(by Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com) – Muslims are turning up the heat and threatening boycotts over cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, following a decision by a second media outlet in Scandinavia to publish the caricatures.
A Norwegian Christian paper, Magazinet, this month reprinted a series of “Mohammed” cartoons that caused an uproar after first appearing in Denmark’s largest circulation daily, Jyllands-Posten, last September.
Magazinet said it decided to print the 12 sketches in a show of support for Jyllands-Posten and to highlight the freedom of speech issue.
“Just like Jyllands-Posten, I have become sick of the ongoing hidden erosion of the freedom of expression,” wrote Magazinet Editor Vebjoern Selbekk.
The Danish paper attributed its original decision to publish the pictures to a desire to test the limits of free speech. Since then, it has received death threats, heavy criticism from Islamic organizations and governments, and expressions of concern by the U.N. human rights commissioner.
A U.N. rapporteur on “contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” has asked the Danish government for a formal explanation of its stance by this week.
Jyllands-Posten Editor Carsten Juste told Magazinet last weekend that the nature of the response to the publication showed just how necessary the debate was.
Magazinet, too, quickly found itself the recipient of emailed threats, including death threats. Another Norwegian paper, Dagbladet, has also published the cartoons online, although others in the country have criticized the decision.
One of the cartoons shows “Mohammed” with his eyes blacked out, carrying a curved dagger and flanked by women wearing burqas. Another has him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, complete with lit fuse.
In a third picture, the points of a crescent moon peeking out from behind the subject’s head take on the appearance of horns.
Muslims consider blasphemous any image purporting to be that of Mohammed.
Following the cartoons’ appearance in Norway, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a grouping of 57 Muslim or mostly Muslim states, issued a new statement on the row, warning that the move could trigger acts of violence.
OIC Secretary-G eneral Ekmeleddin \’ddhsanoglu said publication of the sketches was “misguided” and “Islamophobic,” and went beyond freedom of expression.
“They violate international principles, values and ethics enshrined in the various resolutions and declarations of the United Nations.”
\’ddhsanoglu, a Turk, said the caricatures would “play [in]to the hands of extremists and create backlashes by alienating masses.”
The OIC expected Christian and Jewish leaders to take a public stand on the issue.
He also argued that the OIC position should not be “misrepresented” and seen to be contrary to democratic principles.
In other reaction, a Danish Muslim body is planning to take the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to the European Court of Human Rights after attempts to bring a legal challenge in Danish courts ran into difficulties.
Muslim leaders in the country have spoken of the need to “internationalize” the issue, and the strategy has shown some success. Apart from strongly worded statements from the OIC and the Arab League, other Muslim groups are promoting boycotts of Danish and Norwegian products and activities.
The International Union for Muslim Scholars said in a statement on Saturday that if authorities in Denmark and Norway do not “take a firm stance against these repeated insults to the Muslim nation,” it would urge millions of Muslims across the world to support a boycott.
The body is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a prominent and controversial Egyptian cleric who has called Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis justifiable “martyrdom operations.”
Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reports that a campaign is underway in the kingdom to boycott Danish products until the country’s government issues a formal apology.
Muslims angered by the cartoons’ publication have been frustrated by the authorities’ hands-off approach.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier refused to meet with a delegation of diplomats from 11 Islamic nations to discuss the matter. He explained that he had no power — and wanted no power — to restrict freedom of the press in Denmark.
In a New Year speech to his nation, Rasmussen took a conciliatory line, stressing the importance of protecting free speech but also saying it should be exercised in a way that does not incite hatred or cause splits in the community. Unusually, the address was translated into Arabic this year.
Muslims account for about 3 percent of Denmark’s 5.4 million, mostly Lutheran Protestant, population. In Norway, around 1.5 percent of the 4.6 million people are Muslims.
Last month, a top Norwegian security expert warned that it was only a matter of time before Islamic terrorists launched attacks in Scandinavian countries, which he said were attractive to radicals because of their liberal reputations.
Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. For what reason are Muslims threatening to boycott Danish products?
2. List the two reasons the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet had for printing the 12 sketches of Mohammed.
3. What was Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s reason for printing the cartoons of Mohammed? What has happened to employees of the paper since that time?
4. Should a newspaper in a free country (or any country) be required to answer to the United Nations? Explain your answer.
5. Define blasphemous. What type of images of Mohammed do Muslims consider blasphemous? (Click here to view the cartoons.)
6. What do Muslims groups want the government of Denmark to do? Why does the Danish government refuse to get involved?
7. Muslim groups have demanded that the Danish government apologize. What danger to free speech does this present?
8. Is the anger in the Muslim world over the original depictions of Mohammed justified? Was the newspaper justified in printing the cartoons in the first place? Explain your answers.
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