Belgium Muslim leader calls on Arabs to use Danish flag as a substitute for toilet paper

February 06, 2006

* This is follow up to “War on Denmark! Death to Denmark!” (& Oprah visits Auschwitz) (Feb. 1, 2006)

 

CONTENTS

1. Some in Europe say: We are all Danes now
2. Continuing terror all but ignored by Western press
3. “Danish cartoonists fear for their lives” (The Times of London, Feb. 4, 2006)
4. “Arab leader calls on Arabs to use Danish flag as toilet paper” (IRNA, Feb. 4, 2006)
5. “U.S. sides with Muslims in cartoon dispute” (Reuters, Feb. 3, 2006)
6. “‘Inquirer’ one of few U.S. papers to publish ‘Muhammad’ cartoon” (E&P, Feb. 3, 2006)
7. “Islamic group posts anti-Jew cartoons” (AP, Feb. 5, 2006)
8. “Jewish dignitaries condemn Muhammad cartoon” (European Jewish Press, Feb. 2, 2006)



SOME IN EUROPE SAY: WE ARE ALL DANES NOW

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach further articles concerning the ongoing protests over Danish cartoons. Today’s dispatch is split into two for space reasons. This dispatch contains news reports, the other dispatch has opinion and comment articles. There are summaries first, for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

Among news developments: Today in Afghanistan, a man was shot dead in protests over the cartoons, and petrol bombs were thrown at the Austrian embassy in Iran. In Gaza on Saturday, a Polish couple were kidnapped by unknown gunmen as they were driving in one of the main streets in Gaza City. Once it was discovered that the two victims were of Palestinian origin, they were released. About two dozen Palestinians burst into the German cultural center in Gaza on Saturday, smashing windows and breaking doors. Yesterday the Danish consulate in Beirut was destroyed, and the day before the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus were burned down.

CONTINUING TERROR ALL BUT IGNORED BY WESTERN PRESS

While western newspapers have been comprehensively covering the cartoon row, most have failed to cover the ongoing terror attacks against Israeli civilians:

* Yesterday, an elderly woman was murdered on a bus in Petah Tikva (near Tel Aviv) by a knife-wielding Palestinian man, and another five Israelis injured, some severely. Ismail Haniya, who was Hamas’s top candidate in the January 25 election, last night told journalists that the attack in Petah Tikva was justified.

* Two Palestinians were caught with suicide bombs strapped to them, attempting to enter Israel on Friday.

* Qassam rockets fired from Gaza at a kibbutz in southern Israel resulted in a seven-month old Israeli baby boy sustaining a fractured skull, and four members of his family being wounded.

* Two longer-ranged rockets fired from Gaza hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

However, despite these attacks, Israel yesterday agreed to transfer to the PA tens of millions of dollars in customs duties which had been frozen after Hamas’s election victory. The PA General, meanwhile, announced that his investigation so far shows that at least $700 million has been stolen from the PA accounts in recent years. Ahmad Al-Mughni told a news conference that because the corruption is so widespread it’s difficult to put an exact figure on the amount that’s gone missing. He estimated the final tally as high as “billions of dollars.”

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

“DANISH CARTOONISTS FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES”

“Danish cartoonists fear for their lives” (The Times of London, February 4, 2006)

Twelve Danish cartoonists whose pictures sparked such outcry have gone into hiding under round-the-clock protection, fearing for their lives… A spokesman for the cartoonists said: “They are in hiding around Denmark. Some of them are really, really scared. They don’t want to see the pictures reprinted all over the world. We couldn’t stop it. We tried, but we couldn’t.”

…The cartoonists’ names were originally printed in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. Flemming Rose, the paper’s cultural editor, invited 25 newspaper cartoonists to draw a picture of Muhammad “how they saw him”, after a children’s author complained that cartoonists would only dare illustrate a book he was writing on the life of Muhammad if they could be anonymous. Twelve cartoonists responded, had their pictures printed in September, and were paid 800 Danish krone ($122) each.

