Mozart cancelled in Germany due to fear of offending Muslims (& Egypt seizes papers)

September 26, 2006

* Tunisia & Egypt seize French & German newspapers over Islam remarks
* Pakistani cleric says pope should be crucified
* Assyrian Christians murdered over pope remarks
* Ex-PM Aznar: Muslims should “apologize for occupying Spain for 800 years”
* “Nothing the Pope has ever said comes close to matching the hatred that pours out of the mouths of radical imams”



1. Tunisia and Egypt confiscate Le Figaro, Frankfurter Allgemeine
2. Mozart performance cancelled in Germany due to fear of offending Muslims
3. “Conquering Rome is the answer”
4. Hamas leader: Pope is “ignorant and stupid”
5. More churches attacked in West Bank and Gaza
6. “A conspiracy between the pope and Bush”
7. Pope meets with envoys from the Muslim world
8. Two Assyrian Christians killed in Iraq over pope remarks
9. European Union head defends pope
10. Aznar calls on Muslims to “apologize for occupying Spain for 800 years”
11. Saudi morality police will not be dissolved
12. The West should “quit saying sorry and unite”
13. “Enough apologies” (By Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, Sept. 19, 2006)
14. “Benedict’s opposite” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 26, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Authorities in Tunisia and Egypt have confiscated last Tuesday’s edition of the French newspaper Le Figaro because it ran an article which they deemed insulting to Islam.

The French daily carried a piece by philosopher Robert Redeker about the controversy over the pope’s recent remarks. Redeker described the Koran as a “book of unprecedented violence,” and accused Muslims of seeking to intimidate the West.

Redeker wrote: “Merciless warrior, pillager, murderer of Jews and polygamist – that is how Mohammed portrays himself in the Koran... the book by which every Muslim is educated.”

The banned article can be read in French here. (Please scroll down two boxes.)

Yesterday, the Egyptian information ministry followed the Tunisians by banning not only Le Figaro, but another important European newspaper, the leading German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In its September 16 edition, German historian Egon Flaig had used examples of the Prophet Mohammed’s military leadership to support the idea that Islam has had a violent history (which it has).

Egypt says that for the time being copies of Le Figaro and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will not be allowed into Egypt.

Le Figaro and Le Monde are competing for the highest circulation in France. Le Figaro has a circulation of 400,000 and is perceived as conservative. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is a quality national German newspaper with a circulation of over 380,000 and a daily readership of over one million.

Lest anyone need reminding, the Egyptian media is rife with highly offensive caricatures of Jews and others. For example, see Cartoons from the Arab World.


One of Germany’s leading opera houses, Deutsche Oper Berlin, announced on Monday that it was canceling a controversial production because of the likelihood that it might offend Muslims.

The original opera, Idomeneo, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, makes no reference to Islam, but director Hans Neuenfels introduced a scene to his production that depicts the decapitated heads of the Prophet Mohammed, Jesus Christ, the Buddha, and the Greek god Poseidon.

Security authorities in Berlin advised that the performance posed an “incalculable” security risk. The production had been on for the last three years before recent threats were made against it.

The cancellation of the 225-year-old opera has triggered a storm of protest among German political and cultural figures. Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, warned today that “Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “self-censorship out of fear” should not be tolerated.

For the German speakers on this list/website, an article about this can be read here.


Thousands of Muslim worshippers marched against Pope Benedict XVI in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza on Friday. At the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, considered to be Islam’s third-holiest shrine, worshippers hoisted banners that read “Conquering Rome is the answer.”

In the streets of Nablus, protestors waving Hamas flags called the pope a “coward and agent of the Americans.” In northern Gaza, more than 1,000 Islamic Jihad supporters shouted in praise of the prophet, and waved black flags and condemned the pope. In Ramallah, hundreds of Hamas supporters marched around the city center.

Rallies were also held in Pakistan and Malaysia. Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a senior leader of Pakistan’s main alliance of radical parties, told demonstrators in Islamabad, “If the pope comes here we will hang him on the Cross.” Another Islamic leader said the pontiff should be crucified.

Malaysia’s opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party staged demonstrations outside mosques nationwide, and held up banners that read, “We Muslims are peace-loving people.”

