Updated 30th March
There seems to be a
new definition of the word 'tolerance' that justifies the killing of
one's fellow man because he does not believe in the prescribed brand of
From The Times
An Afghan man is being tried in a court in Kabul for his conversion
from Islam to Christianity.
He could be sentenced to death for the act and his refusal to recant.
The trial of Abdul Rahman reflects the struggle between religious
hardliners and reformists over what shape Islam will take in
Rahman is being prosecuted for an attack on Islam, the punishment for
which, under the draft constitution established in 2004, is death.
The constitution says Islam is the religion of Afghanistan, yet it
also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18
specifically forbids this kind of recourse, one human rights expert
said in Kabul last night. It really highlights the problem the
Rahman was arrested last month after his estranged family - with whom he
was in dispute over the custody of his two children - denounced him as a
convert. Rahman was found to be carrying a Bible and was charged with
He acknowledged during his trial that he did convert 16 years ago.
The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if
Rahman would convert back to Islam, but he had refused to do so. Wasi
said therefore that Rahman must get the death penalty.
The trial judge has also described Rahman's action as an attack on
Islam. The Attorney-General is emphasising he should be hung,
Judge Alhaj Ansarullah Mawlawy Zada, who will be trying his case said.
In this country we have the perfect constitution, it is Islamic law
and it is illegal to be a Christian and it should be punished.
Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrats’ defence spokesman, said:
a horrifying situation and it makes a mockery of the efforts we are
making to bring Afghanistan back into the international community. We
have committed many soldiers to the situation in Afghanistan, many of
whom will be committed Christians; we have spent huge amounts of money
and committed resources and so I think we can take a strong moral
position on this and explain to the Afghan authorities that to prosecute
or even kill someone for having a different faith is unacceptable.
If the judge imposes the death penalty, Rahman will still have two
avenues of appeal under Afghan law — the Provincial Court and the
Supreme Court. The death penalty has to be ratified by President Karzai.
Intolerance Proved by
The United States and three NATO allies with troops in Afghanistan
urged the Kabul government to respect the religious freedom of an Afghan
convert to Christianity who faces the death penalty there.
The United States, which counts Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a key
ally in the region, raised the case with visiting Afghan Foreign
Minister Abdullah Abdullah, calling on Kabul to uphold Afghan citizens'
constitutional right to choose their faith.
We hope that the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld and in our
view, if it's upheld, then of course he'll be found to be innocent,
said Nicholas Burns, the State Department's third-ranked diplomat.
An Afghan judge said on Sunday a man named Abdur Rahman had been jailed
for converting from Islam to Christianity and could face the death
penalty if he refused to become a Muslim again. Sharia, or Islamic law,
stipulates death for apostasy.
While we understand the complexity of a case like this and we
certainly will respect the sovereignty of the Afghan authorities and the
Afghan system, from an American point of view, people should be free to
choose their own religion, Burns told reporters, flanked by
Abdullah said his government had "nothing to do" with the judicial case,
but added: I hope that through our constitutional process, there will
be a satisfactory result.
Italy called in the Afghan ambassador in Rome, two Berlin cabinet
ministers spoke out and Germany's top Catholic cardinal demanded his
freedom. Canada said it was concerned and urged the Afghan government to
meet its human rights obligations.
The protests present a dilemma for Karzai, who needs foreign troops to
defend against al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. Some 23,000 U.S. troops
are in the country. Germany has 2,700 soldiers in Afghanistan, Canada
has 2,300 and Italy has 1,775.
Abdullah said the Afghan embassy in Washington had received "hundreds of
messages" from Americans about the case: I know that it is a very
sensitive issue and we know the concerns of the American people
Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga wrote to Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi, now campaigning for reelection, and urged him to
withdraw Italian troops from Afghanistan unless he wins assurances from
Kabul over Rahman's safety: It is not acceptable that our soldiers
should put themselves at risk or even sacrifice their lives for a
fundamentalist, illiberal regime.
German Development Minister Heide Wieczorek-Zeul said she would appeal
to Karzai directly: We will do everything possible to save the life
of Abdul Rahman, she told the daily Bild, which said Rahman had
converted to Christianity while living in Germany for nine years.
Germany's top Catholic prelate, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, described the
case against Rahman as "an alarming signal":
German bishops will try
to ensure Christians in Islamic countries enjoy the same rights as
Muslims have in our country.
Tolerating Barbaric Justice
New York Times
So called preachers used Friday prayers to call for the
execution of an Afghan Muslim who converted to Christianity, despite
growing protests in the West. The conversion of the man, Abdul Rahman,
15 years ago was brought to the attention of the authorities as part of
a child custody dispute.
The Bush administration and European governments have strongly protested
the case as a violation of religious freedom. But Rahman has drawn a
strong reaction in Afghanistan, too, and for many hardline clerics,
there is no greater offense than apostasy.
One speaker, Maulavi Habibullah, told more than a thousand clerics and
young people gathered in Kabul: Afghanistan does not have any
obligation under international laws. The prophet says, when somebody
changes religion, he must be killed.
Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, told reporters on Friday that she
had been assured by President Hamid Karzai in a telephone call that
Rahman would not be executed, The Associated Press reported.
A senior government official said Rahman would be released from jail
soon, Agence France-Presse reported. The agency did not identify the
official, who added that there would be a top-level meeting on the case
The ultra-Conservative supreme court of Afghanistan is threatening to
resist President Hamid Karzai's attempts to spare a man who faces
execution for converting to Christianity. In a move that could scupper
Karzai's efforts to resolve the crisis, the judge handling the case said
he would brook neither presidential interference nor objections from
Kabul's Western backers.
We [the judiciary] have nothing to do with diplomatic issues,
Judge Ansarullah Mawlawizada told the Sunday Telegraph. We will do
our job independently.
The judge's comments came after Karzai's officials hinted that Abdul
Rahman, could be freed within the next two days in an effort to end the
international outcry over his prosecution. Karzai has assured world
leaders, who have telephoned to protest at the possible death penalty,
that Rahman will be spared.
Rahman was prosecuted under anti-apostasy edicts enshrined in
Afghanistan's sharia law, which makes it a crime punishable by death for
any Muslim to renounce their faith. Despite the risk, however, up to
10,000 Afghans have secretly converted to Christianity in recent years,
disillusioned with what they see as Islam's overzealous involvement in
The case has highlighted tensions between the West's vision of
Afghanistan as a liberal democracy and the orthodoxy of the country's
powerful Islamic judiciary, whose outlook is shared by much of the
population. Yesterday, Downing Street became caught up in the row, after
criticism that no senior minister had joined the international
condemnation of the case.
President George W Bush, said he was "deeply troubled" by it; the
Australian prime minister, John Howard, said it as "appalling" and the
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke to Karzai personally.
In Britain it was left to a junior Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells,
to echo President Bush's words. Critics contrast Straw's silence on the
issue with his speedy condemnation of the publication of cartoons of the
Prophet Mohammed, and accuse him of double standards.
Rahman is being held in a Kabul prison after a court appearance last
week. The Afghan authorities say they suspect he is mentally ill, and so
may be unfit to stand trial - which would allow the supreme court to
dismiss the case without loss of face.
But in Kabul's mosques last week, talk about the Rahman case was
uncompromising. Rejecting Islam is insulting God, said Mullah
Abdul Raoulf at the large Herati mosque. Cut off his head!
Little Evidence of
Belief in Democracy
An Afghan court yesterday dismissed the case against a man who faced
the death penalty after converting from Islam to Christianity - because
of a lack of evidence. A court official said Abdur Rahman would be
released soon, but he added that the case had been returned to the
prosecutors for more investigation.
The court dismissed today the case against Abdur Rahman for a lack of
information and a lot of legal gaps in the case, the official said.
The decision about his release will be taken possibly tomorrow. They
don't have to keep him in jail while the attorney general is looking
into the case.
Abdul Wakil Omeri, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed that the
case had been dismissed because of problems with the prosecutors'
A Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that questions were
now being raised as to whether Rahman would stay in Afghanistan or would
go into exile in a foreign country.
Rahman faced execution by hanging if he had been found guilty of
apostasy under Islam's Sharia law. His trial had been due to start in a
In an interview conducted via a human rights worker who visited Rahman
in jail, before news of his release, he said he was prepared for death.
I don't want to die. But if God decides, I am ready to confront my
choices, all the way, he said.
He added that he did not want to leave Afghanistan, a possible option
if he is allowed to go free: If I flee that would mean my country
hasn't changed. It would mean that they have won, our enemies. Without
human rights, without respect for all religions, the Taleban have won.
From the Hangman to the
The Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam
to Christianity will be freed from prison and has asked for asylum in
another country, U.S. and U.N. officials said Monday.
Hundreds of Muslims marched against a court's decision Sunday to dismiss
the case against Abdul Rahman after heavy international pressure on
Afghan President Hamid Karzai to drop the trial. Several Muslim clerics
have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying
he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.
A senior Afghan official closely involved with the case said that Rahman
would be freed shortly, but the details of how it would be done were
still being hammered out. Meanwhile he is still in his cell at Kabul's
notorious high-security Policharki prison late Monday.
U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards made clear that Rahman was planning to
leave the country once he is free: Mr.Rahman has asked for asylum
outside Afghanistan. We expect this will be provided by one of the
countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case.
Asked whether the U.S. government was doing anything or has made any
offers to secure Rahman's safety after he is released, McCormack said
where he goes after he is freed is going to be up to Mr. Rahman.