In an interview with a Swedish newspaper this week, some of the cartoonists expressed their doubts about the entire episode. “It felt a little like a lose-lose situation. If I said no, I was a coward who contributes to self-censorship. If I said yes, I became an irresponsible hate monger against Islam,” one of the cartoonists said…

 

“I CALL UPON EVERY FREE SOUL AMONG ARABS TO USE THE DANISH FLAG AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR TOILET PAPER”

“Leader of Arab-European group calls on Arabs to use Danish flag as substitute for toilet paper” (IRNA, Iranian national news agency, February 4, 2006)

The leader of the Belgium-based Arab- European League (AEL), Dyab Abou Jahjah, has condemned the double standards of the West regarding freedom of speech as far as Muslims are concerned… “Muslims and others in Europe cannot say everything they often want to say and they risk being arrested and prosecuted if they do.

“Muslims and other religious people cannot express their disgust from homosexuality and clearly state that they believe it’s a sickness and a deviation without being persecuted for being homophobic.

“People in Europe are not allowed to make a free historical examination of the Second World War and the holocaust and freely express an opinion on it that is different from the dominating dogmatic line…

“Yes Arabs and Muslims are uptight when you touch their religious and national symbols, but Europe had made of political correctness and the cult of the holocaust and Jew worshiping its alternative religion,” he went on to say.

Abou Jahjah concluded by saying, “I am for the absolute freedom of speech everywhere, and that’s why I call upon every free soul among Arabs to use the Danish flag as a substitute for toilet paper.”…

 

U.S. SIDES WITH MUSLIMS IN CARTOON DISPUTE

“US sides with Muslims in cartoon dispute” (Reuters, February 3, 2006)

Washington on Friday condemned caricatures in European newspapers of the Prophet Mohammad, siding with Muslims who are outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.

“These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”…

 

ALMOST ALL U.S. NEWSPAPERS CHOOSE NOT TO PUBLISH THE CARTOONS

“‘Inquirer’ One of Few U.S. Papers to Publish ‘Muhammad’ Cartoon” (The Editor and Publisher, February 3, 2006)

…Nearly all U.S. newspapers have chosen not to publish the cartoons. Although most American papers have covered the issue, with many running Page One stories, most contend the cartoons are too offensive to run, and can be properly reported through descriptions…

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer, day after complaining that The Associated Press should at least distribute the images and allow members papers to make the call, decided to publish one of the drawings on Saturday.

The cartoon was being published “discreetly” with a note explaining the rationale, said Amanda Bennett, The Inquirer’s editor.

“This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do,” Bennett told the AP. “We’re running this in order to give people a perspective of what the controversy’s about, not to titillate, and we have done that with a whole wide range of images throughout our history...You run it because there’s a news reason to run it,” Bennett said…

But the vast majority of other top editors seemed to disagree, for now.

“They wouldn’t meet our standards for what we publish in the paper,” said Leonard Downie, Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post, which has not published the cartoons. “We have standards about racial sensitivity and general good taste.”*

[* Tom Gross adds: The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, complained yesterday that The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have published guest commentaries by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk. The ambassador said that while he holds freedom of the press in high regard, he expects newspapers to be able to distinguish between legitimate national claims and incitement to hatred.]

…At USA Today, deputy foreign editor Jim Michaels said “I am not sure running it would advance the story.” Although he acknowledged that the cartoons have news value, he said the offensive nature overshadows that…

The Los Angeles Times said in a statement “Our newsroom and op-ed page editors, independently of each other, determined that the caricatures could be deemed offensive to some readers and the there were effective ways to cover the controversy without running the images themselves.”

The cartoons, which include one of the Muslim prophet wearing a turban fashioned into a bomb, have been reprinted in papers in Norway, France, Germany and Jordan after first running in a Danish paper last September…

Mike Days, editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, said the paper might run the cartoons along with comments from experts in Muslim law so that the reasons behind the controversy are clear. It appears the New York Sun is the only American daily to run the images…

Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor, said “We have a very longstanding policy of not distributing material that is found to be offensive.”…

[* Tom Gross adds: Many papers have had no problem in the past running images and stories offensive to Christians and Jews. For example, the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina ran an image of a controversial piece of artwork, in which a crucifix was placed in a glass of urine.]