The pope had already apologized several times and said he was “deeply sorry” about the reactions to his remarks and stressed that they did not reflect his own opinions, and that he had “deep respect” for Islam.


On Fatah-controlled Palestinian TV last Friday, Hamas religious leader Dr. Osama Al-Mazini called the pope “criminal and arrogant,” and “ignorant and stupid.”

Al-Mazini said: “To this arrogant Pope – criminal and arrogant – this message is from Allah the Elevated and the Exalted, as it was said: ‘Think not that Allah is unaware of what the wicked do. He but gives them a respite until a day when eyes will stare (in terror).’ [Sura14:42]”

The official Hamas weekly “Al Risala” featured a cartoon of Pope Benedict holding a Swastika while wearing a scarf of U.S. and Danish flags. The text under the cartoon is “The Pope and those who live under his cloak.”

The cartoon from “Al Risala” can be seen here.

(With thanks to Palestinian Media Watch, the senior staff of whom subscribe to this list, for the above information.)

For more cartoons on the recent controversy over the pope’s remarks about Islam, please see Cartoonists against the Pope (Sept. 19, 2006).


Palestinian police guarding a Roman Catholic church in Nablus were involved in an exchange of fire with assailants and chased them away on Saturday morning.

On Friday evening, three small pipe bombs were thrown at a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza city. One bomb blackened the main entrance of the church.

Police were posted at churches in the West Bank and Gaza after the first spate of attacks. For more on this, see Palestinians attack churches as anti-Pope sentiment grows around world (Sept. 18, 2006).


In Cairo, a “Day of Anger” was held at the 10th century al-Azhar mosque, a traditional center of Sunni Muslim learning. A banner strung between two mosque pillars urged, “Wake up Muslims! It’s a conspiracy between the pope and Bush!”

Kamal Habib, a scholar who helped organize the protest in Cairo, commented that “It looks as if the Vatican is providing the religious justification for the wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

After prayers in the Iranian capital Teheran, 300 people staged a protest rally. Whilst burning U.S., British and Israeli flags, they chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”


Pope Benedict XVI expressed “total and profound respect” for the Muslim faith during a meeting yesterday with envoys from the Muslim world.

The pope also called for “sincere and respectful dialogue” during the meeting, held at the pope’s residence near Rome. It is thought this was a reference to restrictions on the church’s activity in some Muslim countries.

Attending the meeting were ambassadors from 21 countries, a representative from the Arab League, as well as local Islamic representatives from Italy.

Following the meeting, the ambassador of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, complained that the pope had not referred directly to the speech which sparked the controversy.

Iraq’s ambassador said it was time to move on from the row and build bridges.


An Assyrian Christian man was stabbed to death at the Assyrian market in the Doura District in Baghdad on Saturday. This came a day after an attack on the Syriac Catholic Church in the Ashar district of central Basra where another man was murdered.

Christian leaders in Iraq have warned their congregations to be extremely cautious and not to leave their homes as a new group called the Young Brigades of Fundamental Islam has distributed leaflets announcing that all Iraqi Christians would be killed in three days if the Pope does not apologize.


“Attacking the pope because he refers in a discourse to a historical document is completely unacceptable,” EU Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper. Barroso added that he was “disappointed that there weren’t more European leaders who said, ‘obviously the pope has the right to express his opinion.’ The problem is not the comments of the pope but the reactions of the extremists ... We must defend our values.”


The former Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, pointed out in a speech a few days ago that Muslims have never apologized for the nearly 800-year Moorish occupation of Spain that began in the year 711 with an invasion from North Africa.

Aznar said: “It is interesting to note that while a lot of people in the world are asking the pope to apologize for his speech, I have never heard a Muslim say sorry for having conquered Spain and occupying it for eight centuries.”

The former Spanish prime minister described it as “absurd” if one compared it to the constant call by Muslims demanding apologies whenever they feel offended by remarks by non-Muslims.

In the same speech, delivered at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., Aznar said the West is under attack from radical Islam and must defend itself. “It is them or it is us. There is no middle ground.”