He urged Afghans not to resort to violence even if they are unhappy with
the resolution of the case.
While officials said the case against Rahman was dropped, prosecutors
also said earlier Monday they were still examining whether he was
mentally fit to stand trial. Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Eshak
Aloko told The Associated Press that he may be sent overseas for
psychological treatment if a medical examination that started Monday
concludes that he is insane.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul that
he was optimistic the issue would soon be resolved.
Earlier Monday, hundreds of clerics and students chanting "Death to
Christians!" and "Death to Bush!'" marched through the northern city of
Mazar-i-Sharif to protest the court's decision to toss out the case. Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it, said senior Cleric
Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. The
Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion.
He warned of possible riots if Rahman is released.
doubt the immigration authorities will be getting worried. Surely any
Muslim in a country with extreme punishment for apostasy can now claim
asylum in the West just by publicly announcing that they no longer
believe in Islam.
Based on an article from
Italy is considering granting asylum to Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man
who was released from jail yesterday in Kabul, where he had faced the
death penalty for converting to Christianity.
He was staying in a safe house last night after prosecutors dropped the
case against him under intense international pressure. But Rahman will
have to flee the country for his own safety, after several leading
Muslim clerics called on Afghans to tolerantly kill him.
Rahman appealed for help to leave Afghanistan, and he is thought most
likely to go to Italy, where the Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini is to
ask the cabinet today to grant him asylum.
Fini was one of the first foreign politicians to take up the case of
Rahman, and Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for his release. Italy has
close ties to Afghanistan, having provided a home for the former king
Mohammed Zahir Shah during his 30 years in exile. There is a possibility
that Rahman will go to Germany, where he has lived before, and the
United Nations says it is trying to help find a country to take him.
Losing Faith in Tolerance
Afghanistan isn't the only government where Muslim converts to
Christianity are threatened with execution.
Saudi Arabia neither permits conversion from Islam nor allows other
religions in the kingdom. There are no churches and missionaries are
barred. Regular criticism in U.S. State Department reports on religious
freedom have had no effect on Saudi policy.
While Islam accepts Christianity as a fellow monotheistic religion,
Islamic Shariah law considers conversion to any religion apostasy and
most Muslim scholars agree the punishment is death. Saudi Arabia
considers Shariah the law of the land, though there have been no
reported cases of executions of converts from Islam in recent memory.
The only other country in the region which carries the death penalty for
apostasy is Sudan. Though no executions have been reported recently, a
Sudanese man who allegedly converted was arrested in 2004 and reportedly
tortured in custody, according to the State Department.
In Kuwait, a court convicted a Shiite man who publicly proclaimed his
conversion to Christianity, but didn't sentence him since the criminal
code did not set a punishment.
Other countries in the region, such as Egypt, do not have laws
criminalizing apostasy, but those who do convert can still face
In May, an Egyptian man who converted to Christianity was arrested on
suspicion of "contempt for religion,'' a charge that entails a prison
sentence of up to five years, said Hossam Bahgat, director of the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The man, who has not been
identified, remains in custody without charge, Bahgat said.
Authorities in Egypt and most other Arab countries will not recognize a
conversion from Islam in official documents, such as identity papers,
which usually state a person's faith.
Even if a convert is not prosecuted,
the issue is the pressure they
are going to face from their families, the religious establishment,
their friends and associates, said Fadi al-Qadi, a Middle East
spokesman for York-based Human Rights Watch. It would be
overwhelming. They would be really isolated.
Turkey is a democratic country and, according to law, you can choose
whatever you want, said Soner Tufan, himself a convert from Islam,
who runs a Christian radio station, Radio Shema, in the capital, Ankara.
But, he said, if someone converts, they can suffer some problems from
their friends, relatives and neighbours _ or face difficulties
getting a job in the civil service.
Most often, the issue of conversion reaches the courts in the context of
marriage. While Islam accepts a Muslim man marrying a Christian woman _
one of the Prophet Muhammad's wives was Christian _ it does not tolerate
a Muslim woman marrying a Christian man.
The November 2004 case of a Jordanian man convicted of apostasy came
after his wife _ who remained Muslim _ and her family reported he had
converted. The man, whom the court records did not identify, appealed
his conviction to a higher court but lost.
Updated 22nd March
Nutters Spring into Action
Based on an
article from Christian Today
This week the nutter bait stage show,
Jerry Springer – The Opera,
begins with theatres across the country now bracing themselves for
protests during the nationwide tour.
Local organisation Action Group has already planned a protest outside
the Plymouth Theatre Royal and up to 50 nutters are expected to turn out
to voice their concerns.
The 20-city, five-month tour will begin in Plymouth, Devon on Friday
after a turbulent period where it was questionable whether the tour
would go ahead.
A spokesperson for the Plymouth theatre said there is planned to be
extra security on the opening night of the tour. The BBC reported her as
saying, We are aware that there are people out there who aren't
particularly happy with the fact that we have Jerry Springer. We have
got more people who will be present front-of-house to ensure that there
are no problems with people who want to come in and see the production
and make sure they can gain access.
Previously, one third of the venues had backed down on plans to show the
musical after receiving threats of protests by religious pressure group
Christian Voice, according to Manchester Online.
The Independent newspaper reported that Stephen Green, the national
director of Christian Voice, has announced the organisation's intention
to prosecute any venue that shows the Jerry Springer show.
But theatres have joined forces and a deal was agreed upon with the
producers, Avalon despite threats of protests. The Independent newspaper
has reported that Stuart Griffiths, the chief executive of the
Birmingham Hippodrome, said that the tour venues were "absolutely keen"
it should go ahead.
But the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, who
described the TV broadcast of the musical as “gratuitously offensive”
said he has no problem with the show coming to the city.
He said there was a “big difference” of issues because people could
choose whether to buy a ticket, according to Manchester Online. "This
production has been on stage before and there is a big difference
between something on the television and the stage.
Bishop McCulloch said people had a right to “peaceful protest” but
warned that violence or threats of violence are not acceptable:
want to distance myself completely from the kind of thing that happened
after the televised performance when the lives of people were
threatened. That is reprehensible and has nothing to do with any
Southport Nutters Bay for
From the Southport Visitor
Southport nutters have joined in the call against Jerry Springer: The
Opera. Around 600 members of Southport churches have signed a petition
calling on the Liverpool Empire and the Manchester Opera House to drop
performances of the production.
Dave Allen of Elim Pentecostal Church organised the petition.
Only 35 Protesting Brethren
Based on an article from
The archdeacon of Plymouth and two of the city's former lord mayors
have attacked the staging of Jerry Springer: the Opera, as the
controversial show begins its national tour. Archdeacon Tony Wilds branded
the award-winning musical "unfair and unacceptable", and called for its
tour to be abandoned. But the opening performance of Jerry Springer went
ahead as scheduled last Friday, and continues in Plymouth until the end of
In a statement entitled Freedom, Not Hate in Plymouth, Wilds was backed by
former mayors Tom Savery and David Stark, plus ministers of five other
Christian denominations. According to the statement: The local
production of the controversial Jerry Springer the Opera is ... a
serious and damaging misjudgment.
shameful archdeacon said that he was in favour of the principle of
free speech... BUT... he argues that Springer takes
undue liberties according to this standard. The abusive portrayal of
figures held by Christians to be [dear] should be recognised by all people
of goodwill as unfair and unacceptable ...
Organising this tour has been the most difficult thing we've ever done,
said producer Jon Thoday. It's been on and off about three times, to
the point when we thought we were fighting a losing battle. Further
protests against the show are planned across Britain as the tour
But Thoday is heartened by the events of last Friday, when only a handful
of protesters attended the opening night of the show.
If they can only
muster 35 people praying on the first date of the tour, my hope is that it
will be the show that prevails and not the protests.
Christian Voice & Dog Shit
Arts Council England has given £30,000 to the national tour of
Jerry Springer: The Opera, six months after turning down an
application for funding.
In August the organisation threw the future of the production into doubt
when it decided against subsidising the tour. On that occasion the
application was from the producers Avalon and the Arts Council claimed
it could not justify the use of public money for a commercial tour.
But it has now made the £30,000 award in response to a separate
application from a consortium of theatres. The musical is in the middle
of a nationwide regional tour. The funding will enable the production to
reach new audiences across the country.
Sir Christopher Frayling, chair of Arts Council England, said: "We
are committed to continuing our association with Jerry Springer: The
Opera. The original production provoked an important debate and
attracted new audiences during its time on the London stage. Our award
will allow the production to reach out to new audiences across England
allowing them too to take part in the debate."
Stephen Green of Christian Voice, the organisation which is currently
picketing venues around the country, is predictably furious: It would
not be possible for this show to be any more blasphemous and insulting
to Christians if it tried. I cannot believe it has qualified for public
money. It needs the money to keep it going. As far as I am concerned,
Jerry Springer: The Opera appeals to people who like treading in dog
shit. Taxpayers have no business supporting it.
So full of love and the grace of his lord Jesus Christ, isn’t he?
Diapers vs Turban Bombs
By my calculations the Jerry Springer version of
Christ is just as likely to be the truth as the multitude of church
versions. Which in turn is equally likely to be the truth as a prophet
from God wearing a turban bomb and indeed, equally likely as a prophet
from God wearing any other sort of headwear.
