visited it to recruit young men for al-Shabab.
Xasaan Xuseen, one of the organization’s spiritual leaders, allegedly promised mosque representatives and Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO) that they would not discuss any political issues during the conference.

Politician uses Muhammad cartoon as Facebook profile

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.

Pakistani protest against cartoon publications

The parliament of Pakistan and several Pakistani Muslim organizations protested against the decision of Norway’s Aftenposten to re-publish Kurt Westergaard’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the publication.

Editor in chief Hilde Haugsgjerd says the protests were to be expected.

Al-Shabab recruiting in Sweden

According to Swedish secret police (SÄPO) at least twenty Swedish-Somalis are suspected to be “radicalized”, and some of them are to been killed in action in Somalia.

Sydsvenska Dagbladet (independent liberal) reports that Swedish Somalis are worried about al-Shabab activity in country. The 28-year old who made an attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard two weeks ago is reported to have been in Sweden together with another Danish-Somali man who was later killed in a suicide attack in Mogadishu in December 2009. Al-Shabab is suspected to have been recruiting in Sweden’s three main cities – Malmoe, Gothenburg, and Stockholm – where the largest Somali populations are to be found.

According to Göteborgsposten (liberal) the two men visited two mosques in Gothenburg last winter, and Expressen (liberal) reports a mosque in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby has been visited by representatives from the organization. Abdi Rahman Sheik Muhjadin, Imam in a “liberal Muslim” congregation on Gothenburg, says he’s not surprised that al-Shabab has been coming to Swedish mosques and as a precaution, he continues, they won’t let their children attend Qur’an school for the time being, in fear of them being misguided.

Farah Absisamad, chairman of the Swedish Somali National Union, is calling for stricter laws against terrorism to prevent al-Shabab’s activity in Sweden.

Norwegian Aftenposten re-publishes the Danish cartoons

After a week of debate Aftenposten decided to re-publish the Danish cartoons Friday 8. The recent attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard brings the re-publication of the cartoons up tp date, says aftenpostens editor in chief Hilde Haugsgjerd. -We’ve all the time defended the right to publish the drawings, and we published a facsimile of them in the beginning of the conflict in 2005. When the conflict escalated and turned international in 2006 we refrained from publishing them.

Liberal Muslims support Danish cartoonist

The Liberal Muslim network LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) supports the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and challenges the Norwegian Islamic Council (Islamisk Råd) and the Muslim Student Organization (Muslimsk Studentersamfunn) to join them in a manifestation against religious violence and in support of the freedom of speech.

LIM representatives say conservative Muslims and organizations, such as the Islamic Council and MSO dominates Norwegian media and help create an image of Islam in Norway as traditionalist and lacking respect for democratic values.

Shakil Rehman from LIM is also critical of the Vice President of the Norwegian Parliament, Akhtar Choudhry, for calling the publication of Westergaards cartoons wrong. It’s not wrong, Rehman says, it’s just a manifestation of an opinion. Muslim leaders opposing the publications live in another time and age, he continues, Muhammad opposed portraits of him because he didn’t want his followers to idolize him, but to paint his portrait to depict his humanity is in compliance with his teachings.