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Muslim World Protests Prophet Caricatures Despite Apology

DW staff / AFP (win)January 31, 2006

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated Tuesday at the urging of the radical faction Islamic Jihad to denounce caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in Danish and Norwegian publications.

A poster of the Danish premier (right) along those denouncing Bush and Israeli PM OlmertImage: AP

A large picture of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was set alight during the protest outside the UN compound in Gaza City.

Angry protestors also torched pictures of Israel's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush while gunmen fired the customary volleys of bullets into the air.

"This barbarous offensive on Islam is the result of a campaign of incitement against Islam waged by Bush," Nafez Azzam, a Jihad leader, told reporters.

Dozens of people also demonstrated outside the Danish embassy in Tel Aviv.

Blasphemie gegen Blasphemie
A Palestinian child steps on a Danish national flagImage: AP

"It is forbidden to harm the Prophet and the symbols of Islam," the demonstrators shouted before submitting a petition and demanding a formal apology from the Danish government. "We are ready to die for our Prophet."

Cartoon first printed last September

The controversy over the depiction in cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was ignited by conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September. On Jan. 10, the Norwegian Christian publication, Magazinet, reprinted the 12 satirical cartoons as a gesture of solidarity.

The caricatures include a portrayal of the Muslim prophet wearing a time-bomb shaped turban and show him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black.

Gottesfürchtig Shoppen, Boykott dänischer Produkte
"We have stopped dealing with Danish products," reads this sign in a store in KuwaitImage: AP

Muslims consider any images of Mohammed as blasphemous.

Anger has spread throughout the Muslim world, with scores of Arab countries, institutions and organizations calling for a boycott of Danish and Norwegian products.

Several ambassadors to Denmark have been recalled and Scandinavians in some Muslim countries have been threatened.

One apology, many regrets

Mohammed Zeichnungen Anders Fogh Rasmussen Ministerpräsident Dänemark
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh RasmussenImage: AP

Jyllands-Posten's editor has apologized for offending Muslims in comments welcomed by Rasmussen, who himself refused to apologize on behalf of the Danish people.

"These cartoons were not in violation of Danish law but have irrefutably offended many Muslims, and for that we apologize," Carsten Juste wrote in a letter to the Petra news agency in Jordan.

On Tuesday, the Norwegian magazine also expressed its regrets for causing offense but stopped short of issuing an apology.

Magazinet's editor-in-chief, Vebjoern Selbekk, said that the reprinting of the cartoons was "not aimed at provoking" Muslims and that it was justifiable under freedom of expression laws.

"To regret the use of freedom of expression in a democratic society would damage our democratic foundations," he said.

Norwegen jetzt auch böse
Members of a Palestinian militant group burn a Norwegian flagImage: AP

The Norwegian government on Tuesday reiterated that it regretted if Muslims were offended but stressed its belief in fundamental rights.

"We will not apologize because in a country like Norway, which guarantees the freedom of expression, we cannot apologize for what the newspapers" print, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told Norwegian daily NTB.

"But I am sorry that this may have hurt many Muslims."