Protestors gathered in Yorkshire earlier this week, regarding the
controversial stage show Jerry Springer – The Opera. As part of a
national tour, the show is at the York Grand Opera House every night
this week, and will visit the Bradford Alhambra in May as its only other
Major Paul Westlake, of York Branch of the Salvation Army, said:
are here to put across to people that they should not formulate any
ideas about Jesus Christ from this production they are going to see. In
the production, he is portrayed as a ridiculous figure who says he may
be a little bit gay. The issue is that there is a lot in the show that
is offensive to Christians. In this country we seem to be able to poke
fun at Christianity but not other minority faiths.
Lizzie Richards, general manager of the Grand Opera House, said:
up to them if they want to protest. They are perfectly entitled to say
how they feel. We are trying to offer a balanced programme. We think it
is a great show from great producers written by two very talented people
in Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, which is why we wanted it to come to
Comic Pictures and Comic Opera
I think the
Springer protestors must be feeling a little bit overshadowed by the
cartoon protests. They simply cannot support their own beliefs with the
same level of intimidation that Islam can command.
Perhaps they can achieve some feeling of fairness in knowing that
both beliefs are equally absurd and equally unlikely to be the truth.
Jerry Springer: The Opera opened at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester
recently accompanied not only by the usual gaggle of Springer
protestors, but also by a counter-demo by the active Leicester Secular
Society in support of free speech. As far as we can gather, this is the
first time the anti-Springer brigade have encountered organised
If the show is coming to a theatre near you, and you want to know what
the Christian demonstrators are up to (if anything), Stephen Green of
Christian Voice has helpfully set up a web page (Stopspringer.com) with
contact details for would-be activists
Christians are planning to come out to protest against
Springer: The Opera when it opens in Glasgow next week.
The protest will kick off on the opening night of the show next Monday
night and will be attended by numerous prominent Christians, including
Rev. George Hargreaves, leader of the Scottish Christian Party, reports
the Scottish Herald.
The Glasgow campaign will be spearheaded by Bob Handyside, a local
Christian, who criticised the play for its biased disregard of the
Christian faith: Christianity is a whipping boy, and obscenities like
this, which are absolutely shocking, just seem to be expected. You would never get away with this if you were ranting about Islam.
Glasgow City Council would be attacked and there would be Muslims
complaining to everyone.
A website for the anti-Springer opera campaign, www.stopspringer.com, is
calling for Christians to write to Prince Edward, patron of the Glasgow
theatre, voicing their concerns for the musical. The website states,
“It’s time for Prince Edward to stand up for Jesus Christ.”
The protest organisers are hoping that many local churches will get
involved with the campaign by encouraging their congregation to express
their concerns over the play.
The tour is due to continue to Aberdeen’s His Majesty’s Theatre after
the Glasgow week-long run. The Aberdeen theatre is also facing criticism
for going ahead with the run of the show.
Update: Spot the
Shamelessy lifted from one of my
The observation surely deserves wide distribution.
Has the BNP taken over the anti-Jerry Springer: The Opera protests? Above left
is a photo from the
Leicester Mercury showing a group of protestors outside
the de Montfort Hall. On the right is a group of BNP
supporters outside Leeds Crown Court in January, during the
trial of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett.
The “Defend Christian Values” banners they are holding
are from the self-styled Christian Council of Britain, one
of several new
Lancaster Unite Against Fascism
The Christian Council of Britain, replete with one or
two hundred rabid members of the BNP (who also happen to
be Christians), was set up by the BNP as a so-called
balance to the Muslim Council of Britain. They claim to
represent the Christians of Britain, which of course,
they don’t. They actually represent a racist though
supposedly Christian offshoot of the BNP formed solely
so that the party could almost-legitimately jump on the
back of the anti-’Jerry Springer - The Opera’ campaign.
The real Christian group who actually are organising the
campaign have stated clearly that the BNP is unwelcome.
Stephen Green did indeed come out and
speak against the BNP involvement in the anti-Springer
campaign, eventually. But if the Leicester Mercury photo is
representative, the very least we can deduce is that they
are good at distributing their banners.
Certainly an illuminating quote: We do not think any decent-minded
person would want to watch this show.
Based on an article from
More than 500 Christians descended on St George's Plateau to make
their feelings about Jerry Springer: The Opera coming to the city
Nutters in the region were protesting in the hope of deterring people
from buying tickets. The show is part of the Empire Theatre's summer
season and campaigners plan to stage a series of demonstrations over the
next two months and throughout its run.
Dave Allen, from Merseyside Christians Against Jerry Springer, said:
We regard this production as disgraceful, disgusting and dirty. We do
not think any decent-minded person would want to watch this show.
It very clearly demeans our Lord Jesus Christ by depicting him as a
baby in a nappy and makes God out to be a bumbling fool. There is no
doubt about it, we will be raising our voice very strongly over the next
few weeks to show our disgust.
The staging of controversial musical Jerry Springer The Opera
brought protesters to the streets of Manchester last night - but
placard-waving supporters of the show outnumbered Christian protesters.
on the streets outside the Opera House last night, a small group of
around 10 protesters opposed to the show were out-numbered by a group of
noisy Manchester comedians, who carried placards reading "Don't Gag the
Organiser Mike Landers, who heads the Manchester Comedy Forum, said:
We are concerned about freedom of speech. There seem to be a lot of
things conspiring against this freedom because of the protest against
the Prophet cartoons and the religious hatred bill. We think it is the
job of comedians to be able to say what we think, even if it offends
From the excellent
Mike Landers reports:
We gathered in the Sports Cafe on time, hurriedly finishing off
placards and so on. A nice little turn out, and then we found out that
the tables around us were occupied by people going to see the show and
were laughing themselves silly at some of the slogans.
The original plan was to wander up to the Opera House around 6.30pm
(7.30pm show start) but a distinct lack of Christian “opposition” meant
we kept putting it back and putting it back. As the queues of audience
members grew and still no sign, we finally made the Executive Decision
to head up at about 6.50pm.
As we gathered opposite the Opera House, there were a lot of curious
looks from the Springer audience, but as soon as the placards were
unveiled, there was a big cheer and a lot of laughter.
A round of interviews (TV and radio) with myself and John Cooper, more
laughter and chanting and some grateful thanks from some of the
backstage crew, who left with their own stickers.
Eventually some of the Christians turned up at about 7.15pm. We
serenaded them with “You’re late! And you know you are!” as they took
station right outside the doors. A quick countup of protesters versus
anti-protesters led to the football style chant of “16-3! 16-3!”.
At 7.30pm, showtime so time to retire to the pub. I wandered past the
Opera House at about 8.45, and one of the protestors was still there.
Earlier she had given out a huge number of handwritten cards about
spreading the word of God. As my good friend Geoff said, quite frankly,
with dedication and determination like that, she’s wasted doing what she
I’ll write more, set up a webpage to show the pictures, but from memory
the slogans were:
“Down with protests”
“Don’t gag the gagsters”
“Jerry Springer stole my other cheek”
“Free Speech! I’m a believer!”
“Its digusting. Its a musical, not an opera”
“It was either this or the hoovering”
“I don’t care about blasphemy, I just hate opera.”
“For one night only: Much Ado About Nothing”
“Stop being so bloody silly.”
Very tired, but happy.
Updated 31st March
Magazinet, an obscure Norwegian
Christian magazine, has incurred the wrath of the Supreme Islamic
Council for re-publishing the Mohammed cartoons originally printed by
Jyllands-Posten in Denmark.
According to Islam Online, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council,
Mohammed Hamdan, has condemned the magazine “in the strongest possible
terms”. When informed that Magazinet printed the cartoons in the name of
free expression, Hamdan revealingly replied: What on earth does
freedom of expression mean?
He hopes that the government of Norway will condemn the publication,
unlike the Danish government who steadfastly refused to take action: Editors should not take free speech as an excuse to insult a certain
religion; otherwise they risk an extremist response from the offended,
which carries grave consequences.
In other words, shut up or we’ll kill you.
Tolerantly Threatening Death in an atmosphere free of intimidation or
UK Muslim dignatories were challenged for the homophobic opinions then they said: All Britons, whether they are in favour of
homosexuality or not, should be allowed to freely express their views in
an atmosphere free of intimidation or bullying. We cannot claim to be a
truly free and open society while we are trying to silence dissenting
According to the Brussels Journal, the Norwegian newspaper which
published the Mohammed cartoons in support of Jylands-Posten has
withdrawn them from its website in the face of death threats.
Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor of Magazinet, received threatening anonymous
emails, including one containing a picture of a burnt body. The e-mail
with the pictures of the burnt body is the most frightening. But I am
not afraid. This is of course unpleasant, especially for a family man.
But I cannot go around being afraid said Selbekk.
Another Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, has also published the cartoons
as a gesture of support.
Saudi Depiction of Intolerance
Saudi Arabia said yesterday it had recalled its ambassador to Denmark,
saying the government had not taken enough action over newspaper cartoons
seen as mocking Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The Saudi government
recalled its ambassador ... in light of the Danish government's lack of
attention to insulting the prophet Muhammad by its newspapers, a Saudi
Denmark's biggest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, ran 12 cartoons last
September including one in which Muhammad seemed to be carrying a bomb in
Morality Does not Apply to
Denmark's main industry organization, fearing a loss of
business in the Muslim world, sought to distance itself Friday from a
newspaper that published contentious drawings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
The Confederation of Danish Industries urged Jyllands-Posten to explain
its decision to publish the cartoons on Sept. 30 last year: Time has
come for Jyllands-Posten to use its freedom of speech to explain how it
views the fact that the paper's Muhammad drawings have offended large
groups of people, the group's head, Hans Skov Christensen, wrote in a
letter to the daily.