Aznar was voted out of office in 2004 within days of Spain being hit by the biggest terror attack in Europe since the Second World War. For more, see Madrid 1: Does Bin Laden wish to reclaim “Occupied Spain”? (March 13, 2004).


Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has resisted calls to dissolve the morality police, a 4,000-strong force known as Mutawas.

Prince Nayef said at the weekend in defense of the Islamic police: “They talk about an organ that promotes the good and prevents the bad. Its dissolution has been rejected in the past, it is rejected today, and it will be rejected tomorrow.”

For more on some of the laws that are enforced by the Mutawas, please see Saudi police ban the sale of cats and dogs (& Gaddafi’s son: Pope must convert) (Sept. 21, 2006).


Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe, warns that another “frenzy” will occur soon. “It’s only a matter of time until the next one erupts. This time it was a 14th-century quote from a Byzantine ruler that set off – or rather, was exploited by Islamist firebrands to ignite – the international demonstrations, death threats, and violence. Earlier this year it was cartoons about Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Last year it was a Newsweek report, later debunked, that a Koran had been desecrated by a U.S. interrogator in Guantanamo. Before that it was Jerry Falwell’s comment on ‘60 Minutes’ that Mohammed was a ‘terrorist.’ Back in 1989 it was the publication of Salman Rushdie’s satirical novel, ‘The Satanic Verses.’”

“In every case, the pretext for the Muslim rage was the claim that Islam had been insulted. Freedom of speech was irrelevant: While the rioters and those inciting them routinely insult Christianity, Judaism, and other religions, they demand that no one be allowed to denigrate Islam or its prophet. It is a staggering double standard, and too many in the West seem willing to go along with it. Witness the editorials in U.S. newspapers this week scolding the pope for his speech.”

The article by Jacoby, a subscriber to this list, can be read in full here.


I attach two further articles in full below. Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post, expresses shock at all the apologies by the pope: “No one, apparently, can remember any pope, not even the media-friendly John Paul II, apologizing for anything in such specific terms: not for the Inquisition, not for the persecution of Galileo and certainly not for a single comment made to an academic audience in an unimportant German city.”

She calls on the “West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don’t see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.”

The second article, by Bret Stephens in today’s Wall Street Journal, compares Pope Benedict XVI to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, “the nearest thing Sunni Islam has to a pope… His fatwas, or religious edicts on matters personal or political, are widely considered definitive among Sunnis.”

One of the many examples given by Stephens is from February of this year. In response to the Danish cartoon controversy, Qaradawi said on al-Jazeera: “The nation must rage in anger… We are not a nation of jackasses... We are lions that zealously protect their dens, and avenge affronts to their sanctities.”

Stephens notes that the following day, “mobs attacked the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus; the day after that, they burned the Danish consulate in Beirut to the ground. The same day, a Catholic priest was shot in Turkey by a teenage boy. In all, some 30 people were killed answering Mr. Qaradawi’s call to rage.”

As I have pointed out before, Qaradawi remains the darling of certain leftist western politicians, such as London mayor Ken Livingstone, who makes a point of publicly hugging Qaradawi, even after he praised Palestinian suicide bombers.

-- Tom Gross



Enough apologies
By Anne Applebaum
The Washington Post
September 19, 2006

Already, angry Palestinian militants have assaulted seven West Bank and Gaza churches, destroying two of them. In Somalia, gunmen shot dead an elderly Italian nun. Radical clerics from Qatar to Qom have called, variously, for a “day of anger” or for worshipers to “hunt down” the pope and his followers. From Turkey to Malaysia, Muslim politicians have condemned the pope and called his apology “insufficient.” And all of this because Benedict XVI, speaking at the University of Regensburg, quoted a Byzantine emperor who, more than 600 years ago, called Islam a faith “spread by the sword.” We’ve been here before, of course. Similar protests were sparked last winter by cartoon portrayals of Mohammed in the Danish press. Similar apologies resulted, though Benedict’s is more surprising than those of the Danish government. No one, apparently, can remember any pope, not even the media-friendly John Paul II, apologizing for anything in such specific terms: not for the Inquisition, not for the persecution of Galileo and certainly not for a single comment made to an academic audience in an unimportant German city.

