Mohammed Cartoons, Plus Photo and Stories about Mohammed Cartoons
Iraqi Shiite Muslims stomp on a painting of the Danish flag denouncing the country's publication of a cartoon of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, in the holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Denmark is receiving Muslim protests over the newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in one of their major news publications. A series of caricatures, published Sept. 30 in the Danish Jyllands-Posten daily, angered Muslims that show the prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. (AP Photo/Alaa al- Marjani)
Protests Over Muhammad Cartoons Escalate
By IBRAHIM BARZAK,Associated Press Writer
Thu Feb 2, 5:49 PM ET
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Outrage over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad escalated in the Arab and Islamic world Thursday, with Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapping a German citizen and protesters in Pakistan chanting "death to France" and "death to Denmark."
Palestinian militants surrounded European Union headquarters in Gaza, and gunmen burst into several hotels and apartments in the West Bank in search of foreigners to take hostage.
In Iraq, Islamic leaders urged worshippers to stage demonstrations from Baghdad to the southern city of Basra following weekly prayer services Friday. Afghanistan and Indonesia condemned the drawings, and Iran summoned the Austrian ambassador, whose country holds the EU presidency.
The issue opened divisions among European Union governments. Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said EU leaders have a responsibility to "clearly condemn" insults to any religion. But French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said he preferred "an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship."
Sarkozy joined journalists in rallying around the editorial director of France Soir, who was fired by the newspaper's Egyptian owner. France Soir and several other newspapers across Europe reprinted the caricatures this week in a show of support for freedom of expression.
The cartoons were first published in September in a Danish newspaper, touching off anger among Muslims who knew about it. The issue reignited last week after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark.
The Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, had asked 40 cartoonists to draw images of the prophet. The purpose, its chief editor said, was "to examine whether people would succumb to self-censorship, as we have seen in other cases when it comes to Muslim issues."
Islamic law, based on clerics' interpretation of the Quran and the sayings of the prophet, forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and other major religious figures — even positive ones — to prevent idolatry. Shiite Muslim clerics differ in that they allow images of their greatest saint, Ali, the prophet's son-in-law, though not Muhammad.
Critics say the drawings were particularly insulting because some appeared to ridicule Muhammad. One cartoon showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.
France's Grand Rabbi Joseph Sitruk said he shared Muslim anger.
"We gain nothing by lowering religions, humiliating them and making caricatures of them. It's a lack of honesty and respect," he said. He said freedom of expression "is not a right without limits."
In the Arab world, a Jordanian newspaper, Shihan, took the bold step Thursday of running some of the drawings, saying it wanted to show its readers how offensive the cartoons were but also urging the world's Muslims to "be reasonable." Its editorial noted that Jyllands-Posten had apologized, "but for some reason, nobody in the Muslim world wants to hear the apology."
Hours later, the Jordanian government threatened legal action against Shihan, and the owners of the weekly said they had fired its chief editor, Jihad al-Momani, and withdrawn the issue from sale.
The outrage Thursday was most tangible in the Palestinian territories, where Norway and Denmark closed diplomatic offices after masked gunmen threatened to kidnap foreigners in Gaza.
Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank searched several hotels, and a German citizen was briefly kidnapped by gunmen from a hotel in the city of Nablus. Palestinian police freed the German, a teacher, after less than an hour.
Foreign reporters either pulled out of Gaza on Thursday or canceled plans to go to the coastal strip.
Palestinian security officials said they would try to protect foreigners in Gaza. Nineteen foreigners have been kidnapped in Gaza in recent months; all were freed unharmed.
The protests in the Palestinian territories came a week after the Islamic militant group Hamas defeated the ruling Fatah Party in parliamentary elections.
In one unusual twist, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, visited a Gaza church Thursday and promised protection to Christians after Fatah gunmen threatened to target churches as part of their protests. Zahar offered to dispatch gunmen from Hamas' military wing, the Izzedine al Qassam Brigades, to guard the church.
"You are our brothers," Zahar told Father Manuel Musallam of the Holy Family Church.
In Gaza City, a dozen gunmen linked to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' defeated Fatah Party surrounded the EU Commission's local office.
One of the militants, flanked by two masked men with assault rifles, said the governments of Germany, France, Norway and Denmark must apologize for the cartoons by Thursday evening. If no apology is issued, the gunmen said they would target citizens of the four countries and shut down media offices, including the French news agency.
"Any citizens of these countries, who are present in Gaza, will put themselves in danger," the gunman said.
About 10 armed Palestinians gathered later at the French cultural center in Gaza City and warned of a "tough response" to any further disparagement of Muhammad.
Only a few dozen foreigners from the targeted countries were in Gaza on Thursday. Many others pulled out in recent months, following a spate of abductions of foreigners by Fatah-linked gunmen.
Danish and French members of an international observer team at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt stayed away from Gaza on Thursday, and instead worked from the group's headquarters in the Israeli town of Ashkelon, said a spokesman, Julio de La Guardia.
Gunhild Forselv, spokeswoman for the international mission in the West Bank town of Hebron, said she was in touch with community leaders and was not concerned for the safety of the 72-member observer force, which includes 21 Norwegians and 11 Danes. "We don't feel threatened," she said.
The EU's election observers were winding down operations, as planned, said Mathias Eick, who is German. He said the Gaza office had been closed and that 49 observers were in Ramallah. "There were security risks even before the election and nothing has changed," he said.
Norway closed its representative office in the West Bank to the public because of the threats, but said the 23-member staff remained on the job.
