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Theological Notebook: Continuing to Watch Islamic Protests

Developments in Prophet Drawings Case

Feb 7, 1:42 PM (ET)

By The Associated Press

Developments Tuesday in the controversy over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad:

- NATO peacekeepers exchange fire with protesters who attacked their base in a second straight day of deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan over publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Three demonstrators are killed and dozens wounded.

- An Iranian newspaper announces a contest for cartoons satirizing the Holocaust in response to the caricatures of Islam's prophet. The country's commerce minister announces Iran is cutting all trade ties with Denmark, where the drawings were first published.

- Police fire tear gas to disperse hundreds of Muslim protesters in Srinagar, India, wounding at least six demonstrators and two policemen.

- Chanting and burning effigies, about 5,000 people gather in Peshawar, Pakistan, to protest the caricatures.

- Masked Palestinian gunmen riddle a picture of the Danish prime minister with bullets and set fire to a mock Danish flag in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah.

- Thousands of Egyptians demonstrate peacefully in Cairo, demanding a boycott of Danish products and the expulsion of the Danish ambassador.

- About 50 protesters in Tehran hurled firebombs at the Norwegian Embassy; a small fire outside the embassy was quickly contained.

- Lawmakers in northern Nigeria burn Danish and Norwegian flags and bar Danish companies from bidding on a major construction project.

- Hundreds of Muslims burn a Danish flag in the Philippines in protest and urge a boycott of Denmark's products.

- Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls the protests a "global crisis" and appeals for calm.

- Denmark advises its citizens to leave Indonesia as a precaution.

- Australia temporarily closes its diplomatic missions in the Palestinian territories.

- An aid group that provides food to tens of thousands of people in Chechnya suspends operations after officials ban all Danish organizations.

- President Bush calls the Danish prime minister to express "solidarity and support" in the wake of violence over the drawings.

- China's government criticizes Western newspapers for publishing the drawings and appeals for calm.

- Japan expresses concern about mounting violence linked to the drawings and urges protesters not to further inflame tensions.




Protests Over Drawings a 'Global Crisis'

Feb 7, 11:22 AM (ET)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - Denmark's Prime Minister on Tuesday called protests over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad a global crisis and appealed for calm.

"We are now facing a growing global crisis," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. "It now is something else than the drawings in Jyllands-Posten."

The Jyllands-Posten, a Danish paper, first published the drawings that have sparked violent protests in Muslim countries worldwide. They have since been reprinted in media around the world.

Demonstrators in Afghanistan on Tuesday clashed with NATO forces, and three protesters were killed.

"Now it has become an international political matter," he said. "I urge calm and steadiness."

Outraged Muslim demonstrators, who have set fire to the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon and have held chaotic protests elsewhere, have demanded the Danish government apologize for the cartoons, which Jyllands-Posten printed in September.

But Fogh Rasmussen's statements indicated that Denmark is not contemplating changes in its strategy for responding to the spiraling tensions. Fogh Rasmussen has insisted that Denmark's press freedom culture means the government cannot apologize for what an independent newspaper does.

The newspaper has apologized for any offense caused to Muslims but has defended its printing of the drawings as a legitimate exercise in freedom of expression.

The drawings - including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - have touched a raw nerve in part because Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

"We appeal to Muslims around the world to look beyond the headlines and the rhetoric," Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said alongside Fogh Rasmussen.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry said the Danish embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, has been temporarily closed because of fears it would be stormed.

Niels Erik Andersen, Denmark's ambassador to Indonesia, said Muslims groups throughout Indonesia had been burning Danish flags and effigies of Fogh Rasmussen.

Supporters of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rally in Baghdad, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006. More than 1,000 Iraqis demonstrated in Sadr City demanding the Danish government apologize to all Muslims over the publication of the Prophet Muhammad caricatures. (AP Photo/Samir Mizban)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.





Iranian Paper Plans Holocaust Cartoons

Feb 7, 9:32 AM (ET)

By NASSER KARIMI

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hamshahri, one of Iran's largest papers, made clear the contest is a reaction to European newspapers' publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. Several people have been killed.

Hundreds of Iranians hurled stones, and sometimes gasoline bombs, at the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran in protest against the cartoons Monday. Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.

