International reactions to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
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The publication of satirical cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30, 2005 led to violence, arrests, inter-governmental tensions, and debate about the scope of free speech and the place of Muslims in the West. Many Muslims stress that image of Muhammad is blasphemous, while many Westerners have defended the right of "free speech". A number of governments, organizations, and individuals have issued statements defining their stance on the protests or cartoons, this article details the reactions of international organisations and countries, as well as detailing events surrounding the publication. For the opinions of individuals and other organisations please see Opinions on the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. For a detailed, chronological account of the controversy please see Timeline of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.
- 1 Political Reactions
- 1.1 Supranation bodies
- 1.2 States
- 1.2.1 Afghanistan
- 1.2.2 Bahrain
- 1.2.3 Bangladesh
- 1.2.4 Belarus
- 1.2.5 Belgium
- 1.2.6 Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 1.2.7 Canada
- 1.2.8 Czech Republic
- 1.2.9 Egypt
- 1.2.10 Finland
- 1.2.11 France
- 1.2.12 Germany
- 1.2.13 Indonesia
- 1.2.14 Iran
- 1.2.15 Iraq
- 1.2.16 Ireland
- 1.2.17 Italy
- 1.2.18 Lebanon
- 1.2.19 Libya
- 1.2.20 Malaysia
- 1.2.21 Netherlands
- 1.2.22 New Zealand
- 1.2.23 Nigeria
- 1.2.24 Norway
- 1.2.25 Pakistan
- 1.2.26 Poland
- 1.2.27 Russia
- 1.2.28 Saudi Arabia
- 1.2.29 South Africa
- 1.2.30 Singapore
- 1.2.31 Spain
- 1.2.32 Sudan
- 1.2.33 Sweden
- 1.2.34 Turkey
- 1.2.35 United Arab Emirates
- 1.2.36 United Kingdom
- 1.2.37 United States
- 1.2.38 Vatican City
- 1.2.39 Yemen
- 2 Violent protests
- 3 References
Legally, the Government of every State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is bound by three articles dealing with the relationship between freedom of religion and freedom of opinion and expression, namely article 18, which protects freedom of religion, subject to such limitations as are necessary to protect public safety and order or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others (art. 18, para. 3); article 19, which protects freedom of expression and opinion, subject to certain restrictions such as "respect of the rights or reputations of others" (art. 19, para. 3 (a)); and article 20, which states that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
- Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over the cartoons and said that United Nations is investigating racism of Danish cartoonists.
- After being asked to do so by the Secretary-General of the Arab League Amr Mussa, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asked the Western media to be more sensitive in its handling of religious themes and asked for use of peaceful dialogue.
José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, supported the Danish government saying that freedom of speech cannot be compromised: "It's better to publish too much than not to have freedom.." Franco Frattini, the vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, called the publication of the twelve cartoons "thoughtless and inappropriate" in a time when European animosity towards Islam is said to be on the rise. According to Frattini, the cartoons foment hostility against Islam and foreigners.
The European Union on 2006-01-30, said that any retaliatory boycott of Danish goods would violate world trade rules.
On February 15, 2006, the European Parliament accepted a resolution which condemns all violence arising from the publication of the cartoons, it stated that the EU stands in solidarity with Denmark and all other countries that have been affected by the violence. Furthermore, it stated that Muslims may be offended by the cartoons and that they have the right to protest peacefully, however the freedom of speech is absolute and may not be affected by any form of censorship.
The OIC member states held a meeting in Jeddah on February 14, 2006, to discuss the publication of the cartoons, the ambassadors felt that the reaction of the Danish authorities on the issue was "under par" compared to the reaction of other European states which condemned the publication of the cartoons and considered it as a provocation and an incitement to hatred. The member states approved a five-point plan which the OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu had proposed to Javier Solana on February 7, 2006, the plan called for:
- the European Union to adopt legislative measures against Islamophobia;
- the OIC and the EU to work towards a UN Resolution on the lines of the existing UN Resolution 60/150 (Combating defamation of religions) which should prohibit defamation of all prophets and faiths;
- the European media to adopt a code of ethics;
- the United Nations to adopt an International Communication Media Order covering a definition of freedom of speech in case of religious symbols;
- the inclusion of a paragraph prohibiting blasphemy, defamation of religions and incitement to hatred in the text of the Human Rights Council resolution presently being negotiated.