 

PROTEST CARTOON SHOWS ANNE FRANK IN BED WITH HITLER

“Islamic group posts anti-Jew cartoons” (AP, February 5, 2006)

A Belgian-Dutch Islamic political organization, the Arab European League, posted anti-Jewish cartoons on its website in response to the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that appeared in Danish papers last year and offended many Muslims…

One of the AEL cartoons displayed an image of famed Dutch Holocaust victim Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler, and another questioned whether the Holocaust actually occurred…

Dyab Abou Jahjah, the party’s founder and best-known figure, defended the action on the Dutch television program Nova Saturday. “Europe has its sacred cows, even if they’re not religious sacred cows,” he told the program…

The AEL stood in Belgian elections in 1999 and 2003 under different names but failed to get more than one percent of the vote…

 

JEWISH DIGNITARIES CONDEMN CARTOONS

“Jewish dignitaries condemn Muhammad cartoon” (European Jewish Press, February 2, 2006)

France’s Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk and the central Jewish Consistoire joined their Muslim and Christian counterparts on Thursday denouncing press drawings portraying Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The caricatures were printed on Wednesday in the French evening paper France Soir and in a dozen other European newspapers after their publication in other European newspapers...

Rabbi Michel Serfaty, from the Jewish Muslim friendship association, said believes that press drawings of biblical figures or Jesus Christ can be printed, but not Muslim caricatures… Rabbi Serfaty said “We must let Muslims develop their own self-criticism by themselves.”…



FULL ARTICLES

“IT’S BLOWN UP SO BIG”

Danish cartoonists fear for their lives
By Anthony Browne
The Times (of London)
February 4, 2006

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2024306,00.html

Twelve Danish cartoonists whose pictures sparked such outcry have gone into hiding under round-the-clock protection, fearing for their lives.

The cartoonists, many of whom had reservations about the pictures, have been shocked by how the affair has escalated into a global “clash of civilisations”. They have since tried, unsuccessfully, to stop them being reprinted.

A spokesman for the cartoonists said: “They are in hiding around Denmark. Some of them are really, really scared. They don’t want to see the pictures reprinted all over the world. We couldn’t stop it. We tried, but we couldn’t.”

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Union of Journalists, told The Times: “They are keeping a very low profile. They are very concerned about their safety. They feel a big responsibility on their shoulders. It’s blown up so big. It is tough for them.”

The cartoonists’ names were originally printed in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. Flemming Rose, the paper’s cultural editor, invited 25 newspaper cartoonists to draw a picture of Muhammad “how they saw him”, after a children’s author complained that cartoonists would only dare illustrate a book he was writing on the life of Muhammad if they could be anonymous. Twelve cartoonists responded, had their pictures printed in September, and were paid 800 Danish krone ($122) each.

In an interview with a Swedish newspaper this week, some of the cartoonists expressed their doubts about the entire episode. “It felt a little like a lose-lose situation. If I said no, I was a coward who contributes to self-censorship. If I said yes, I became an irresponsible hate monger against Islam,” one of the cartoonists said.

Another said: “I was actually angry when I first received the letter [from Jyllands-Posten]. I thought it was a really bad idea. At first I didn’t want to participate, but then I talked it over with some friends from the Middle East, and they thought I should do it.”

The cartoonists come from a variety of different political backgrounds, which is reflected in their work. While some of the pictures satirise Muhammad, others attack populist right-wing politicians and even Jyllands-Posten itself, which is rightwing.

Having failed to stop the cartoons being reprinted across Europe, the cartoonists have now decided to use all the money raised from the sales of the pictures to set up a foundation which will award an annual international prize for press freedom.

 

“I CALL UPON EVERY FREE SOUL AMONG ARABS TO USE THE DANISH FLAG AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR TOILET PAPER”

Leader of Arab-European group calls on Arabs to use Danish flag as substitute for toilet paper
IRNA (Iranian national news agency)
February 4, 2006

www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-20/0602048360112131.htm

The leader of the Belgium-based Arab- European League (AEL), Dyab Abou Jahjah, has condemned the double standards of the West regarding freedom of speech as far as Muslims are concerned.