But Western reactions to Muslim “days of anger” have followed a familiar pattern, too. Last winter, some Western newspapers defended their Danish colleagues, even going so far as to reprint the cartoons – but others, including the Vatican, attacked the Danes for giving offense. Some leading Catholics have now defended the pope – but others, no doubt including some Danes, have complained that his statement should have been better vetted, or never given at all. This isn’t surprising: By definition, the West is not monolithic. Left-leaning journalists don’t identify with right-leaning colleagues (or right-leaning Catholic colleagues), and vice versa. Not all Christians, let alone all Catholics – even all German Catholics – identify with the pope either, and certainly they don’t want to defend his every scholarly quotation.

Unfortunately, these subtle distinctions are lost on the fanatics who torch embassies and churches. And they may also be preventing all of us from finding a useful response to the waves of anti-Western anger and violence that periodically engulf parts of the Muslim world. Clearly, a handful of apologies and some random public debate – should the pope have said X, should the Danish prime minister have done Y – are ineffective and irrelevant: None of the radical clerics accepts Western apologies, and none of their radical followers reads the Western press. Instead, Western politicians, writers, thinkers and speakers should stop apologizing – and start uniting.

By this, I don’t mean that we all need to rush to defend or to analyze this particular sermon; I leave that to experts on Byzantine theology. But we can all unite in our support for freedom of speech – surely the pope is allowed to quote from medieval texts – and of the press. And we can also unite, loudly, in our condemnation of violent, unprovoked attacks on churches, embassies and elderly nuns. By “we” I mean here the White House, the Vatican, the German Greens, the French Foreign Ministry, NATO, Greenpeace, Le Monde and Fox News – Western institutions of the left, the right and everything in between. True, these principles sound pretty elementary – “we’re pro-free speech and anti-gratuitous violence” – but in the days since the pope’s sermon, I don’t feel that I’ve heard them defended in anything like a unanimous chorus. A lot more time has been spent analyzing what the pontiff meant to say, or should have said, or might have said if he had been given better advice.

All of which is simply beside the point, since nothing the pope has ever said comes even close to matching the vitriol, extremism and hatred that pour out of the mouths of radical imams and fanatical clerics every day, all across Europe and the Muslim world, almost none of which ever provokes any Western response at all. And maybe it’s time that it should: When Saudi Arabia publishes textbooks commanding good Wahhabi Muslims to “hate” Christians, Jews and non-Wahhabi Muslims, for example, why shouldn’t the Vatican, the Southern Baptists, Britain’s chief rabbi and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all condemn them – simultaneously?

Maybe it’s a pipe dream: The day when the White House and Greenpeace can issue a joint statement is surely distant indeed. But if stray comments by Western leaders – not to mention Western films, books, cartoons, traditions and values – are going to inspire regular violence, I don’t feel that it’s asking too much for the West to quit saying sorry and unite, occasionally, in its own defense. The fanatics attacking the pope already limit the right to free speech among their own followers. I don’t see why we should allow them to limit our right to free speech, too.



Benedict’s opposite
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
September 26, 2006

“Constantinople was conquered, and the second part of the [prophet Mohammed’s] prophecy remains, that is, the conquest of Romiyya [Rome]... Islam entered Europe twice and left it... Perhaps the next conquest, Allah willing, will be by means of preaching and ideology.”

-- Yusuf al-Qaradawi on al-Jazeera, Jan. 24, 1999

Who knows whether the Vatican ever sought an apology from Mr. Qaradawi for suggesting that Catholicism will one day be extinguished in its heartland and uprooted from its capital. But it’s never too late to demand one, especially now that the good sheikh is in a lather over Pope Benedict’s recent remarks about Islam.

In an era without a caliph, the Egyptian-born, 80-year-old Mr. Qaradawi is the nearest thing Sunni Islam has to a pope. His weekly al-Jazeera talk show, “Shariah and Life,” reaches tens of millions of Arabic-speakers in the Middle East and Europe. His fatwas, or religious edicts on matters personal or political, are widely considered definitive among Sunnis. As the de facto spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Qaradawi is a theological traditionalist, although he is also associated with the “new wave” Islamism that seeks to attract a younger, more modern audience. Mr. Qaradawi is also occasionally at odds with the violent asceticism of Salafist clerics, which gives him, among Muslims and to some extent in the West, a reputation as a moderate.