The newspaper said the contest would be launched Monday and co-sponsored by the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons. The paper and the cartoon center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his opposition to Israel.

Ahmadinejad, who was Tehran's mayor until being elected president in June, provoked outcries last year when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and the Holocaust was a "myth."

Iran said last month it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, an apparent attempt to give voice to Holocaust deniers.

Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter the competition.

"Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote, referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

The cartoons were first published by a Danish newspaper in September. As Muslim protests mounted, numerous European newspapers have reprinted them in recent days in the name of free expression, provoking wider and angrier protests.

The drawings - including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - have touched a raw nerve in part because Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.




Denmark warns cartoon row could spin out of control

Feb 7, 2:00 PM (ET)

By Per Bech Thomsen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's prime minister said on Tuesday violent Muslim protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad were a worldwide crisis spinning out of the control of governments.

"We're facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments and other authorities," Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said as anti-Danish protests spread in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Accusing "radicals, extremist and fanatics" of fanning the flames of Muslim wrath to "push forward their own agenda," he repeated a call for dialogue with offended Muslims.

"I want to appeal and reach out to all people and countries in the Muslim world. Let us work together in the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance," said the leader of the country which first published the cartoons.

Although Rasmussen received a call of support from U.S. President George W. Bush and the backing of European Union allies, there was no sign of the row abating.

U.N. peacekeepers from Norway, which has also attracted Muslim wrath after a Norwegian paper reproduced the cartoons, were attacked by mob in Afghanistan, while people and buildings from other European nations were also the object of attacks.

Rasmussem said this showed "this is not a matter between the Muslim world and Denmark alone," but it was above all Danish embassies and flags being stoned and burned by Muslims.

After Denmark's Iranian embassy was attacked for a second day, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller called Tehran to demand it protect Danish diplomats. The prime minister warned Iran it could be blocked from joining the World Trade Organization if it carried out a threatened Danish trade boycott.

SECURITY FEARS

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has apologized for the cartoons published last September and the Danish government has tried to mollify Muslims without apologizing for the newspaper. The cartoonists have gone into hiding with police protection.

Some Danes fear the row has heightened the risk of a terrorist attack in Denmark, which has 530 troops in Iraq.

In a poll by Epinion for Danish radio, about four in 10 people said publication of the cartoons meant there was now a serious risk of an attack. More than half said the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim Danes had widened because of the cartoons.

The cartoon row raised concerns for the safety of Danish troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq, though there are no plans to pull out.

"We have to change the patterns of how they patrol and take precautions to make sure we don't put them in danger," Defense Minister Soren Gade told Reuters. As well as troops in Iraq, Demark plans to double its 178-strong Afghan mission this year.

Gade also said Danish troops on U.N. peacekeeping missions in Muslim countries had changed into uniforms without the Danish flag for their own safety and aid workers in Pakistan had also removed the Danish flag from their camp.

Heeding security advice from their government, thousands of Danes canceled plans to travel to the Middle East and Indonesia. One major Danish company, dairy firm Arla, has sent some workers home as the result of a Middle East Danish boycott.

Fie Sandfeld of travel agency Star Tour said a dozen clients were being evacuated from Bali and about 3,000 Danes had canceled trips to Egypt, but those already abroad mostly wanted to stay.

"We currently have 500 guests in Egypt and 200 in Morocco. We have offered to bring them home, but the vast majority are staying," said Sandfeld. "Only four from Egypt want to come home, otherwise we are hearing that things are calm and that they are not affected by the conflict."

(Additional reporting by Kim McLaughlin)




Widespread Cartoon Protests Under Way

Feb 7, 1:03 PM (ET)

By DANIEL COONEY

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - NATO peacekeepers exchanged gunfire with protesters who attacked their base Tuesday in another day of deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, officials said. Three demonstrators were killed.

In neighboring Pakistan, 5,000 people chanting "Hang the man who insulted the prophet!" burned effigies of Denmark's prime minister and a cartoonist.

Denmark Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the protests "a growing global crisis" and appealed for calm. The Danish paper Jyllands-Posten was the first to publish the drawings, in September.

"It now is something else than the drawings in Jyllands-Posten," he said. "Now it has become an international political matter."