The Danish Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen said all Danes, except for two diplomats, have left the West Bank and Gaza in recent days. The Danish representative office in the West Bank was to be closed Friday because of the threats, a diplomat said.
In Nablus, gunmen from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent Fatah offshoot, went to four hotels and told staff they must not host Europeans from the targeted countries. The gunmen said they searched two apartments for foreigners to kidnap, but didn't find any. Foreigners now have three days to leave town, the gunmen said in an impromptu news conference after their fruitless search.
Muslims Again Protest Muhammad Caricatures
By QASSIM ABDEL-ZAHRA
Associated Press Writer
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Tens of thousands of angry Muslims marched through Palestinian cities, burning the Danish flag and calling for vengeance Friday against European countries where caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad were published.
Angry protests against the drawings were spread in the Muslim world.
In Iraq, thousands demonstrated after Friday mosque services, and the country's leading Shiite cleric denounced the drawings. About 4,500 people rallied in Basra and hundreds at a Baghdad mosque. Danish flags were burned at both demonstrations.
Muslims in Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia demonstrated against the European nations whose papers published them.
The caricatures, including one depicting the Muslim prophet wearing a turban fashioned into a bomb, were reprinted in Norwegian, French, German and, even, Jordanian papers after first appearing in a Danish paper in September. The caricatures were republished after Muslims decried the images as insulting to their prophet. Dutch-language newspapers in Belgium and two Italian right-wing papers reprinted the drawings Friday.
Islamic law, based on clerics' interpretation of the Quran and the sayings of the prophet, forbids depiction's of the Prophet Muhammad and other major religious figures — even positive ones — to prevent idolatry. Shiite Muslim clerics differ in that they allow images of their greatest saint, Ali, the prophet's son-in-law, though not Muhammad.
Danish Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen, in a meeting with the Egyptian ambassador, reiterated his stance that the government cannot interfere with issues concerning the press. On Monday, he said his government could not apologize on behalf of a newspaper, but that he personally "never would have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or any other religious character in a way that could offend other people."
Early Friday, Palestinian militants threw a bomb at a French cultural center in Gaza City, and many Palestinians began boycotting European goods, especially those from Denmark.
"Whoever defames our prophet should be executed," said Ismail Hassan, 37, a tailor who marched through the pouring rain along with hundreds of others in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Bin Laden our beloved, Denmark must be blown up," protesters in Ramallah chanted.
In mosques throughout Palestinian cities, clerics condemned the cartoons. An imam at the Omari Mosque in Gaza City told 9,000 worshippers that those behind the drawings should have their heads cut off.
"If they want a war of religions, we are ready," Hassan Sharaf, an imam in Nablus, said in his sermon.
About 10,000 demonstrators, including gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas firing in the air, marched through Gaza City to the Palestinian legislature, where they climbed on the roof, waving green Hamas banners.
"We are ready to redeem you with our souls and our blood our beloved prophet," they chanted."Down, Down Denmark."
Thousands of protesters in the center of Nablus burned at least 10 Danish flags. In Jenin, about 1,500 people demonstrated, burning Danish dairy products. Hundreds protested in Jericho, and protests were held in towns throughout Gaza.
Fearing an outbreak of violence, Israel barred all Palestinians under age 45 from praying at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.
Nevertheless, about 100 men chanting Islamic slogans and carrying a green Hamas flag demonstrated outside Jerusalem's Old City on Friday afternoon. The crowd scattered when police on horseback arrived, and some of the protesters threw rocks. Police broke up a second demonstration at Damascus Gate with tear gas and stun grenades.
In Iraq, the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.
"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.
Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.
He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."
"Enemies have exploited this . . . to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said.
The drawings were first published in September in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The issue reignited last week after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark and many European newspapers reprinted them this week.
The Jyllands-Posten had asked 40 cartoonists to draw images of the prophet. The purpose, its chief editor said, was "to examine whether people would succumb to self-censorship, as we have seen in other cases when it comes to Muslim issues."
The 12 caricatures have prompted boycotts of Danish goods, bomb threats and demonstrations in front of Danish embassies across the Islamic world. Muslims have also directed their anger at other European countries, with Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapping a German citizen Thursday and surrounding European Union headquarters in Gaza.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying the caricatures are an attack on "our spiritual values" which have damaged efforts to establish an alliance between the Muslim world and Europe.
Hundreds of Turks emerging from mosques following Friday prayers staged demonstrations, including one in front of the Danish consulate in Istanbul.
"Hands that reach Islam must be broken," chanted a group of extremists outside the Merkez Mosque in Istanbul.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 150 hardline Muslims stormed a high-rise building housing the Danish Embassy on Friday and tore down and burned the country's flag.
Pakistan's parliament unanimously voted to condemn the drawings as a "vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign" that has "hurt the faith and feelings of Muslims all over the world." About 800 people protested in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, chanting "Death to Denmark" and "Death to France." Another rally in the southern city of Karachi drew 1,200 people.
Fundamentalist Muslims protested outside the Danish Embassy in Malaysia, chanting "Long live Islam, destroy our enemies."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw criticized European media outlets for republishing the caricatures as demonstrators prepared to take to the streets of London.
Associated Press Writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad, Iraq; Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara, Turkey; Benjamin Harvey in Istanbul, Turkey; Maria Sanminiatelli in Rome; Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark; Munir Ahmad in Islamabad, Pakistan; and Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
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And always remember Steve's words of political wisdom:
THE HOUSE OF SAUD MUST BE DESTROYED!