The caricatures have sparked a wave of denunciations across the Islamic
world and from Muslim leaders in Denmark. Islamic tradition bars any
depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such
images could lead to idolatry.
In Iraq on Friday, thousands of people condemned the caricatures during
weekly prayer services and demanded legal action be taken against the
Skov Christensen said Danish companies faced repercussions this week from
customers in the Middle East, including product boycotts, dropped orders,
and cancelled business meetings. The confederation claims the Middle East
accounts for annual sales of at least $816 million for Danish companies.
Danish-based Arla Foods, Europe's largest dairy group, said it had noted
sales dropping in Saudi Arabia because of protests over the drawings.
Iraq Protests &
Shiite and Sunni clerics in Iraq have joined the chorus of condemnation
against the Mohammed cartoons published first by Jyllands-Posten in
Denmark, and then by a couple of magazines in Norway.
Ranting in his mosque in a Shiite district in Baghdad, Sheikh Hazem al-Aaraji
said: They want to disfigure Islam and this we cannot accept. These
cartoons directly attack the personality of the messenger of God. We say
to them: they cannot attack Mohammed, nor any of the prophets. Mohammed is
the symbol of humanity. He is not dead, he lives always among us through
his teachings and through the sacred book
After the sermon, a crowd of about 100 charged through the neighourhood
chanting: there is no god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.
Meanwhile, an email memo to Norwegian embassies has been leaked which
reveals that Norway’s government is trying to make amends by
“apologising”: I am sorry that the publication of a few cartoons in the
Norwegian paper Magazinet has caused unrest among Muslims. I fully
understand that these drawings are seen to give offence by Muslims
The cartoons in the Christian paper Magazinet are not constructive in
bridges which are necessary between people with different religious and
ethnic backgrounds. Instead they contribute to suspicion and unnecessary
Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or
act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or
ethnic origin. Norway has always supported the fight of the UN against
religious intolerance and racism, and believes that this fight is
important in order to avoid suspicion and conflict. Tolerance, mutual
respect and dialogue are the basis values of Norwegian society and of our
Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of Norwegian society. This
includes tolerance for opinions that not everyone shares. At the same time
our laws and our international obligations enforce restrictions for
incitement to hatred or hateful expressions.
Bacon Boycott Causes a Stink
Denmark faced the full fury of the Muslim world yesterday as a
long-simmering row over newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad
There were street demonstrations and flag-burnings in the Middle East.
Libya joined Saudi Arabia in withdrawing its ambassador from Copenhagen.
Islamic governments and organisations, including the Muslim Council of
Britain, issued denunciations and a boycott of Danish goods took hold
across the Muslim world.
The Danish Government warned its citizens about travelling to Algeria,
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and withdrew aid
workers from the Gaza Strip.
Last night EU foreign ministers issued a statement in support of Denmark,
and the European Commission threatened to report any government backing
the boycott to the World Trade Organisation.
A spokesman for Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, said that
if the Saudi Government had encouraged the boycott of Danish goods,
Mandelson would take the matter to the WTO.
By yesterday governments across the Arab world were responding to public
outrage. Libya closed its embassy in Denmark and the Egyptian parliament
demanded that its Government follow suit. The Kuwaiti and Jordanian
governments called for explanations from their Danish ambassadors.
President Lahoud of Lebanon condemned the cartoons, saying his country
“cannot accept any insult to any religion”. The Justice Minister of the
United Arab Emirates said: “This is cultural terrorism, not freedom of
expression.” In Gaza, gunmen briefly occupied the EU office in Gaza and
warned Danes and Norwegians to stay away. Palestinians in the West Bank
burnt Danish flags. The Islamic groups Hamas and Hezbollah and the
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood demanded an apology.
Supermarkets in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia,
the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all removed Danish produce from their
shelves. Arla Foods, a Danish company with annual sales of about $430
million in the Middle East, said that the boycott was almost total and
suspended production in Saudi Arabia.
The Muslim Council of Britain, whose leaders are to meet the Danish
ambassador tomorrow, deplored the newspapers’ refusal to apologise for
printing “sacrilegious cartoons vilifying the Prophet Muhammad”.
Per Stig Moeller, Denmark’s Foreign Minister, insisted in Brussels last
night: We condemn blasphemy. We want respect for religions. But we
cannot intervene. We have sent explanations but, as we have said before,
freedom of expression is a matter for the courts, not for the Government
The publication of the Danish illustrations of the Prophet and their
republication in Norway offers not one but two separate offenses to the
Muslim world. The most obvious is that not only was the Prophet depicted
in ten of the twelve cartoons, but also that one of the illustrations
portrayed him as a terrorist. The second offense is that people in Denmark
and Norway and no doubt in most of Europe and North America seem
blissfully unaware of precisely how outrageous these images are to Islamic
What is so deeply disappointing is that the Danish and indeed Norwegian
authorities have failed to adequately condemn the publication of the image
or to directly apologize for the hurt it has caused to everyone in the
Muslim world. Instead, we have heard the usual responses about freedom of
speech and governments having no control over the press and media.
No one is talking about censorship... BUT... what Muslims
are saying that with every freedom comes a responsibility. Something
deeply painful to the entire Muslim world was published in a Danish
newspaper. That in itself was an irresponsible use of the freedom of the
press, which in no country anywhere is an unlimited freedom allowing
journalists to vilify, libel or lie.
Threatened with Hat Bomb
A Danish newspaper suffered bomb scares a day after apologising for
cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed which prompted protests from Muslims and a
boycott of Danish products in a dozen nations. The offices of
Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and Arhus were evacuated for a short tim
Stunned by the scale of the reaction, the newspaper - which received 9,000
e-mails on the subject in one day - moved to defuse the row with an appeal
published on its website. Carsten Juste, editor-in-chief, said in the open
letter, which was also published in Arabic: In our opinion, the 12
drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they
at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many
Muslims for which we apologise.
Under the headline "Honourable Citizens of the Muslim World", the editor
defended the publication, arguing: The initiative was taken as part of
an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much
cherished in Denmark. The apology, which has prompted a fierce debate
over freedom of expression, was welcomed by the Danish premier, Anders
Fogh Rasmussen. He said: I'm extremely happy that Jyllands-Posten has
decided to take this very difficult step. I would now like to appeal to
Muslim groups in Denmark to speak out and defuse the situation after
A Danish Muslim group accepted an apology from a newspaper that
published offensive cartoons of the prophet Muhammad but said later that
it had decided the statement was ambiguous.
The group did not elaborate, and it was unclear whether there would be any
effect on protests and boycotts of Danish goods in Muslim countries.
European Stand Against
the Bacon Boycott
across Europe yesterday republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad
that have inflamed the Muslim world since they first appeared in Denmark.
Daily newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands
featured the 12 cartoons, which have caused a firestorm in the Islamic
Editors expressed a wish to show solidarity with the Editor of the
Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, whose cartoons triggered violent protests in
Gaza, a boycott of Danish goods across the Arab world and death threats
against the newspaper’s senior staff. The paper’s offices had to be
evacuated last night after the second bomb threat in two days.
Showing any depiction of Muhammad is deemed blasphemous and these were
seen as particularly offensive, with one portraying the Prophet wearing a
turban in the shape of a bomb. Under the headline Yes, we have the
right to caricature God, France Soir covered its front with Buddha,
the Christian and Jewish deities and the Prophet all sitting on a cloud.
The Christian God says: Don’t complain Muhammad, all of us have been
Shortly after the paper appeared, however, its managing editor, Jacques
Lefranc, was sacked. Raymond Lakah, the paper’s owner, issued a public
apology: We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people
who were shocked by the publication of the cartoons, he said.
French officials privately shuddered over the likely damage to relations
with Muslims at home and abroad but ministers defended France Soir’s
freedom to publish what it wanted. After a Cabinet meeting with President
Chirac, Jean-François Copé, a minister and government spokesman, said: France is attached to the freedom of expression, but adding that
respect should always be shown for the beliefs of others.
France Soir published all 12 Danish cartoons and deplored what it called
the new inquisition by “backward bigots” in a Muslim world that knew
In Berlin, Die Welt reprinted one cartoon on its front page and three
others inside: The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously
if they were less hypocritical. When Syrian television showed drama
documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were
quiet. Roger Koeppel, Editor of Die Welt, told The Times: We owed
it to our readers. They have to understand what the fuss is about.
In Italy some of the cartoons appeared in Corriere della Sera and La
Stampa. Both newspapers said that the decision to publish had been taken
on purely journalistic grounds.
Paolo Lepri, the acting foreign editor of Corriere della Sera, said that
it was not a political decision. We simply felt that you could not
explain to readers why the cartoons had caused such a furore without
showing them some examples by way of illustration.
The Spanish daily El Periodico published a montage of the cartoons under
the headline The Effects of Terrorism: A Test. Carlos-Enrique Bayo,
foreign editor of El Periodico, said: We don’t normally shy away from
things like this. Publish and be damned, as they say.
The Dutch daily De Telegraaf has also published the 12 cartoons which
can also be seen on the Dutch MP Groep Wilders who published them on his blog.
Clash of Cultures
can be the most offensive?
Perhaps if Islam allowed itself to be
tempered by public criticism and debate it would not provide such a
fertile breeding ground for violence, intimidation and intolerance
Based on an article from
Demonstrators in London gathered at Regent's Park mosque
following Friday prayers and marched to the Danish embassy in Sloane
The protesters held placards, one declaring: "Behead the one who insults
the prophet." Another said: "Free speech go to hell."