Previously, on January 1, 2006, the OIC decided to boycott a project called "Images of the Middle East" which was to be organized by the Danish Center for Culture and Development and partially financed by the Danish Government, the press release mentions that the Third Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference addressed this issue and stressed "the responsibility of all governments to ensure full respect of all religions and religious symbols, stating that the freedom of expression does not justify in any way whatsoever the defamation of religions."
On January 28, 2006, the OIC Secretary General called for "Muslims to stay calm and peaceful in the wake of sacrilegious depiction of Prophet Muhammad which has deeply hurt their feelings".
MPs called for an extraordinary session of parliament to discuss the cartoons, while protestors set Danish dairy products and bacon ablaze. Al-Menbar Islamic Society MP Mohammed Khaled has demanded that Arab leaders take action: "We are stunned by the silence of the Arab leaders. They don't tolerate any criticism against them, yet allow others to insult the Prophet."
Foreign Minister Morshed Khan stated before parliament that a diplomatic protest was lodged with the government of Denmark on November 7, 2005. Further, he requested the Danish government issue an apology and urged them to prevent further occurrences of "such heinous acts."
On Jan 18, 2008, an editor of an independent newspaper who reproduced cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad was jailed for three years.
In Belgium, the parliament accepted a resolution to defend the freedom of speech and to support Denmark.
On February 8, 2006, Muslims in Sarajevo organized a protest against the cartoons, they delivered a letter demanding an apology for the publication of the cartoons to staff at the Danish, Norwegian and French embassies. The flags of Norway, Denmark and Croatia were burnt.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement on February 14, 2006, that said Canadians have the right to free speech as well as the right to voice their opinions about the free speech of others, he said that he "regretted" that several Canadian newspapers had chosen to run the cartoons after the controversy began. "While we understand this issue is divisive, our government wishes that people be respectful of the beliefs of others." Harper also commended the Canadian Muslim community for voicing its opinion peacefully, respectfully and democratically.
Foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay released a statement commenting that "This sensitive issue highlights the need for a better understanding of Islam and of Muslim communities... [to] promote a better understanding of Islam internationally, in partnership with Muslim communities."
After Iran sent a formal strong objection to the Czech government against the publication of the cartoons in MF DNES and Hospodářské noviny, the newspapers insisted that it was necessary for them to publish the pictures so that the readers get the full information. The Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda called the Muslim reaction "exaggerated" and advocated a united European stand on the issue. President Václav Klaus argued that freedom of speech is only meaningful as a contract between a citizen and a particular government, the Czech government expressed solidarity with Denmark.
In December 2005, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, issued a statement saying that "Al-Azhar intends to protest these anti-Prophet cartoons with the UN's concerned committees and human rights groups around the world."
A poll of 1,000 Egyptians in October 2006 revealed that Denmark's image as an enemy to the Egyptian people remained in place. 60% of those polled viewed that Denmark was hostile to Egypt.
In February, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja said that Denmark should have acted earlier and paid more attention to Muslim outrage over the offensive caricatures, he added that the Danish government could apologise for the fact that religious feelings were offended, without endangering freedom of expression. The party of indigenous Finnish Muslims, the Finnish Islamic Party, said that it had issued a statement to the media that it condemns the republication of the caricatures and that "We also condemn the Danish government for not interfering in issues that causes confrontation between Islamic world and non-Islamic world. Reissuing the caricatures will cause widely spread agitation because things that Muslims hold sacred have been insulted, therefore The Finnish Islamic Party exhorts to boikot Danish products everywhere." (verbatim)
Police opened investigations into the publication of the cartoons by Suomen Sisu; in Finland it is illegal to "disturb religious peace" (literal translation). This law is rarely prosecuted, giving this incident nationwide attention, the cartoons have been published on numerous Finnish web sites but not in mainstream media. Police declined to comment which site or sites are being investigated, and said any media that publishes the cartoons will be similarly investigated.