“Europeans think that freedom of speech is guaranteed in Europe, and that they are defending it against Islamic pressure. Reality, however, presents us with Muslims living in Europe with another experience,” said Abou Jahjah in an article posted on the AEL’s website.

“Muslims and others in Europe cannot say everything they often want to say and they risk being arrested and prosecuted if they do.

“Muslims and other religious people cannot express their disgust from homosexuality and clearly state that they believe it’s a sickness and a deviation without being persecuted for being homophobic.

“People in Europe are not allowed to do a free historical examination of the Second World War and the holocaust and freely express an opinion on it that is different from the dominating dogmatic line.

“Any attempt to have deviant historical examination of the holocaust will earn you the title of revisionist, anti-Semitic and a jail sentence,” he further wrote.

“I would be curious to see the reactions of these champions of freedom of speech in case some Danish paper would have published pictures of Jewish rabbis, or Moses for that matter, with a Jewish nose, the star of David and represented him as a greedy banker or other form of economical parasite sucking the blood of the people.

“Yes Arabs and Muslims are uptight when you touch their religious and national symbols, but Europe had made of political correctness and the cult of the holocaust and Jew worshiping its alternative religion,” he went on to say.

Abou Jahjah concluded by saying, “I am for the absolute freedom of speech everywhere, and that’s why I call upon every free soul among Arabs to use the Danish flag as a substitute for toilet paper.” Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten last September first published the blasphemous cartoons on Propher Mohammad (PBUH) which were later reprinted in many European papers.

The AEL, based in Antwerp and with branches in other European countries, says it is a political and social movement that stands for the rights of Arab and Muslim communities in Europe and Arab causes in general.

The AEL stands also for solidarity with all Muslim peoples and communities and all oppressed peoples of the world.

 

U.S. SIDES WITH MUSLIMS IN CARTOON DISPUTE

US sides with Muslims in cartoon dispute
Reuters
February 3, 2006

Washington on Friday condemned caricatures in European newspapers of the Prophet Mohammad, siding with Muslims who are outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.

“These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”

“We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices,” he added.

Major U.S. publications have not republished the cartoons, which include depictions of Mohammad as a terrorist. That is in contrast to European media, which responded to the criticism against the original Danish newspaper that printed the caricatures by republishing the offensive images themselves.

 

“NEARLY ALL U.S. NEWSPAPERS HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO PUBLISH THE CARTOONS”

‘Inquirer’ One of Few U.S. Papers to Publish ‘Muhammad’ Cartoon
By Joe Strupp
The Editor and Publisher
February 3, 2006

www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001957270

As a collection of controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad circulates online and through some European publications, prompting numerous acts of violence abroad, nearly all U.S. newspapers have chosen not to publish the cartoons.

Although most American papers have covered the issue, with many running Page One stories, most contend the cartoons are too offensive to run, and can be properly reported through descriptions. While some have linked to the images on the Web, others are considering publishing one or more of them next week.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer, day after complaining that The Associated Press should at least distribute the images and allow members papers to make the call, decided to publish one of the drawings on Saturday.

The cartoon was being published “discreetly” with a note explaining the rationale, said Amanda Bennett, The Inquirer’s editor.

“This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do,” Bennett told the AP. “We’re running this in order to give people a perspective of what the controversy’s about, not to titillate, and we have done that with a whole wide range of images throughout our history...You run it because there’s a news reason to run it, ” Bennett said. “The controversy does not appear to have died down. It’s still a news issue.”

But the vast majority of other top editors seemed to disagree, for now.

“They wouldn’t meet our standards for what we publish in the paper,” said Leonard Downie, Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post, which ran a front-page story on the issue Friday, but has not published the cartoons. “We have standards about language, religious sensitivity, racial sensitivity and general good taste.”

Downie, who said the images also had not been placed on the Post Web site, compared the decision to similar choices not to run offensive photos of dead bodies or offensive language. “We described them,” he said of such images. “Just like in the case of covering the hurricanes in New Orleans or terrorist attacks in Iraq. We will describe horrific scenes.”