Passers by stopped police officers to ask why the marchers were being
allowed to carry banners threatening further suicide attacks in the city.
One police officer replied: Don't worry. We are photographing them.
Media organisations - including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV - showed the
controversial drawings, but British newspapers did not publish the images.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, today attacked media outlets who
republished the cartoons.
There is freedom of speech, we all respect that, but there is not any
obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory.
that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been
insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.
America sided with tens of thousands of Muslims who protested worldwide
yesterday about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in European
In its first comment on the furore, the State Department said:
cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims.
Answering a reporter's question, its spokesman, Kurtis Cooper, said:
all fully respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be
coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in
this manner is not acceptable.
On a somewhat different tack, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign
minister, said: It is not normal to caricature a whole religion as an
extremist or terrorist movement. But the extreme reaction to the
cartoons would suggest the caricaturists were right.
Pakistan's parliament unanimously passed a resolution yesterday
criticising the newspapers publishing the cartoons for conducting a vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was 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.
By contrast, Wolfgang Schauble, the German home minister, defended the
decision by four German newspapers to publish the cartoons:Why should
the German government apologise? This is an expression of press freedom.
Today a New Zealand newspaper, the Dominion Post, became the first in
that country to publish the cartoons. Its editor, Tim Pankhurst, said:
We do not want to be deliberately provocative, but neither should we allow
ourselves to be intimidated.
The Irish Daily Star in Dublin was the latest to publish the drawings
Update: Nov 12th 2006:
of Inciting Racial Hatred
A man who called for the killing of
British troops has been found guilty of stirring up racial hatred at a
rally. Mizanur Rahman, from north London, was arrested after a protest
at the UK's Danish Embassy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The Old Bailey jury was unable to reach a verdict on a separate charge
of inciting murder. The jury had spent two days considering the charges.
Cartoon Terrorists Animated
Lebanese demonstrators have set the Danish embassy in Beirut on fire in
protest at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Thousands of people attended a rally and clashes broke out with security
forces sent to protect the building.
Denmark urged its citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.
The violence came a day after mobs in neighbouring Syria torched the
Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus in anger at the pictures.
Huge crowds attended Sunday's protest in Beirut. It turned violent after
Islamic extremists tried to break though security barriers protecting the
Danish embassy building.
Some 2,000 riot police and army troops fired tear gas and water cannons to
disperse the crowd and fired their weapons into the air. But smoke was
later seen rising from the building after demonstrators broke into it.
Some protesters threw stones at the security forces and burned Danish
The embassy building, which also houses commercial offices, was believed
to be unoccupied.
Denmark and Norway condemned Syria for failing to stop Saturday's attacks
in Damascus and urged their citizens to leave the country.
The principle of diplomatic relations is that diplomats can work safely
and the fact that this has been broken is extremely serious, Norwegian
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference in Oslo.
Police were under pressure last night to adopt "a no tolerance"
approach to Muslim demonstrators threatening violence in Britain after a
third embassy was set on fire in the Middle East.
The Conservatives called for firm action against any further militant
demonstrations as police faced growing criticism over their failure on
Friday to arrest protesters in London who chanted and carried placards
glorifying the July 7 London bombings and threatening beheadings.
Scotland Yard said it was studying film of the protests but refused to say
if any prosecutions would go ahead.
Television pictures broadcast that evening showed the majority of placards
in similar handwriting. One of three veiled women - or at least people who
appeared to be women - was seen writing placards and distributing them.
Most were held by men who had also hidden their identity.
Among the slogans were "Europe, your 9/11 will come" and, in an apparent
reference to the four July 7 suicide bombers, "Europe you will pay,
fantastic 4 are on their way". One protester was dressed as a suicide
The only arrests were of two counter-demonstrators, who police said were
held after apparently attempting to hand out caricatures of Mohammed. Both
were released without charge after a few hours.
Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain umbrella
group, said last night:The placards were quite disgraceful and seemed
to constitute a clear incitement to violence, even murder. I think
the police were right to take footage of the event and identify the
ringleaders, because although several hundred people were there the
placards were being held by a tiny group of extremists. I think
people will understand that the police did not step in to make matters
worse and were waiting for a more propitious time to charge these people.
Most Muslims feel enormous distress and anguish at what has occurred.
There will be no sympathy for [the extremists] when they are charged by
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland
Secretary, led Government appeals for calm but stopped short of endorsing
Tory calls for the police to arrest militant protesters in future.
Hain called on all sides to "cool it" and said that politicians must not
try to "second guess" police: If people are on our streets inciting
terrorism or promoting suicide bombings, they should be dealt with and
dealt with toughly and firmly - and they will be. But that is the police's
responsibility and they will discharge that.
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said that slogans such as
"Massacre those who insult Islam" amounted to incitement to murder and
that police should take "a no tolerance" approach to them. He told the
Sunday Telegraph:"Clearly, some of these placards are incitement to
violence and indeed incitement to murder." Dominic Grieve, the
Conservative legal affairs spokesman, expressed concern that it could
prove impossible to identify those responsible because arrests had not
been made at the time.
Scotland Yard, which has received at least 100 complaints from members of
the public so far, defended the decision not to make arrests. It said the
officer in charge at such scenes had to weigh the need to make arrests
against the likelihood of provoking more serious unrest.
UK Muslims Back the Bacon
British imams have demanded changes in the law and a strengthening of
the Press Complaints Commission code to outlaw any possible publication of
the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in the UK. They also wanted the Race
Relations Act modified to give Muslims the same protection as Sikhs or
Amid escalating tensions provoked by the controversy throughout Europe and
the Middle East, more than 300 religious leaders and scholars met
yesterday to highlight the distress of British communities and to plan a
They have scheduled a march through London next weekend and say at least
20,000 people are likely to attend.
Yesterday's event, which involved imams and grassroots figures from
throughout England and Scotland, marked the foundation of the Muslim
Action Committee (MAC), whose leaders plan a continuous campaign to
confront the alleged disparagement of Muslim communities and to call for
They say they are determined to show how deeply Muslims have been hurt,
without allowing the issue to be hijacked by extremists. Families on the
MAC-sponsored march on February 18 from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park will
only be allowed to carry approved banners.
Faiz Siddiqi, the MAC's national convenor, said:
What is being called
for is a change of culture. In any civilised society, if someone says,
'don't insult me', you do not, out of respect for them.
He said committee members would seek to meet editors and the PCC.
Newspapers have so far declined to publish the offending cartoons. Siddiqi
called for that approach to be formalised: The PCC's code is voluntary.
It is a benchmark of civility. It is a social contract. Why could it not
be extended to cover Muslims?
The meeting also agreed to back a boycott of Danish goods already imposed
by Muslims in other European countries.
A student newspaper has recalled 8,000 copies and suspended its editor
after publishing a cartoon satirising the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.
It is thought Cardiff University's student union paper Gair Rhydd is the
first UK publication to use the image which has caused global protests.
The paper has been withdrawn and said it regretted any upset caused.
Gair Rhydd which means Free Word in English was published and pulled on
the same day, but the university said it was likely that about 200 copies
remained in circulation.
A statement by Cardiff University Students' Union read:
expressed in Gair Rhydd are those of the editorial team independently of
the Students' Union or University. The Students' Union very much
regrets any upset caused or disrespect shown by the publication of the
controversial cartoon and has taken immediate action by promptly
withdrawing all copies of this week's edition of Gair Rhydd.
There were fears of a backlash from extremists last night as a British
magazine published one of the controversial cartoons featuring the Prophet
The Liberal magazine placed one of the Danish caricatures on its website
despite warnings from police about the likely reaction.
Several newspapers across Europe have already published the cartoons but
The Liberal is the first to show them directly in Britain.
Scotland Yard chiefs last night called an emergency meeting to discuss the
development. Anti-Terrorist Branch detectives believe the British
magazine's decision to publish one of the original cartoons will increase
Staff at The Liberal decided against publishing one of the cartoons in the
magazine itself after warnings from police. Editor Ben Ramm said
detectives had told him it would inflame an already tense situation. They
also hinted they only had finite resources to protect him and his
After last night's meeting of Scotland Yard commanders, security is
expected to be stepped up at The Liberal's North London offices and staff
may be given advice about their own protection.
Ramm said he was not afraid of being targeted by extremists. "I realise it
is a very sensitive issue but I believe that Muslims will see our
reasoning for doing this. We had a long and heated debate before
deciding to go ahead with it. We have chosen the least offensive of
the cartoons. We do not want to cause offence unnecessarily but in the end
we decided it was about artistic freedom of expression.
The magazine is in its seventh issue and has a print run of 25,000. The
image shows a cartoonist bent over a drawing of a conventionally depicted
Arab. Drops of sweat fly from the cartoonist's forehead, and it is not
clear whether they come from the heat of the lamp above the drawing or
from the tension of drawing the Prophet of Islam.
Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said he was
"saddened and disappointed" by the decision to publish the cartoon:
cartoons are gratuitously offensive to Muslims and will cause great hurt.
I would appeal to the editor of The Liberal to think again. The mainstream
media in Britain have shown great restraint but we always feared a smaller
publication would print the cartoons."
A senior police source said:
It appears the people running this
magazine have underestimated the likely reaction to this decision.
Thousands of British Muslims went into Trafalgar Square yesterday to
express their anger at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet
Muhammad as a terrorist. But they also voiced their rejection of the wave
of violent protest that has swept the Muslim world during the past two
weeks over the cartoons, first published in a small Danish newspaper.