On February 24, 2006 Kaltio, a culture magazine in northern Finland, got publicity for publishing cartoon of a masked prophet Muhammad which lampooned Finnish political elites' reaction during the cartoon debate, after that some large financial institutions withdrew their advertisements from Kaltio and the board of the magazine fired their longtime editor Jussi Vilkuna.
On February 6, 2006, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin condemned the violence that had occurred internationally in response to the cartoons, but called for tolerance and respect toward other faiths.
The French foreign minister supported the right to free press, but added that it must be used "in a spirit of tolerance and with respect for beliefs and religions".
Nicolas Sarkozy, then Interior Minister and presidential candidate, said on LCI television that he "preferred an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship" and pointed out that it is, if necessary, up to the courts to judge whether caricatures go beyond what is reasonable to publish, and not to the governments of Muslim countries.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while she understands that feelings were hurt by the caricatures, violent reactions were unacceptable, she stressed the central role of freedom of expression, and called for dialogue. "Denmark must not feel let alone in this issue". Merkel also said that she understands this to be the common position of the E.U.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says the Indonesian government condemned the publication of caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. "The publication of the caricature of course reflects a lack of sensitivity to the views and belief of other religious adherents," he said. However, as "religious people", he recommends to "accept the apology".
On February 2, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered contracts to be cancelled with all countries where media have published the cartoons, on February 5, Iran recalled their ambassador from Denmark, and banned Danish journalists from reporting from Iran. Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on February 6, 2006, that a "Zionist conspiracy" was to blame for the row over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, in his first reaction to the controversy: "The reason for the Zionist action is because of the loss they suffered by Hamas winning". Khamenai was referring to Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative election. In fact, the Palestinian election took place almost four months after the cartoons were first posted.
Former Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami who is also the theorist of Dialogue Among Civilizations, strongly criticized the Danish cartoons for "spreading hatred", but added that the Muslim world is not entirely blameless either:
Offending and insulting, is different from expressing an opinion that can be analyzed, argued on, and can eventually be accepted or rejected [therefore offending others is not acceptable] ... But in addition to the west, we ourselves also have problems in this regard. Instead of logical criticism or debate, we only keep saying offensive things about liberalism, democracy and modernism. I had told some of our elders before, that the religion of the today's world is 'liberalism' and we have no right to make insults about it. We should not keep using phrases such as "the corrupt culture of the west" etc. in our words. As it's also said in the Koran, "Do not insult the gods of others, otherwise you are indirectly insulting your God".
The Iranian government retaliated by organizing a holocaust cartoon competition. Jyllands-Posten was challenged to print the winning cartoons of the competition. It agreed at first but after the competition results were announced, Jyllands-Posten backed down and did not explain why it decided not to print the winning cartoons of the Holocaust cartoon competition, the Iranian government maintained that Jyllands-Posten was never interested in freedom of speech but was just spreading hate ideology.
Some Iranian organizations and media have also backed the publications of cartoons with actions such as organizing demonstrations abroad, republishing caricatures, publishing articles defending them, showing them through Satellite Channels or talk about them in radio.
The following Iranian Organizations are among those who backed the "Freedom of Speech" and publication of Caricatures: Atheists Society, Communist Youth Organization, Communist Youth Organization-Hekmatist, Organization of Iranian Blogwriters, Organization of Women Emancipation, Organization of Women Liberation, Worker-Communist Party of Iran, Worker-Communist Party of Iran-Hekmatist and Organization of Unity of Iranian People Fedayis.
Iran amended §224-1 of its penal code (prohibition of apostasy, magic and religious innovation, punishable by death, no evidence or witness testimony required - only "the judge's views and impressions") to also cover Defamation of the Prophet [Muhammed].
Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the cartoons but also commented about militants who discredit Islam by their acts. Sistani underlined how un-Islamic acts of extremism are used as justification to attack Islam.
On February 14, Italy's Reform Minister Roberto Calderoli had T-shirts made emblazoned with cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a move likely to embarrass Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government. Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, told Ansa news agency on Tuesday that the West had to stand up against Islamic extremists and offered to hand out T-shirts to anyone who wanted them.
The Lebanese minister of foreign affairs criticised the drawings saying that freedom of speech ends when sacred values are offended.
Libya recalled its ambassador and announced that it would close its embassy in Denmark, the consular section of the embassy has since reopened.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, current chairman of Organisation of the Islamic Conference says "This is a deliberate act of provocation. They should cease and desist from doing so."
The Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Jan-Peter Balkenende, issued the following statement (translated): "I regret the threats from the Muslim world; in our world, when someone crosses a line, we take the matter to court. There is no place here for threats and own direction. (I am) Glad there is freedom of speech here. At the same time we have to realize that our images and ideas can be provocative to others."
The cartoons were published by two major daily newspapers, the Dominion Post and the Christchurch Press (both owned by Fairfax of Australia), and by two smaller newspapers, the Nelson Mail and the National Business Review. Fleeting glimpses were also shown on two television networks reporting on the issue, the publication ignited a national debate and prompted a peaceful street protest by New Zealand Muslims in Auckland. The publication of the cartoons was condemned by Prime Minister Helen Clark and opposition leader Don Brash, although they both stated that such decisions were up to newspaper editors to make. New Zealand has good trading relations with many Islamic countries and there were concerns that the controversy would threaten this. Shortly thereafter the newspapers agreed not to republish the cartoons, and New Zealand Muslim groups, while condemning the cartoons, have asked Muslim countries not to boycott New Zealand goods.
On February 7, the parliament of the State of Kano in the Muslim north of the country cancelled a €23 million order for Danish buses and banned the sale of all Danish and Norwegian products. Legislators then burned the flags of both nations before a crowd decrying the blasphemy of the caricatures of Muhammad. Clashes between rioters and police claimed several lives, with estimates ranging from 16 to more than a hundred.
The cartoons were first published in Aftenposten and Dagbladet, but when they were published in the Christian publication Magazinet, and later again in many major Norwegian newspapers, violent reactions and hostile attitude against Norway started. Freedom of Speech was heavily debated, and there has been great concern about the violent reactions and hostile attitude against Norway.
Upper House of parliament adopts a unanimous resolution condemning the Danish newspaper for publishing blasphemous and derogatory cartoons. Pakistan's ambassador urged the Danish prime minister to penalize the cartoonists, from February 14–15 protests have occurred, the largest of which took place in Peshawar where protestors number over 70,000. Other cities have also experienced great unrest such as Lahore where foreign owned businesses such as Pizza Hut, KFC, and McDonald's have been burned; Islamabad where the embassies of Britain, France, and India were targeted; and Tank, a town 142 miles from Peshawar, where protestors burned down shops selling CDs and DVDs.
On February 17, 2006, Ynetnews.com ran an AP article that claims that an Islamic cleric is offering a monetary reward and a new car for killing cartoonists (implied).
Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the historic Mohabat Khan mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, announced the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school he leads would give a 1.5 million rupee reward and a car for killing the cartoonist of the prophet pictures that appeared first in a Danish newspaper in September.
Whoever has done this despicable and shameful act, he has challenged the honor of Muslims. Whoever will kill this cursed man, he will get one million dollars from the association of the jewelers' bazaar, one million rupees from Masjid Mohabat Khan and 500,000 rupees and a car from Jamia Ashrafia as a reward,
"This is a unanimous decision by all imams [prayer leaders] of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Qureshi said.
Polish Prime-Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said he considered cartoons to be an unnecessary provocation, the Polish government also said they are quite sorry that the newspaper Rzeczpospolita also offended Muslims.
The president of the Institute of the Middle East, Yevgeny Satanovsky, told Itar-Tass on February 6 that "The caricatures of Prophet Mohammad published as far back as last September angered the entire Islamic world but especially the countries where Iran's influence is the strongest, and the apex of the conflict coincided precisely with the discussion of the Iranian nuclear dossier at the International Atomic Energy Agency." This theory is echoed by Scientific Council of the Moscow Carnegie Centre member, Alexei Malashenko, who believes that "the fuss around the caricatures was made artificially." That is, at a time when the Muslim world has no concerted position either on the Iranian nuclear program or Hamas, whose ideology is opposed by moderate Islamic regimes, the caricature uproar provides a "pretext for showing how coherent Muslims are."
On 26 January 2006, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassadors.