At USA Today, deputy foreign editor Jim Michaels offered a similar explanation. “At this point, I’m not sure there would be a point to it,” he said about publishing the cartoons. “We have described them, but I am not sure running it would advance the story.” Although he acknowledged that the cartoons have news value, he said the offensive nature overshadows that.

“It has been made clear that it is offensive,” Michaels said when asked if the paper was afraid of sparking violence or other kinds of backlash. “I don’t know if fear is the right word. But we came down on the side that we could serve readers well without a depiction that is offensive.”

The Los Angeles Times sent this statement to E&P this afternoon: “Our newsroom and op-ed page editors, independently of each other, determined that the caricatures could be deemed offensive to some readers and the there were effective ways to cover the controversy without running the images themselves.”

The cartoons, which include one of the Muslim prophet wearing a turban fashioned into a bomb, have been reprinted in papers in Norway, France, Germany and Jordan after first running in a Danish paper last September. The drawings were published again recently after some Muslims decried them as insulting to their prophet, AP reported, adding that Dutch-language newspapers in Belgium and two Italian “right-wing” papers reprinted the drawings Friday.

Islamic law, according to most clerics’ interpretations of the Quran, forbids depictions of Muhammad and other major religious figures -- even positive images.

Tens of thousands of angry Muslims marched through Palestinian cities, burning the Danish flag and calling for vengeance Friday against European countries where the caricatures were published. In Washington, the State Department criticized the drawings, calling them “offensive to the beliefs of Muslims.”

Still, most American newspapers are not publishing the cartoons, sticking mostly to the view that they constitute offensive images. “You want to make sure that you are sensitive to the cultural sensitivities,” said Mike Days, editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, which may run the images next week, but remains cautious. “I think you want to do it in a way that makes sense. I am not so sure the average American understands what the controversy is about, the use of the images of Muhammad.”

Days said the paper might run the cartoons along with comments from experts in Muslim law so that the reasons behind the controversy are clear. It appears the New York Sun is the only American daily to run the images, according to The Washington Times.

Anne Gordon, Philadelpia Inquirer managing editor, criticized the Associated Press for not distributing images of the cartoons to member newspapers. Although Gordon understands the concerns about sensitivity, she said AP should allow each paper to make up its own mind.

“It is not AP’s role to withhold information from news cooperative members,” Gordon said. “They are a co-op and we believe they overstepped their bounds to independently withhold the cartoon. It is not their decision to make independently.”

Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor, said the news cooperative has long withheld images it deemed offensive, such as photos and video of beheadings. “We have a very longstanding policy of not distributing material that is found to be offensive,” she said, adding that the Inquirer was the only newspaper she knew of that had specifically requested the images from AP. “These images have not met that standard.”

But Carroll also agreed with some other editors who said the cartoons did not add to the news coverage in a major way. “If people want to find them, they are easily found,” she said.

Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, agreed that the offensive nature precluded running the cartoons. “It has become a part of great angst and I don’t see any reason to run it, you can just describe it,” he said of the cartoon images. “I don’t see a need to insert ourselves in that fight.”

Clifton recalled his time at the Charlotte [N.C.] Observer years ago, when the paper ran an image of a controversial piece of artwork, in which a crucifix was placed in a glass of urine. “You knew you would get an outpouring of anger,” he recalled. “If I thought there were very good editorial reasons for running it, we’d run it. But I don’t think there are.”

But Clifton said his paper will likely place a link to the images from another site when it runs an editorial on the issue Saturday or Sunday. “They will have the option to see it if they choose,” he said about the Web readers. “The [print] newspaper reaches a much, much broader audience.”

 

PROTEST CARTOON SHOWS ANNE FRANK IN BED WITH HITLER

Islamic group posts anti-Jew cartoons
Protest cartoons posted by Belgian-Dutch group show Anne Frank in bed with Hitler
The Associated Press
February 5, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3211339,00.html

A Belgian-Dutch Islamic political organization, the Arab European League, posted anti-Jewish cartoons on its website in response to the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that appeared in Danish papers last year and offended many Muslims.