On Friday Mr. Qaradawi was at his sanctimonious best, saying, “the pope has closed the doors of religious dialogue between the Muslims and the Vatican by such offending remarks,” according to the Gulf Times. “Muslims are not opting for a ‘battle,’” he added, “but it was imposed on us by the pope who refused to recant.” Mr. Qaradawi now calls for a boycott of the Vatican, though he condemns violence against Christians.

That’s something of an improvement over his role early this year in the Danish cartoon controversy. “The nation must rage in anger,” he said on al-Jazeera Feb. 3. “We are not a nation of jackasses... We are lions that zealously protect their dens, and avenge affronts to their sanctities.” On Feb. 4, mobs attacked the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus; the day after that, they burned the Danish consulate in Beirut to the ground. The same day, a Catholic priest was shot in Turkey by a teenage boy. In all, some 30 people were killed answering Mr. Qaradawi’s call to rage.

It was typical of the sheikh that he followed his initial exhortation by denouncing the subsequent violence: “We never call on people to set fire to cars, but to express their anger in a prudent manner.” Of course. But Mr. Qaradawi has an interesting way of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, or tailoring his message to fit his audience.

Consider his views on terrorism. “Islam, the religion of tolerance... considers the attack against innocent human beings a grave sin,” he said almost immediately after Sept. 11. But here is something else he said in those days: “Can anyone prove that [Osama bin Laden] sent [the perpetrators]? ... There is no doubt that the one who benefits from this crime is the Zionist entity.” And as the U.S. was gearing up to oust the Taliban, Mr. Qaradawi added that “Islamic law says that if a Muslim country is attacked, the other Muslim countries must help it, with their souls and their money, until it is liberated.”

Now take Mr. Qaradawi’s statements about the U.S. in Iraq. “I have forbidden the murder of Americans,” he told al-Jazeera in late 2004. But he qualified that to say it was only forbidden to kill “civilians.” Which civilians? Only those not aiding the occupation, meaning journalists and humanitarian-aid workers. He said the “jihad-waging Iraqi people’s resistance to the foreign occupation... is a Sharia duty.” And he added that “it is forbidden for any Muslim to offer support to the occupiers... because such support would be support of their crimes and aggression.”

Thus, from a starting position that forbids the killing of Americans in Iraq, Mr. Qaradawi carves out one exception after another until he effectively calls for the killing of all but a handful of Americans, and perhaps their allies among Iraqis as well.

Mr. Qaradawi is equally slippery when it comes to discussing Jews. Islam, he said in 2005, “welcomes those who believe in the [Jewish] religion.” He has also said that he “welcomes Jews who dissociate themselves from what Israel is doing,” a point that supposedly speaks to his moderation in distinguishing Judaism (for which he has respect) from Zionism (for which he only has loathing).

But one doesn’t have to scratch hard on the surface of Mr. Qaradawi’s thoughts to discover the anti-Semite within. “The iniquity of the Jews, as a community, is obvious and apparent,” he said in June 2004. “Everything will be on our side against Jews on [Judgment Day],” he added in February 2006. “At that time, even the stones and the trees will speak, with or without words, and say, ‘Oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim, there’s a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”

For all this, Sheikh Qaradawi evinces no regret, although he frequently claims to be misrepresented (never more so than by the invaluable Middle East Media Research Center, responsible for most of the translations used here). But it wasn’t a Zionist agent, yet rather the Qatari religious scholar Abd al-Hamid Al Ansari, who said this of Mr. Qaradawi:

“The Sharia rulings that forbid harming civilians remained valid [for centuries] until Sheikh al-Qaradawi... created a dangerous breach with regard to Jihad. This was when, out of support for Hamas, he ruled that suicide operations among civilians were legitimate... This fatal breach has created an ideological and moral crisis in Islam... The moral deterioration has reached the point that they blow up children in Baghdad and peaceful civilians on buses in London. These fatwas are a moral and ideological mark of shame, which we must purge from our Islam.”

Maybe Muslims really are entitled to an apology. If so, it isn’t Benedict who needs to make it.

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