An interdict was obtained to prevent newspapers in South Africa from publishing the cartoons. Independent Newspapers (South Africa) did however publish an article which Muslims alleged was blasphemous and for this reason protest marches were arranged. President Thabo Mbeki reacted to the granting of the interdict by saying that the courts had spoken and that anyone who had objections to the granting of the interdict could pursue the matter as allowed by the law. He went on to say that the courts had the obligation to balance rights of citizens to freedom of speech to those of others to be protected from harm or insult, on February 3 Mail & Guardian however does print the cartoons.[original research?]
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) issued a statement that said "the inciting of hatred against a faith of a people is very unfortunate," and that "[they] are fortunate and deeply appreciative that in Singapore, the media and the community at large have always been mindful of sensitivities… and have helped to promote racial and religious harmony across society." The Foreign Minister George Yeo and the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim have similarly said that the incident shows the need to respect racial and religious sensitivities, have a "responsible media," and to cultivate good inter-religious relations and confidence beyond just legislation. Later, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the publication of the cartoons depicting Mohammad was provocative and wrong, but he expressed objection to violent response.
Danish-Sudanese relations are extremely poor, as are Sudanese relations with most western countries, on February 27, 2008, Sudan decided to boycott Danish goods after the controversial Muhammad cartoons were reprinted by a series of newspapers in Denmark and other European countries. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has backed up the country and other Muslim states, requiring them to boycott Danish products just as Sudan did, he even stated that "No Danes shall ever again be able to set foot in Sudan." The two countries subsequently closed their respective embassies.
On February 5, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds stated the following in an interview: We support the freedom of speech, that I think is very clear. But at the same time it is important to say that with this freedom comes a certain responsibility, and it could be objectionable to act in a way that insults people.
The nationalist party Swedish Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna) started a competition to draw cartoons of Muhammed on their web site, after words of exhortation from the Swedish government, and in particular from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds, the website was shut down. When the story caught wider attention, Freivalds felt it necessary to resign as Minister for having interfered with press freedom. (For details, see Swedish Democrats#The Mohammed cartoon debate and Laila Freivalds)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is quoted in the Turkish press saying: "Caricatures of Prophet Muhammad are an attack against our spiritual values. There should be a limit of freedom of press."
The Justice and Islamic Affairs Minister, Mohammed Al Dhaheri, calls the publication of the cartoon "cultural terrorism, not freedom of expression."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw criticized European newspapers for republishing the cartoons: "There is freedom of speech, we all respect that, ... But there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory. I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive. It has been disrespectful and it has been wrong." Straw also praises British newspapers for their "considerable responsibility and sensitivity" in not printing the cartoons.
Notably, even Private Eye, a satirical magazine generally not afraid to publish controversial items, refused to publish the cartoons, instead printing textual descriptions of each of them in turn, the student newspaper of Cardiff University published the cartoons, but recalled all copies after protests from the university concerned.[original research?]
The U.S. government issued a statement saying: "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." A State Department spokesman said that the images were offensive, but added that the U.S. also supports the rights of individuals to express their freely held views and that it is not for the government to dictate what is printed in the media.
In the U.S. State Department's daily briefing for Friday, February 3, official spokesman Sean McCormick, speaking for the current administration, said (in part), "Our response is to say that while we certainly don't agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views, for us, freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy and it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend and we will continue to do so. ... So we would urge all parties to exercise the maximum degree of understanding, the maximum degree of tolerance when they talk about this issue. And we would urge dialogue, not violence. And that also those that might take offense at these images that have been published, when they see similar views or images that could be perceived as anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic, that they speak out with equal vigor against those images."
Speaking in Qatar, former U.S. president Bill Clinton strongly criticized the Danish cartoons, comparing historical anti-Semitism in Europe with anti-Islamic feeling today: "So now what are we going to do? ... Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?"
The Vatican issued a statement saying "The right to freedom of thought and expression, sanctioned by the Declaration of the Rights of Man, cannot imply the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers, this principle applies obviously for any religion."
A court in Yemen has sentenced a newspaper editor to a year in jail for reprinting Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
- At least four protestors were killed in Afghanistan, in Mihtarlam and a US air base in Bagram. One boy was trampled to death in Bossaso, Somalia when the crowd stampeded as police fired in the air to disperse them, on February 5, 2006 one protestor died at the blazing Danish Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon
- On February 6, 2006 one demonstrator involved in the torching of the Danish consulate in Beirut, Lebanon was found dead on a staircase. One protestor was shot to death in Laghman Province Afghanistan.