The cartoons were posted on the Arab European League’s site on Saturday. It was not working Sunday morning because of exceeded bandwidth.

The site carried a disclaimer saying the images were being shown as part of an exercise in free speech rather than to endorse their content - just as European newspapers have reprinted the Danish cartoons.

One of the AEL cartoons displayed an image of famed Dutch Holocaust victim Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler, and another questioned whether the Holocaust actually occurred.

‘Europe has its sacred cows’

Dyab Abou Jahjah, the party’s founder and best-known figure, defended the action on the Dutch television program Nova Saturday.

“Europe has its sacred cows, even if they’re not religious sacred cows,” he told the program.

Denying the Holocaust is illegal under most European hate speech laws, which outlaw intimidating or inciting hatred toward groups on the basis of their ethnic, cultural, religious or sexual identity. Complaints about alleged hate speech are common but prosecutions are rare and convictions very rare.

The AEL espouses nonviolence but has gained a reputation for extremist views, and opposes Muslims integrating with non-Muslims. It promotes the participation of Muslims in political dialogue in European countries, but is internally divided as to whether or not to participate in elections directly.

It stood in Belgian elections in 1999 and 2003 under different names but failed to get more than one percent of the vote. The Dutch arm has had problems finding a leader and has said it has no immediate plans to participate in elections.

 

JEWISH DIGNITARIES CONDEMN CARTOONS

Jewish dignitaries condemn Muhammad cartoon

France’s Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, central Jewish Consistoire join Muslim, Christian counterparts in denouncing press drawings portraying Islamic prophet Muhammad
By Shirli Sitbon
European Jewish Press
February 2, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3210191,00.html

France’s Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk and the central Jewish Consistoire joined their Muslim and Christian counterparts on Thursday denouncing press drawings portraying Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The caricatures were printed on Wednesday in the French evening paper France Soir and in a dozen other European newspapers after their publication in

Rabbi Michel Serfaty, from the Jewish Muslim friendship association, said believes that press drawings of biblical figures or Jesus Christ can be printed, but not Muslim caricatures.

“The Christians and us are used to this,” he told EJP. “We’ve been living in this free speech environment for centuries. They’ve just arrived. We don’t care about these caricatures but they get hurt.”

Asked whether Muslims wouldn’t feel insulted if their religion is treated differently from others, Rabbi Serfaty told EJP that “the important issue now is to reach civilian peace. We must let Muslims develop their own self-criticism by themselves.”

Many French readers didn’t get to see the controversial Muhammad drawings because France Soir was totally sold out and no other paper wished to publish them.

France Soir, a paper trapped with financial problems, might completely disappear in a few days. The paper’s newsroom criticized the owner’s decision to dismiss the editor, and explained this move could have been linked to his business contacts in Egypt.

He was also criticized by political figures but the government however criticized the editor of France Soir following the publication.

“France condemns everything that hurts individuals in their religious beliefs,” said a foreign ministry press release.

Freedom of expression

In Brussels, European Commission vice-president, Franco Frattini, said in a statement issued Thursday: “I can understand the feelings of indignation, frustration and sadness of the Muslim communities. Such events do not facilitate dialogue between faiths and cultures and provide barriers to the integration process to which the member states of the Union are committed.”

However the EU official, responsible for integration policy as well as the promotion and respect of fundamental rights, recalled that “one of the founding principles of our Europe is freedom of expression, including the right to criticize.”

“A difference of opinion, even if it is bitter and disrespectful, often feeds into free polemic debate, in which satire plays a full part,” he added.

“I personally regard the publication of the cartoons as somewhat imprudent, even if the satire used was aimed at a distorted interpretation of religion, such as that used by terrorists to recruit young people to their cause and turning them into fanatics, sometimes to the point of sending them into action as suicide bombers,” Frattini said.

He sharply criticized reactions and calls for boycott against Denmark and others, including the European Union.

More newspapers in France, Germany and Spain have reprinted Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, saying press freedom was more important than protests from the Muslim world.

(Yossi Lempkowicz contributed to the report.)


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.