This is the Muslim community, said the rally chairman, Anaf
Altikriti, of the Muslim Association of Britain. Not a handful of
people claiming vile things like those last Friday. He was referring
to protesters who took to the streets of London with placards embracing
al-Qaeda and calling for the beheading of non-believers.
5000 people gathered in the square to listen to an array of speakers. The
organisers had carefully chosen calm, co-ordinated banners that were
lifted in the air to create a sea of white and blue. The messages simply
read: United against Islamophobia, united against incitement, mercy to
mankind and Muhammad, symbol of freedom and honour.
Sumayah Razzak, said they had come there to defend the honour of Muhammad:
But we are against all violence and hatred and also condemn those evil
reactions. We are hear to show Muslims are peaceful.
Pakistan's ruling party and hardline Islamic groups yesterday issued a
joint call to hold a nationwide strike there on 3 March. The Muslim League
party and a six-party coalition of religious groups also urged people to
boycott the products of those countries where the Danish cartoons have
Politically Correct Term for Censors
the Chicago Tribune
The student newspaper at Northern Illinois University this week ran
the controversial Danish political cartoons of the Muslim Prophet
Muhammad. The student paper at the University of Illinois is still
reeling from the consequences of running them.
Harvard's conservative alternative paper has run them. On Wednesday, so
did the alternative student paper at Illinois State University.
We weighed the potential backlash, the potential fallout and decided
being afraid of backlash should not keep us from running a story,
because where do you draw the line? said Northern Star
editor-in-chief Derek Wright, as letters—many incensed, some
supportive—began to arrive at the Star's offices at Northern Illinois.
We felt it was something that was our responsibility.
As violent reactions to the cartoons simmer in the Muslim world—at least
three more people were killed in riots in Pakistan on Wednesday—the
controversial cartoons are trickling into student newspapers here.
Faculty advisers and journalism ethicists have rushed to frame
the discussions with students over handling the images in their own
For the most part, news organizations—including the Chicago Tribune—have
decided it is enough to write about the cartoons and their aftermath
without publishing them. Only two major U.S. newspapers have run the
cartoons, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the American-Statesman in
The nature of the offensiveness alone creates a significant barrier
to publishing or republishing the image, even if you can justify the
original publication, which I think is not easy to do, said ethicist
Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute for journalism.
Meanwhile, the Daily Illini's suspended editor, Acton Gorton, on
Wednesday hired a Chicago-based Muslim-American civil rights attorney,
Junaid Afeef. Gorton said he was defamed by the Illini's retraction
editorial, which blamed the decision to publish the cartoons on a
I just want to make sure I have good representation for whatever
happens now, Gorton said. My career is in jeopardy.
The Daily Illini backlash was fresh in the minds of editors at NIU,
where the Star's editorial board decided to publish the political
cartoons last Thursday, but postponed doing so until Monday. Officials
said they delayed to look into copyright questions about re-publication.
But it was just as well they waited, Wright said. The reaction in
Champaign prompted them to rethink how to present the material.
The 12 cartoons were run inside on Page 3 of the tabloid paper, with an
editorial headlined "More Than Cartoons" on the front page. Alongside
the cartoons, an article explained the controversy and student opinions.
On Page 8, the Star ran an opinion column from a student Muslim group
explaining objections to the images.
Feedback on the decision has been split, said Wright and Jim Killam, the
paper's adviser. Some people, including Muslims, said they objected to
the cartoons but appreciated the newspaper's muted presentation.
Tolerating Italian Fashion
At least nine people were reported dead in the Libyan city of Benghazi
after a mob set fire to the Italian consulate.
More than 1,000 protesters set upon the mission, setting cars alight and
breaking windows, apparently angered by a minister in Silvio
Berlusconi's government who has said he intends to wear T-shirts bearing
some of the cartoons.
An Italian consular official said nine protesters had been killed and
several more had been wounded as armed police clashed with the crowd.
State television showed part of the consulate on fire.
Italian state-owned RAI television said six members of the consular
staff were trapped inside, but unhurt. RAI said anger mounted at the
actions of Roberto Calderoli, the minister for constitutional reform,
and a leading member of the xenophobic Northern League. Earlier this
week, he announced that he planned to wear T-shirts featuring the
cartoons that were published in European newspapers and have sparked
violent protests around the world.
Last night Berlusconi asked for Calderoli to resign.
Deeply Respecting a
Million Dollar Bounty
A million dollar bounty for the killing of a cartoonist who caricatured
the Prophet Muhammad was yesterday offered by a radical cleric in
Pakistan, as thousands joined in street protests.
In the north-western city of Peshawar, the prayer leader Mohammed Yousaf
Qureshi announced the bounty to a crowd of about 1,000 people. Qureshi
said the mosque and his religious school would give $25,000 (£14,300)
and a car, while a local jewellers' association would give another $1
Qureshi continued: This is a unanimous decision by all imams 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.
The security forces were out in strength, particularly around government
offices and Western businesses, as Muslims streamed on to the streets
after Friday prayers. More than 200 people were detained, but most
gatherings were peaceful.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Journalists' Union
and spokesman for the cartoonists, condemned the bounty said the
cartoonists - who have been living under police protection since last
year - are aware of the reward and were "feeling bad about the whole
In Islamabad, the former US president Bill Clinton criticised the
cartoons but said violent protests by Muslims had wasted an opportunity
to build better ties with the West: Most people in the United States
deeply respect Islam ... and most people in Europe do.
Denmark announced it had temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan. It
also advised against travel to Pakistan and urged Danes still in the
country to leave.
Pakistan, meanwhile, recalled its ambassador to Denmark for
"consultations" about the cartoons, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim
Dial 666 for the Religious
Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts
of the country, a survey reveals today.
The results of the poll, conducted for the Sunday Telegraph, came as
thousands of Muslims staged a fresh protest in London yesterday against
the publication of cartoons of Mohammed.
Last night, Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP involved with the official task
force set up after the July attacks, said the findings were "alarming".
He added: Vast numbers of Muslims feel disengaged and alienated from
mainstream British society.
The most startling finding is the high level of support for applying
sharia law in "predominantly Muslim" areas of Britain. Islamic law is
used in large parts of the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia,
and is enforced by religious police. Special courts can hand down harsh
punishments which can include stoning and amputation.
40% of the British Muslims surveyed said they backed introducing sharia
in parts of Britain, while 41% opposed it.
Based on an article from the
Meanwhile 16 people have been killed/murdered in Northen Nigeria
where Sharia law has already been established. Most of the deaths
occurred in rioting in Maiduguri over the cartoons satirising the
Witnesses said most of the dead were from Maiduguri's minority
Christians. Eleven churches were also torched.
The BBC's Alex Last in northern Nigeria says the protest had begun
peacefully in Maiduguri, and it was not clear what started the violence.
The city's residents described demonstrators running wild after police
tried to disperse the protest with teargas. Crowds of protesters carried
machetes, sticks and iron rods through the city centre, the Associated
Press news agency reported. One group threw a tyre around one man,
poured gas on him and set him ablaze, it said.
Christian leader Joseph Hayab told the agency most of those who died
were Christians: The Muslim group came out to protest and the
security forces tried to ensure it was peaceful, but there were some
hoodlums in the crowd and somehow the security forces shot one or two of
them, They went on the rampage, burning shops and churches of the
Christians. The protesters killed the others. Some were even killed in
for a Cartoon Truce
...Apologise or my
mates will kick your head in...
Danish church officials met with Egypt's top Muslim cleric in an
effort to resolve the conflict caused by the Muhammad cartoons.
According to the Associated Press, however, no significant advancements
were made during the meeting.
During the meeting, Grand Imam Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi of al-Azhar
University, the world’s highest Sunni Muslim seat of learning, said the
Danish prime minister must apologise for the drawings and further
demanded that the world’s religious leaders, including him and Pope
Benedict XVI, meet to write a law that “condemns insulting any religion,
including the Holy Scriptures and the prophets.”
He said the United Nation should impose the law on all countries.
In response, Bishop Karsten Nissen of Denmark’s Evangelical Lutheran
Church, did not address the issue of a global law but said that it was
impossible for Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmusen to apologise
for what a newspaper had published: I have brought to his excellency
(Tantawi) the apology of the newspaper, but our prime minister did not
draw these cartoons. Our prime minister is not the editor of this
newspaper. He cannot apologise for something he did not do, Nissen
Saturday's meeting was part of a four-day visit to Egypt by the Danish
church delegation to open up a dialogue after the events following the
publication of the Muhammad cartoons.
Thanks to David:e_s4I3T1
Everyone should read this:
It's a Muslim investigative journalist's essay about how politicians
on all sides manipulate perceptions of cultural differences, and where
the real problems lie. There's some good warnings about censorship too.
It's simultaneously reassuring and disturbing stuff.
Most of the stuff relevant to Melon farmers is down in the latter third,
Calling for World Wide Blasphemy Laws to Protect the Kings Clothes
The religions of the world have come up with an
impossibly contradictory tangle of myths intended to unify communities
into controllable and socially powerful groups. When the myths simply
become too far divorced from any evidence of reality whatsoever, then
they have to be enforced by intimidation and punishment. Perhaps though
there is one myth that unifies all of mankind's religions, and that's
the story of the King's Clothes.
Belgian Islamists staged a march through Brussels on Tuesday,
demanding that the European Commission institute a Europe-wide blasphemy
law. The marchers delivered a letter of protest about the cartoons to
the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Danish Embassy.
The president of the Union of Brussels and Neighbourhood Mosques said:
We oppose the widening chasm between the Muslim community and other
European citizens that has incited hatred and fear of Islam, due to
these irresponsible acts [the publication of the satirical cartoons].