- Four people were killed and 22 injured on February 7, 2006 in an attack on a NATO base in Maymana, Afghanistan.
- Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest, was killed on Sunday, February 5, 2006 in Trabzon, Turkey. A 16-year-old high school student was arrested two days later carrying a 9mm pistol, the student told police he had been influenced by the cartoons.
- On February 13, 2006 two people were killed in Lahore, Pakistan. The next day two were killed in Peshawar, Pakistan; and another in Lahore.
- On February 17, 2006 11 people died during protests in Libya
- On February 18, 2006, sixteen people were killed in northern Nigeria as demonstrators protested the cartoons by storming and burning Christian churches and businesses.
- As of February 24, 2006, around 146 people have been killed in religious riots in Nigeria, touched off by attacks against Christians in the predominantly Muslim North.
- On March 23, 2006, a Danish soldier in Iraq was killed when an IED exploded next to the patrol vehicle in which he was seated, in Basra. It is uncertain whether it was planned or not and whether the Muhammed cartoons were involved with the soldiers death.
- As of April 14, 2006, a 67-year-old Coptic Christian was knifed to death by a 25-year-old Muslim in an attack on faithful in a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt. At the same time others attacked two other Coptic churches and injured more than ten Christians. According to press reports, referring to the department of the Interior of Egypt, the killer acted in revenge to the publication of the Muhammad cartoons.
- On May 3, 2006, 28-year-old Pakistani Amir Abdur Rehman Cheema hanged himself in prison in Berlin, Germany while awaiting trial for an unsuccessful attempt to enter the building of the German newspaper Die Welt, armed with a knife, and attack the chief editor. At his autopsy, two high-ranking Pakistani police officials were present.
Demonstrations and Riots
Demonstrations against the cartoons took place in several predominantly or partially Muslim countries, not just in the Middle East but also in the Philippines and Indonesia. A prominent feature of many of these demonstrations is the burning of the flags of Denmark, France, and Norway. The Swiss flag was also burned at some protests, possibly due to its similarity to the Danish flag.[original research?] At some of these protests, many American, British, and Israeli flags were also burned. In addition to burning, some demonstrators walked on Danish flags or tore them up. Since the Danish flag incorporates a cross, desecrating a Danish flag can be seen as both anti-Danish and anti-Christian. An interview in the Russian media asserts that a US newspaper made the cartoons, and the Jyllands-Posten only distributed it, this assertion is widely accepted in the Muslim world.
The controversy produced labour strikes and protests in Pakistan, and mass demonstrations in Baghdad in Iraq; in the Palestinian territories, thousands of people participated in demonstrations and gunmen in the Gaza Strip threatened violence against any Scandinavians in the area. The European Union's Gaza offices were raided by 15 masked gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, they demanded apologies from Denmark and Norway, but left 30 minutes later without any shots being fired or injuries caused.
On February 2, Palestinian gunmen shut down the EU headquarters in Gaza, in protest of the Jyllands-Posten drawings. According to CNN, "Masked members of the militant groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinians' former ruling party, Fatah, fired bullets into the air, and a man read the group's demands. ... The gunmen left a notice on the EU office's door that the building would remain closed until Europeans apologize to Muslims, many of whom consider the cartoons offensive."
As of February 5, the demonstrations had become too numerous to list here; however, they are tracked on the timeline page.
As of February 24, at least 150 people, most of them Nigerian, had died during protests.
In response to the publication of the drawings, the UK Islamist group al Ghurabaa publish an article on their website entitled, "Kill those who insult the Prophet Muhammad", the article states, "The insulting of the Messenger Muhammad is something that the Muslims cannot and will not tolerate and the punishment in Islam for the one who does so is death. This is the sunnah of the prophet and the verdict of Islam upon such people, one that any Muslim is able execute." al Ghurabaa had organised February 3 protest march from London Central Mosque to the Danish Embassy where protesters waived placards reading, "Butcher those who mock Islam", "Kill those who insult Islam", "Europe you will pay, your 9/11 is on the way", or "7/7 is on its way", "Europe you will pay, Bin Laden is on his way" and "Europe you'll come crawling, when the Mujahideen come roaring". Despite the similar theme on Al Ghurabaa's website, their spokesman, Anjem Choudary, said he did not know who wrote the placards. MPs from all parties condemned the protest, calling the Metropolitan Police to pursue those responsible on the grounds that the threats were an incitement to murder.
