Cartoon reprint a provocation, not free speech, Muslims say

Jonathan Spollen
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Rioting continued into its seventh night Sunday in a number of Danish cities after more than a dozen Danish newspapers reprinted one of the controversial Prophet Mohamed cartoons.

On Saturday police arrested groups of youths in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Ringsted, Slagelse and other cities after they set fire to schools, cars and rubbish bins and threw rocks at firefighters.

The cartoon, which depicts the Prophet wearing a bomb for a turban, was one of 12 original pictures that caused uproar in the Islamic world when they were first published in 2005, as any depiction of Prophet Mohamed is strictly forbidden in Islam.

The decision to reprint the cartoon was taken after a plot to kill its illustrator Kurt Westergaard by two Algerian nationals and a Danish national of Moroccan descent was uncovered.

The republication was intended to be in defense of free speech and a gesture of solidarity with Westergaard, and was also published in French, Swedish, Dutch and Spanish papers.

Denmark’s Ambassador in Cairo Christian Hoppe told Daily News Egypt that the Danish government has the “greatest respect for Islam and has no intention to insult the religion or Muslims.

He said that the government was not responsible for what was published in the country’s press, but added that freedom of expression is “ingrained in the political culture of Western countries.

A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Essam El-Erian, told Daily News Egypt that a distinction had to be made between freedom of expression and targeted insults.

He insisted that the Muslim Brotherhood was in favor of free speech, but put the printing of the cartoons down to a misunderstanding in Western countries of the significance of religion in the Muslim world.

At the same time he strongly condemned the violent reaction by some members of Denmark’s Muslim population.

“This is not the solution, he said. “There needs to be dialogue, not violence.

Muslims in Denmark largely blamed the Danish media rather than the public or the government, saying it had stirred controversy instead of trying to improve community relations.

Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Islamic Faith Community (IFC) in Copenhagen, which organized a delegation to the Middle East to complain about the cartoons in 2005, said that even though printing the cartoons “was like a knife in our hearts, the group would not take action.

“We have no plans to travel abroad or export this problem, he said from a mosque in Copenhagen. “Now we have decided to neglect and ignore any possible provocation.

Mostafa Chendid, an imam at the IFC called the decision to reprint the cartoon “very foolish adding that it did “not help building the bridges we need.

Former member of the Islamic Research Center in Cairo Sheikh Saber Taalab blamed the Danish media of sowing division in Denmark and deliberately provoking Muslims.

Taalab cast doubt on the newspapers’ stated intention of defending free speech, and said that the right to free speech should not mean a free-for-all.

“I couldn’t stand naked in the street just for freedom of speech, Taalab told Daily News Egypt. “Before I do something it is necessary to take into account the effect it will have on other people.

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