In their letter to the European Commission and the European Parliament,
the Islamists warn that the wave of irresponsible humiliation
caused by the cartoons may be dangerous:This attitude can only
exacerbate conflict, fuel hatred and reinforce the logic of the clash of
The letter asks for the European Union’s top decision-makers to
determinedly to prepare a draft law that forbids every kind of
blasphemy, so that all groups in society can leave in peace and harmony.
Such a law would: be completely consistent with the EU’s
protection of freedom, human rights and sacredness, and the elimination
of all acts that lead to racism and xenophobia
EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana signalled this week that the EU
might be supportive of this idea, stating: We are working on some
ideas. I cannot be very precise, but we are working on some ideas that
maybe it is possible to get through, according to Reuters. Deutsche
Welle quotes Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach as saying They
want mechanisms to guarantee this is not repeated and we should be able
to find it in UN conventions on human rights.
Meanwhile, an Iranian government minister has demanded that the European
Union ban the publication of caricatures that satirise “holy figures” of
any religion, including the allegedly offensive Prophet Muhammad
cartoons, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki told a news
conference in Yerevan on Tuesday: Today I will hold negotiations over
the phone with the foreign minister of Austria, which currently holds
the EU presidency. During the conversation, I will suggest including the
issue of respect for all prophets of any religions in the EU agenda.
East Asian Muslim and Christian leaders wrapped up their two-day meeting
in the Indonesian capital Jakarta by urging the UN to make a “universal
declaration” strictly banning blasphemy. Din Syamsuddin, leader of
Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation, the Muhammadiyah, said
I personally agree that the UN should issue a universal declaration
of human responsibility, apart from the universal declaration of human
rights, Because having the freedom without responsibility could lead our
civilisation to absolute liberalism.
Extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi has added his influential voice to
the pressure on the United Nations to adopt a resolution banning
blasphemy to head off similar incidents in the future. He also urged the
European Union to criminalise blasphemy against any religion, including
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is pressing for a ban
on religious intolerance to be part of the “bedrock” of a planned new
United Nations human rights body. According to the text of an OIC
proposal, the new UN body should state clearly that the defamation of
religions and prophets is inconsistent with the right to freedom of
expression and that states, organizations and the media have a
responsibility in promoting tolerance and respect for religious and
Free Speech Equality
Muslims must accept that freedom of speech is central to Britishness
and should be preserved even if it offends people, says Sir Trevor
The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said we
should allow people to offend each other. And he suggested
that Muslims who wanted a system of Islamic Shariah law should leave the
His comments follow angry protests against cartoons satirising the
Muslim prophet Muhammad.
Phillips told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme:
minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we
all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other. That we
have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting not
by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don't
And that commitment to freedom of expression should also allow Muslim
preachers to make comments about homosexuality that are offensive to
broad segments of the British population, he said: One point of
Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we
should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is.
He also rejected the idea of Shariah law in Muslim communities in the
UK. We have one set of laws. They are decided on by one group of
people, members of Parliament, and that's the end of the story. Anybody
who lives here has to accept that's the way we do it. If you want to
have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.
the Daily Times
About 5,000 Pakistani children chanting “Hang those who insulted the
prophet” rallied against caricatures of Prophet Muhammad on Tuesday,
with some torching an effigy of the Danish premier and coffins
representing Denmark, Israel and the United States.
At least 5,000 demonstrators, mostly aged between five and 12 years and
wearing school uniforms, marched through Karachi chanting “God is
Great”, police and witnesses said.
The entire nation, from men and women to children, are now on the
streets to protest against the caricatures, Jamaat-i-Islami
President Merajul Hude, told the protesting children.
Accompanied by their teachers, the children were bussed in from local
schools, including madrassas, witnesses and officials said. Some waved
placards with the slogans ‘Down with Denmark’ and ‘Boycott Danish
products’ as they marched for about half a kilometre from the National
One group then set ablaze a cloth figure representing Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, and burned plywood coffins
emblazoned with the US, Danish and Israeli flags, an AFP photographer
The police said Tuesday’s rally remained peaceful, like all the other
rallies so far held in Karachi.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Liaquat Baloch welcomed the European
Union’s first statement on the controversy. EU foreign ministers said
Monday they regretted the cartoons were “considered offensive” by
Muslims around the world after first appearing in a Danish newspaper in
September. But Baloch demanded an apology from Denmark, saying it “has
not so far acknowledged its mistake.”
Baloch also said a “line should be drawn” between the freedom of
expression - the justification newspapers gave for reproducing the
drawings, which Muslims consider blasphemous - and actions that offend
cultural sensitivities. A freedom of expression that destroys world
peace is against basic human rights.
Muslims should have "broader shoulders" when it comes to issues of free speech
such as the Danish cartoons, a Lib Dem home affairs spokesman has said.
Kishwer Falkner, who is a Muslim, said her community must be "tolerant" and
"learn the art of peaceful dissent". She said freedom of speech was not just a
Western concept but it was necessary in any pluralistic society.
Falkner said there was "no doubt" the cartoons had offended Muslims and
doubt their publication in Britain was an error of judgement. But she said
self-censorship was always better than state censorship and freedom of speech
was a "necessary condition" of living in a pluralistic society.
The Lib Dems last month helped defeat the government over plans to ban
incitement to religious hatred, which had been called for by Muslim groups who
want the same protection from offence as Christians. Falkner, who speaks for the
Lib Dems on home affairs in the Lords, said the blasphemy laws protecting
Christians should now be repealed to ensure consistency. But she added: If we
demand equality, we cannot demand respect - that has to be earned.
She said laws in Austria and Germany banning denial of the holocaust should also
be scrapped, arguing they were now out of place in the "mature and confident
democracies" the two countries had become: They should repeal it and let
Holocaust deniers express their hateful and warped versions of history.
Her views were echoed by Lib Dem human rights spokesman Evan Harris, who told
delegates said that with extremists - and even our own prime minister in a
mild way - increasingly hiding behind religious beliefs it had never
been more important to stand up for free speech. He urged the party to say no to
blasphemy laws, holocaust denial laws and, in a reference to London Mayor Ken
Livingstone's suspension over remarks he made to a Jewish reporter, "no to
standards board speech police".
He warned that unless people stood up against state censorship
offended will be able to get protection for their views but people less easily
offended will not be able to get protection for their views. He told
delegates: If you don't want to read The Satanic Verses don't buy the book.
If you don't want to watch Jerry Springer the Opera on the BBC switch channels.
If you don't want to read cartoons in a Danish newspaper, don't go to Denmark
and buy those newspapers.
Sajj Karim MEP said Muslims in the European Union had "by and large" responded
to the publication of the cartoons democratically, even though they had been
offended by them. He said the globalised nature of modern media meant extra care
had to be taken - but the final judgement on whether to publish should be left
to the press and not the censors. We as a party must defend the editors'
right to make that judgement call at all costs, he told delegates.
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael also backed calls for greater
freedom of speech, telling delegates: There is no such thing as freedom not
Salman Rushdie is among a dozen writers to have put their names to a
statement in a French weekly paper warning against Islamic
"totalitarianism". The writers say the violence sparked by the
publication of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad shows the need
to fight for secular values and freedom.
The statement is published in Charlie Hebdo, one of several European
papers to reprint the caricatures.
Almost all of those who have signed the statement have experienced
difficulties with Islamic militancy first-hand, says the BBC's Caroline
Wyatt in Paris. They include Dutch MP and filmmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali and
exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.
After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world
now faces a new global threat: Islamism, the manifesto says.
writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious
totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and
secular values for all.
The clashes over the cartoons revealed the necessity of the struggle
for these universal values, the statement continues: It is not a
clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are
witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and
They also said they would not give up their critical spirit out of fear
of being accused of Islamophobia. Islamism is a reactionary ideology
which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present,
the writers added, saying it is nurtured by fears and frustrations
Salman Rushdie - Indian-born British writer with fatwa issued
ordering his execution for The Satanic Verses
Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Somali-born Dutch MP
Taslima Nasreen - exiled Bangladeshi writer, with fatwa issued
ordering her execution
Bernard-Henri Levy - French philosopher
Chahla Chafiq - Iranian writer exiled in France
Caroline Fourest - French writer
Irshad Manji - Ugandan refugee and writer living in Canada
Mehdi Mozaffari - Iranian academic exiled in Denmark
Maryam Namazie - Iranian writer living in Britain
Antoine Sfeir - director of French review examining Middle East
Ibn Warraq - US academic of Indian/Pakistani origin
Philippe Val - director of Charlie Hebdo
As spotted by
The March issue of the UK’s secular-humanist monthly, The
Freethinker, is a “religious cartoons special edition”, featuring
several Mo-toon fever inspired cartoons, a couple of Jesus-on-the-cross
funnies, Jesus and Mo, one of the original “Danish twelve” (the “ran out
of virgins” one - “turban bomb” and “horn head” were reprinted in the
November 2005 issue, to a noticeable absence of outrage), and articles
by Irshad Manji and Ibn Warraq, among other things.
of Yemenese Intimidation
A newspaper editor in Yemen who republished Danish cartoons depicting
prophet Muhammad said Yemeni prosecutors are calling for his execution.
I am afraid but I am also hopeful, Muhammad al-Asadi of the Yemen
Observer said in a telephone interview today from the capital, Sana'a:
We were against the cartoons and we wanted only to explain about
Islam. I hope the judge will see that.
