By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 1/31/2006 | 6:26 pm
Morocco condemned on Tuesday the publication of satirical cartoons on Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, regretting it came to provoke Muslim's feelings, said a release of the Moroccan Supreme Council of Ulemas.
The council has also criticized the use of freedom of expression to attack millions of Muslims who reject the humiliation of any prophet, from Adam to Muhammad, including Moses and Jesus.
The Council urged the wise and decision makers around the world to unite to protect freedom and all the ethical values that are threatened by hatred and irresponsible behaviors.
The Council, which is presided over by King Mohammed VI, includes 15 members, heads of the thirty regional councils of Ulema, the Minister of Islamic affairs, and a secretary general.
Officials in Muslim countries and various religious bodies have also expressed anger at the cartoons, while the editors of the newspapers have defended their publication on the grounds of freedom of expression.
The Council of Europe, concerned about the developments, warned the Danish government last week against publications provoking enmity and an interesting protest rose from inside Denmark.
Twenty-two retired Danish ambassadors issued a joint declaration in the country's bestselling newspaper the Politiken, criticizing the Danish Premier and the newspaper Jyllands Posten and underlining that freedom of expression cannot be used in a way to offend Muslims.
'Jyllands-POosten', Denmark's largest circulation daily, published in September 2005, twelve satirical cartoons on the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), after a writer complained that nobody dared illustrate his book about him.
One of the cartoons portrays the Prophet wearing a time-bomb-shaped turban and shows him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black.
Muslim States in protest, call for Danish products boycott
The cartoons have sparked uproar in the Muslim world who called for a boycott of all Danish products. The debate on the issue was re-ignited last week when a Norwegian Christian magazine republished the illustrations, which Islam consider blasphemous.
While Denmark's Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen tried to assuage Muslim anger, several Arab countries have recalled their ambassadors, or say they plan to do so; and Denmark cautioned its citizens about travel in Muslim countries.
Libya closed on Sunday its embassy in Denmark in protest at the drawings and Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Denmark.
Muslim wrath has spread rapidly in the Middle East, with Gulf retailers pulling Danish products off their shelves and protesters gathering outside Danish embassies.
A Qatari cooperative society, al-Meera, has decided to boycott Danish and Norwegian products.
The move follows similar action taken by other Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, in protest at the cartoons.
Egypt's Federation of Chambers of Commerce has also launched a boycott and plans to urge organizations in the maritime transport sector to halt their dealings with shipping lines that transport Danish goods.
The boycott call already prompted a Danish food company, which produces a range of dairy products for sale in the Arabic region, to close a dairy in the Saudi city of Riyadh that employs 800 people.
Arla Foods, a Danish company and the second-largest distributor of dairy products in Europe, reported that sales had dropped to nothing.
"This is a public uprising," Louis Honore, a spokesman for Arla, told the New York Times. "This has spread through the region like wildfire. And the boycott has been practically 100 %."
The Middle East is Arla Foods' main market outside Europe. It has $430 million in annual sales in the Middle East and about 1000 employees in the region.
The ramifications of the dispute could reach well beyond Scandinavia. The Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) are planning to ask the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution banning attacks on religious beliefs, and backed by threats of sanctions.
EU warns on Danish boycott
The European Union has warned Saudi Arabia that the bloc will take action at the World Trade Organization if the Riyadh government supports a boycott of Danish goods.
Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, told the Saudi Minister of State that any Danish boycott would be a boycott of the European Union.
Peter Power, a EU spokesman, said on Monday “he made it clear that if the Saudi government had encouraged the boycott, Commissioner Mandelson would regret having to take the issue to the WTO."
Muslim wrath forces Danish paper to apologize
The editor-in-chief of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, apologized on Monday for publishing satirical caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that have triggered a boycott of Danish products across the Muslim world and generated threats to Nordic citizens abroad.
In a statement to "Honorable Fellow Citizens of the Muslim World", the editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, said the cartoons "were not in violation of Danish law but they have undoubtedly offended many Muslims, for which we would like to apologize".
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also expressed on Monday his first criticism of the publication, but said his government could not apologize on behalf of a newspaper.
"I personally have such respect for people's religious feelings that I personally would not have depicted Mohammed, Jesus or other religious figures in such a manner that would offend other people," Rasmussen said.
Earlier this month, the conservative Prime Minister rejecting the demand for talks made by 12 Muslim countries' ambassadors in Copenhagen including Turkey's, supported the cartoons publication on grounds of "freedom of press and expression".
On Tuesday, the Danish Prime Minister directed his criticism towards the Islamic Faith Community based in Denmark, which according to him they spread "misinformation" about the country in the Arab media after their tour of the Middle East.
Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim group, denied spreading any false information about Denmark.
The Scandinavian country has some 170,000 Muslims. Islam is the second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, whose followers comprise four-fifths of the country's population
Muslims assaulted several times in past months
The past months have known several assaults against Muslims which sparked Muslim outrage all around the world.
In May 2005, the US magazine, Newsweek, quoting a knowledgeable US government source, said US interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Qur'an down a toilet.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also said it had provided the Pentagon with confidential reports about US personnel disrespecting or mishandling the Qur'an at Gitmo in 2002 and 2003.
The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Gaza city.
In July 2005, US Republican Tom Tancredo had suggested “the United States could target Muslim holy sites (bombing Mecca) if radical Islamic terrorists set off multiple nuclear attacks in American cities.”
In December 2005, the US Coalition for a Secure Driver's License's launched a billboard campaign in New Mexico and North Carolina, which contains extremely negative and racist images of Muslims, Arabs and Arab cultural symbols.
The billboard incites fears of Arab and Muslim Americans and depicts them as a threat to the American national security, “misleadingly” using “false stereotypes and racist rhetoric to push their anti-immigration agenda.”
“The ad depicts an individual whose face is covered by a Kufiya (the traditional male headdress in some Arab countries,) carrying a hand-grenade and a North Carolina driver's license. The billboard also features nonsensical Arabic letters that do not form words and two figures in the background wearing military fatigues. The caption reads 'Don't License Terrorists, North Carolina!'"
More recently, a host of KFI-AM 640, a Los Angeles-area radio show made fun of a stampede that killed hundreds of Muslims during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
According to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), host Bill Handel imitated the people screaming and then joked that the Muslims at the pilgrimage should use a helicopter to monitor pilgrimage traffic, as is done in Los Angeles with the freeways.
CAIR quoted Handel as saying, "This is Mahmoud Nolan. Hajj in the Sky. There is an accident ... Ali lost his sandal on the on-ramp to the Martin Luther King Jr. freeway ..."
In March 2004, KFI issued an on-air apology after CAIR filed a complaint with the US Federal Communications Commission after a skit that claimed Muslims have sex with animals, do not bathe and hate Jews.
The Los Angeles radio has said “he will apologize only if an Islamic civil rights group denounces terrorism and acknowledges Israel's right to exist.”
The recent assaults against Muslims through the publication of satirical cartoons on the prophet Mohammed will not be the last attack on Muslims if the Islamic Ummah does not move to protect the dignity of the one billion Muslim around the world.