Papers Reprint Islam Row Cartoons

AP, Feb. 1

PARIS, France—A French newspaper on Wednesday republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that caused uproar in the Muslim world when they were printed in a Danish daily, saying that religious dogma has no place in a secular society.

The drawings, first printed September 30 in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and reprinted in a Norwegian magazine last month, sparked boycotts and demonstrations against Denmark throughout the Muslim world.

Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry.

The front page of the daily France Soir on Wednesday carried the headline “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God” and a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud. Inside, the paper reran the drawings.

Germany’s Welt daily also printed one of the drawings on its front page on Wednesday, arguing that a “right to blasphemy” was anchored in democratic freedoms.

“The appearance of the 12 drawings in the Danish press provoked emotions in the Muslim world because the representation of Allah and his prophet is forbidden. But because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society, France Soir is publishing the incriminating caricatures,” France Soir said.

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The Jyllands-Posten apologized on Monday, saying it regretted offending Muslims. It said it had not broken Danish law by printing the cartoons, however its editor said Wednesday that he would not have printed them had he foreseen the consequences.

“Had we known that it would lead to boycotts and Danish lives being endangered as we have seen, then the answer is ‘no’,” the newspaper’s editor, Carsten Juste told The Associated Press.

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PARIS—French Muslim leaders on Wednesday, February 1, denounced in unison the reprinting of a series of explosive cartoons blasphemous to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by a French daily and vowed to take the case to French courts.

“We call on French Muslims to peacefully protest this aggression on the Prophet of Islam,” the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) said in a statement after a meeting chaired by its head Dalil Boubackeur.

Boubakeur’s call was echoed by Lhaj Thami Breze, the head of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), who blasted the provocative and unnecessary publication.

Paris daily France Soir said it had decided to reprint them “not from an appetite for gratuitous provocation, but because they constitute the subject of a controversy on a global scale which has done nothing to maintain balance and mutual limits in democracy, respect of religious beliefs and freedom of expression.”

“Now they want an apology from a society characterized with freedom of expression and religion at a time when they deny their peoples the right to free speech.”

It continued: “We will give no heed to their objections and insist on drawing pictures of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha, which has everything to do with the freedom of expression we do enjoy in our society.”

Published last September by the Danish mass-circulation Jyllands-Posten, the 12 cartoons included portrayals of the Prophet wearing a time-bomb shaped turban and showed him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women.

Initially passing with little comment, they were reprinted in several European newspapers, adding fuel to the already raging flames in the Muslim world.

The Danish newspaper apologized for offending Muslims by publishing the cartoons, saying, “These cartoons were not in violation of Danish law but have irrefutably offended many Muslims, and for that we apologize.”

Bankruptcy

The heavily-indebted paper opted for reprinting the blasphemous cartoons to boost its declining sales and shift the attention from strikes staged by its reporters and editors at unpaid salaries and unknown future, sources close to the daily told IOL on condition not to be named.

A group of editors and employees submitted a petition on December 19 to the prime minister to save their paper, which is owned by Egyptian-French Raymond Lakah, from bankruptcy as they faced sacking.

“The paper’s bankruptcy, no doubt, played a key role,” said Breze.

“The paper’s act is ridiculous and irresponsible,” added Al-Arabi Kashat, the imam Al-Dawa mosque in Paris.

“They offended up to one billion Muslims worldwide,” he fumed. “Even non-Muslims and those who don’t believe in Muhammad must respect the greatest figures that made history,” he added.

Kashat said the world is in a dire need of peace, which should be based on respect of the other’s belief.

“We should stand up firmly to those who are trying to ignite sectarian sedition among peoples,” he added.

The French Foreign Ministry evaded a clear condemnation of the re-publication.

“The paper, not the government, is to blame for the publication,” a ministry’s spokeswoman told IOL.

“In a democratic and secular country like France, we should, however, respect religions but free speech is a sacred right on the condition that it neither violates privacies nor incites hatred,” she added.

The Muslim world’s two main political bodies—the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League—said Sunday, January 29, they were seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions in response to the furor.

Danish embassies in the Middle East have been the scenes of protests, a Danish flag was burnt by angry Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza and Gulf retailers pulled Danish products off their shelves.

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