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Archive for Thursday, February 14, 2008

Danish newspapers reprint controversial prophet cartoon

February 14, 2008

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— Danish newspapers reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a gesture of solidarity Wednesday after police revealed a plot to kill the creator of the caricature that sparked deadly riots in the Muslim world.

Danish Muslims said they would seek to avoid a repeat of the violence two years ago - but with a right-wing Dutch lawmaker planning to air a movie that condemns Islam as fascist, Europe pondered the possibility of a new cycle of turmoil.

"I just don't want to go through this again," said Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim educational group in London. Shafiq said he has written a protest letter to the Danish ambassador in London.

Other Muslim groups echoed his sentiments, saying they believed the Danish papers were seeking unnecessarily to rekindle the fiery debate over free speech and Islam that engulfed Europe during the uproar over the cartoons in 2006.

Some experts said that discussion never went away - it just drifted off the editorial pages of Europe's dailies.

"This conflict will remain as long as there are people who believe religion should have a greater role in society," said Magnus Norell, a Middle East expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

More than a dozen papers in Denmark reprinted what was arguably the most controversial of the 12 cartoons that enraged Muslims in early 2006 when they appeared in Western newspapers.

The drawing, by newspaper cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, depicts Islam's prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.

The papers said they wanted to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after Tuesday's arrest in western Denmark of three people accused of plotting to kill Westergaard.

"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," said the Copenhagen-based Berlingske Tidende.

Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

The debate already had resurfaced recently in the Netherlands with lawmaker Geert Wilders' plans to make an anti-Quran film portraying the religion as fascist and prone to inciting violence against women and homosexuals.

In Denmark, all eyes turned toward the Islamic Faith Community, a network of Muslim groups that many Danes say provoked the riots of 2006 by embarking on a Middle East tour seeking support for their fight against the paper that first published the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten.

Group spokesman Kasem Ahmad said even though printing the cartoons "was like a knife in our hearts," the group would not take action this time.

"We have no plans to travel abroad or export this problem," he told reporters at a mosque in Copenhagen. "Now we have decided to neglect and ignore any possible provocation."

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