Turkey Says EU Must Protect Islam

Ingrid Melander, Reuters, March 11, 2006

SALZBURG, Austria—The European Union risks damaging its image worldwide if it does not do more to protect Islam against insults, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.

Gul said that was the message he gave EU counterparts in the Austrian city of Salzburg at a meeting called to draw lessons from the controversy over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.

“The laws are already there but they should cover all religions,” Gul said, referring to existing European laws to protect religions from insult.

Drawings first published last year in a Danish newspaper and reprinted by other European media sparked worldwide protests by Muslims who believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet. At least 50 people were killed.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Salzburg discussed ways of rebuilding trust with the Muslim world, and Gul told them in a speech that existing laws should be reviewed “to ensure that . . . restraints apply to all religions equally, including Islam”.

He told Reuters there was a risk Europe’s image would be damaged if the 25-nation bloc did not show clearly that it treated defamation of all religions in the same way.

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The Turkish foreign minister stressed he did not want debate limited to the cartoons, and would call on his European colleagues to work together on all aspects of racism and discrimination to prevent other crises.

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