On January 29 six churches in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk were targeted by car bombs, killing 13-year-old worshipper Fadi Raad Elias. No militants claimed to be retaliating for the pictures, nor is this the first time Iraqi churches have been bombed; but the bishop of the church stated "The church blasts were a reaction to the cartoons published in European papers. But Christians are not responsible for what is published in Europe." Many Assyrians in Iraq now feel like "Westerners should not give wild statements [as] everyone can attack us [in response]" and "Today I'm afraid to walk the streets, because I'm Christian." On February 5, thousands of Muslims in Lebanon surrounded the Maronite Catholic Church and threw stones at it.
On February 6, an Italian Catholic priest named Andrea Santoro was reported to have been shot dead at the door-step of his church in the Black Sea port city Trabzon, the convict, arrested on February 7 who is a Turkish Muslim youth aged 16, told the public attorney that his action was motivated by cartoons protests.
Also on February 6, leaflets were distributed in Ramadi, Iraq by the militant group "The Military Wing for the Army of Justice" demanding Christians to "halt their religious rituals in churches and other worship places because they insulted Islam and Muslims."
Also on January 29, a Muslim Cleric in the Iraqi city of Mosul issued a fatwa stating, "Expel the Crusaders and infidels from the streets, schools, and institutions because they have offended the person of the prophet." It has been reported that Muslim students beat up a Christian student at Mosul University in response to the fatwa on the same day, on February 2, some Palestinians in the West Bank handed out a leaflet signed by Islamic Jihad stating, "Churches in Gaza could come under attack".
On February 4, the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, Syria were set on fire, after being stormed by an angry mob. Within the building housing the Danish embassy were the Chilean and Swedish embassies, both having no formal connection to the present row, as it was a holiday, no one was present inside the building when this occurred, so no one was hurt. As a response to this incident, the Danish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs issued a warning, urging their citizens in Syria to leave the country immediately, the German Cultural Centre in Gaza was raided by Palestinian students
In Tehran, on February 6, the Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked by protestors. According to reports, homemade grenades were thrown at the embassies. However, the embassies weren't set ablaze.[original research?]
On October 19, ten ambassadors from Islamic countries, including Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, as well as the head of the Palestinian delegation in Denmark, sent a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen requesting a meeting and asking him to distance himself from hate speech, including remarks by MP Louise Frevert, Culture Minister of Denmark Brian Mikkelsen, and the Radio Holger station. Rasmussen declined, saying that the government could not interfere with the right to free speech, but said that cases of blasphemy and discrimination could be tried before the courts, a reaction essentially seen as a snub by the Muslims.
On January 10, a marginal Norwegian Christian magazine, Magazinet, printed the drawings after getting authorization from Jyllands-Posten. Major newspapers in Norway had printed facsimiles from Jyllands-Posten and reproduced all the caricatures in their online versions; a few days earlier, the Swedish newspaper Expressen had printed two of the drawings in conjunction with an article discussing the event. However, it was the Magazinet printing that led to a great debate in Norway, and is assumed to be the reason for actions directed at Sweden and Norway.[original research?]
A Norwegian man made a threat against the lives of the people at the magazine, but later claimed, when faced by the police, that it was just a prank, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to their ambassadors in the Middle East stating that one of the pillars of the Norwegian society is freedom of speech, but they expressed regret that Magazinet did not respect Muslims' beliefs.
On January 30, Palestinian groups demanded that all Scandinavians leave the Palestinian territories immediately, on January 30, an Islamic organisation, the Mujahedeen Army, called for militant attacks against "all available targets" in Denmark and Norway. On January 31, bomb threats were made against the newspaper's offices in Århus and Copenhagen.[original research?]
In Finland the biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat considered publishing the cartoons, however it did not publish them. Finland's comparatively small Muslim community held a peaceful demonstration with tens of demonstrators, close to the Danish embassy.[original research?]
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