The United States backed Muslims on Friday against European newspapers that printed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a move that could help America’s battered image in the Islamic world.
Inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States sided with Muslims outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.
“These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question.
“We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”
He said he had no comment as to why the United States chose to pass judgment in a dispute that ostensibly does not involve America.
“We call for tolerance and respect for all communities for their religious beliefs and practices,” he added.
Major U.S. publications have not republished the cartoons, which include depictions of Mohammad as a terrorist and offend believers as blasphemous.
In contrast, some European media responded to the criticism against the Danish newspaper that originally printed the caricatures by reproducing the images and fueled anger that has led to boycotts of Danish products and widespread protests.