Al-Asadi was arrested in February and charged under a press law that
bans publication of anything that prejudices the Islamic faith and
its lofty principles, or belittles monotheistic religions or
The editor spent 12 days in a prison run by the Prosecutor for the
Press, before being released on bail. Three other Yemeni journalists
also have been jailed for reprinting the cartoons, which angered Muslims
worldwide and led to violent demonstrations in countries including
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
As many as 21 Yemeni prosecution lawyers asked for the death penalty in
yesterday's proceedings, arguing a precedent was set during Muhammad's
lifetime, according to al-Asadi. He said the lawyers recounted a story
in which the prophet praised one of his companions for killing a woman
who had insulted him.
The prosecution, commissioned by the head of a legislative committee,
also called for the confiscation of the newspaper's property and assets,
and for compensation, al-Asadi said. The case opened on Feb. 15 and was
adjourned until March 22, he said.
The Yemenis are among 11 journalists in five countries being prosecuted
for printing the cartoons. Six journalists have been jailed and 13
publications have been closed in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen,
Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Reporters Without Borders, a
Paris-based organization that promotes freedom of the press and works to
The Yemen Observer's license to print newspapers was revoked in a
temporary action that the government is trying to make permanent. The
staff has continued to publish on the Internet.
The Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Jan. 26 said it
was alarmed by the deterioration of press freedom in Yemen over the last
several months, according to a statement in its Web site. Journalists
who have covered protests, reported on official corruption, or
criticized the president or government policies, have all been targeted,
the group said.
Al-Asadi said he was very careful in the way he chose to reprint the
cartoons, and didn't think he would cause offense: We selected three
of the 12 images, reduced them to all fit in a 7-by-9 centimeter
(2.75-by-3.5 inch) box, and printed a thick black X over them to show we
disproved of them. Accompanying articles denounced the cartoons,
called for calm and explained that the prophet should be honored: We
wrote in an editorial that the cartoons were terrible but we should
accept the apologies of the newspaper that published them and move on,
al-Asadi said. That's what angered really the hard-liners.
Defending the European Right to Enforce Ludicrous Beliefs by
The European Court of Human Rights said that it had received a
request by a French Muslim body to condemn the publication of cartoons
of Prophet Mohammed in French newspapers.
The Regional Council for the Muslim Religion (CRCM) in the Champagne
Ardenne region said in a statement that the publication of the
controversial cartoons in French newspapers constituted a discrimination
between Muslims and non-Muslims contrary to the European Convention of
Muslims from Champagne Ardenne are touched like the rest of Muslims
in the world, injured in their faith and their dignity, said the
CRCM, that filed the complaint on February 13.
The Muslim body said it hoped that the European court would accept the
case, even though it had not yet exhausted possibilities for a trial in
The European Court of Human Rights has now to decide whether it will
accept the case.
Blasphemy: Maintaining Belief in the Unbelievable via threat and
Turkey's foreign minister asks the EU for blasphemy laws to protect
Deep divisions have appeared among European Union governments over
suggestions that they should alter their blasphemy laws to protect
Islam, and not just Christianity.
Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, sparked disagreement among
his EU counterparts at a weekend meeting in Austria, when he called for
European nations to review existing laws, to ensure they outlawed the
"defamation" of all religions.
Gul told a meeting of EU and Balkan foreign ministers in Salzburg that
many Muslims believed that European laws amounted to a double-standard,
protecting established Christian religions, and banning anti-Semitism
and Holocaust denial, while doing nothing to defend Muslims who felt
He said several European nations already maintained laws against
religious defamation. However, these restraints sometimes only apply
to the established religions of the concerned countries. I would like to
call on you here to start a process of re-examination of your
legislations to ensure that these restraints apply to all religions
However, Bernard Bot, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters:
have freedom of speech. That means that Mr Gul can say what he wants and
I can say what I want. And I think that this [Gul's idea] is
Protestors Charged with Hatred, Danish Newspaper Not
Denmark’s chief prosecutor says that he will not press charges
against the newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad cartoons
that angered Muslims worldwide.
The Foreign Ministry warned that the decision could cause "negative
reactions" against Danes, and warned citizens to be cautious when
traveling in Muslim countries.
Henning Fode, the Director of Public Prosecutions, upheld the decision
of a regional prosecutor who ruled that the drawings published in
Jyllands-Posten on September 30 did not violate Danish law. Fode’s
decision cannot be appealed. His ruling said that the 12 cartoons, one
of which shows the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, did not
violate bans on racist and blasphemous speech.
Meanwhile five men were arrested in Britain today over their alleged
role in protests outside the Danish Embassy in London last month against
the cartoons. Four of the five were held on suspicion of incitement to
murder and all five are suspected of "using threatening words or written
material to stir up racial hatred".
During the demonstrations on February 3 and 4, protesters held placards
threatening a repeat of the September 11 or July 7 terror attacks. Among
the slogans were "Massacre those who insult Islam" and "Europe you will
pay, your 9/11 will come".
The demonstration attracted widespread political condemnation. Among
those calling for prosecutions was the Muslim Council of Britain.
The Metropolitan Police said today: A number of specialist
evidence-gathering officers were deployed, who collected video, audio
and stills of those within the crowd. A dedicated investigation team,
Operation Laverda, was set up that day. After carefully reviewing all of
the evidence and witness complaints a file was passed to the Crown
Prosecution. Their advice was returned to us on March 7.
Blanket Cartoon Coverage
The Blanket will be the first
media outlet in the British Isles to reproduce the cartoons since their
publication provoked violent disturbances, boycotts and death threats.
The website has posted one of the cartoons today.
Last night British Muslims warned the website's editors that they
were 'fanning the flames of anger'. With 22 million hits since it was
founded five years ago, The Blanket is read around the world. Usually it
posts debates about the future of Irish Republicanism, and many of its
writers are highly critical of the Sinn Fein leadership. However, The
Blanket's co-founder and former H-Block prisoner Anthony McIntyre said
the site had decided to publish one cartoon of Muhammad per week for the
next three months 'in protest against totalitarianism'.
The spur for us was a manifesto against
totalitarianism that writers such as Salman Rushdie signed up to in
response to the violent reaction over the cartoons. We wanted to show
solidarity with those writers who were prepared to stick their necks out
in defence of free speech. We chose 12 weeks for each and every one of
the writers who signed the anti-totalitarian declaration. 'We also
decided to publish because the liberal media in Britain and Ireland are
guilty of total cowardice. None of them let the public see these images
and make up their own minds about the debate. They [the mainstream
media] buckled under fear and threats.
Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds resigned on Tuesday, March
21, over a row triggered by her closure of a far-right website for
publishing a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.
I believe that the current situation is impossible for me…and that is
why I have chosen to resign, Freivalds told a news conference.
The politician has been under stinging criticism over her decision to
shut down the website of the far-right Sweden Democrats for launching a
competition for Prophet cartoons.
The criticism has increased after it was revealed that the foreign
ministry had pressured the Internet host Levonlines to shut down the
website. Freivalds had previously denied having known anything about
pressures by her ministry on the Internet provider. But it was revealed
this week that she had advance knowledge of the pressures, seen as
violating constitutional guarantees of free speech.
The far-right website launched the competition on January 10 and one of
the 40 contributions it had received had already been published on the
The drawing, considered blasphemous by some Muslims, depicted the
Prophet from the back holding up a mirror. The reflection of his face
has the eyes barred over and the caption reads "Mohammedan
complain ... we've all been caricatured here
The Anglican Church in Wales has apologised to Muslims after a
cartoon satirising the Prophet Muhammad was printed in its
Welsh-language magazine. The Church in Wales has issued an immediate
recall of all copies of the latest edition of Y Llan - meaning
Church - following the reproduction of the cartoon.
The drawing - reprinted from the French magazine France Soir - satirises
the Prophet Muhammad by depicting him sitting on a heavenly cloud with
Buddha and Christian and Muslim deities. He is being told: "Don't
complain ... we've all been caricatured here."
The cartoon was used to illustrate an article about the shared ancestry
of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Prophet's depiction is banned in
Sion Brynach, spokesman for the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan,
said: The Church in Wales is thoroughly investigating how this
cartoon came to be reproduced in Y Llan. Despite the publication's small
circulation, we are concerned about the possibility of causing any
offence to the Muslim community in Wales - with whom the Church in Wales
has an excellent relationship - as a result of the reproduction of this
A letter from the Archbishop has been sent to all subscribers to the
magazine requesting that they return all the estimated 400 or so copies.
Dr Morgan has also apologised to the Muslim Council of Wales for any
A statement issued by the Church in Wales said the bishops had already
"made it clear" that they regretted the publication of the cartoons
depicting the Prophet Muhammad in various
Faith In the Law
Thinking of damaged reputations, I haven't spotted a
single claim that Islam is a tolerant religion since the protests
started. There must be millions that are partially responsible for this
particular loss of reputation. Perhaps they can be sued too.
A group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations have filed a defamation
lawsuit against the newspaper that first published the caricatures of
Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, their lawyer said Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, two weeks after Denmark’s top
prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings that
sparked a firestorm in the Muslim world did not violate laws against
racism or blasphemy.
Michael Christiani Havemann, a lawyer representing the Muslim groups,
said lawsuit sought $16,100 in damages from Jyllands-Posten Editor in
Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the
We’re seeking judgment for both the text and the drawings which were
gratuitously defamatory and injurious, Havemann said. The lawsuit
was filed in the western city of Aarhus, where Jyllands-Posten is based.