A prominent Iranian newspaper said it was going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust in reaction to European newspapers recently republishing the prophet drawings. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Muhammad drawings were an Israeli conspiracy motivated by anger over the victory of the militant Hamas group in last month's Palestinian elections.

The European Union, in turn, warned Iran that attempts to boycott Danish goods or cancel trade contracts with European countries would lead to a further deterioration in relations. Those relations already are strained by concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

President Bush called Fogh Rasmussen to express "solidarity and support" in the wake of the violence, the White House said Tuesday. Spokesman Scott McClellan said the leaders agreed that all sides must move forward "through dialogue and tolerance, not violence."

About 50 protesters hurled stones and firebombs at the Norwegian Embassy in Tehran. A small fire outside the embassy was quickly contained.

The drawings - including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - have touched a raw nerve partly because Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

The most violent demonstrations were in Afghanistan, where thousands of rioters clashed with police and NATO peacekeepers across the country.

About 250 protesters armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked the NATO base in the northwestern town of Maymana, burning an armored vehicle, a U.N. car and guard posts, said a Maymana Hospital doctor.

Some in the crowd fired light weapons and threw stones and hand grenades, and the Norwegian troops responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and warning shots, said Sverre Diesen, commander of Norwegian forces.

Three protesters were shot to death and 25 others were wounded, while some 50 others were hurt by tear gas fired by the peacekeepers, said Sayed Aslam Ziaratia, the provincial deputy police chief.

Seven NATO soldiers were hurt, Diesen told reporters in Oslo.

It was not clear who killed the protesters.

The United Nations pulled its staff out of Maymana, near Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, and NATO peacekeepers rushed reinforcements to the remote town. Two Norwegian aid groups began pulling international staff out of Afghanistan after Tuesday's attacks.

In the capital, Kabul, police used batons to beat stone-throwing protesters outside the Danish diplomatic mission office and near World Bank offices. Police arrest several people, many of them injured.

More than 3,000 protesters threw stones at government buildings and an Italian peacekeeping base in the western city of Herat, but no one was injured, witness Faridoon Pooyaa said.

About 5,000 people clashed with police in Pulikhumri, north of Kabul, police commander Sayed Afandi said.

Four people died and 19 were injured Monday in demonstrations.

Muslim anger has been directed at Denmark. Danish missions have been attacked and boycotts of Danish products launched in many Muslim countries.

The cartoons have been reprinted by media outlets in Europe, the United States and elsewhere - sometimes to illustrate stories about the controversy but also by some who say they were supporting free speech.

In India's portion of the disputed region of Kashmir, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters. At least six protesters and two police were injured in the clash, a police said.

The protest by 5,000 people in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar was the largest to date there against the drawings. There were no reports of violence.

Chief Minister Akram Durrani, the province's top elected official who led the rally, demanded the cartoonists "be punished like a terrorist."

"Islam ... insists that all other religions and faiths should be respected," he said. "Nobody has the right to insult Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims."

Danish citizens were advised to leave Indonesia, where rowdy protests were held in at least four cities.

The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter its Holocaust cartoon competition, which it said would be launched Monday. The newspaper is owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Tehran mayor known for his opposition to Israel.

Last year, Ahmadinejad provoked outcries when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and the Holocaust was a "myth."

An aid group that provides food to tens of thousands of people in war-ravaged Chechnya suspended its operations after Chechen officials banned all Danish organizations.

The EU's executive office warned Iran that attempts to boycott Danish goods or cancel trade contracts with European countries would lead to a further cooling of relations.

EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said the bloc was trying to confirm comments reportedly made by Ahmadinejad advocating a boycott of Danish products.

"A boycott of Danish goods is by definition a boycott of European goods," Laitenberger said. "A boycott hurts the economic interests of all parties."

Ahmadinejad also ordered his commerce minister to study scrapping all trade contacts with European countries whose newspapers published the caricatures, Iranian media reported.

Palestinian children hold an anti Danish banner during a joint Hamas and Fatah movement demonstration to protest against caricatures of Islam's prophet Muhammad in the West Bank town of Aram, just outside Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006. Hundreds of Hamas and Fatah Party protesters turned out in Aram to burn Danish flags and call for a boycott of Danish products. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Tags: cultural, ethical, europe, historical, islam, legal, media, philosophical, political, theological notebook
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