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World: Violence Over Cartoons Continues Despite Calls For Calm

Protesters in Jakarta on 8 February (epa) More people were reported killed and wounded in fresh violence today in Afghanistan during protests over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations, and the European Union have issued a joint call for dialogue to defuse Muslim anger over the caricatures. But tensions continue to flare in countries with large Muslim populations.

PRAGUE, 8 February (RFE/RL) – Protests over the controversial cartoons show no signs of abating, with the worst violence once again erupting in Afghanistan today.

Afghan authorities say at least four people were killed and nine injured in Qalat, capital of the southern Zabul Province. Afghan army and Interior Ministry officials say the casualties came after security forces opened fire to control a crowd of stone-throwing protesters, killing four and wounding several.
"Death to the enemies of the religion! Death to the enemies of Islam!"

More protests also took place in the capital Kabul, with demonstrators chanting: "Death to the enemies of the religion! Death to the enemies of Islam!"

One demonstrator questioned freedom of speech, as it is interpreted in the West. "What kind of freedom is that? In the West, insulting religious sanctities is considered freedom, but in reality, freedom should not be something that would allow the questioning of the religion and beliefs of Muslim people," Nur Mohammad said.

In the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, students burned Danish flags outside the Danish Embassy. One of the protest leaders called for all Danes to be expelled from the country. "When someone from a certain country insults our religion, the citizens from that country living in Indonesia must leave and close their embassy in Indonesia," he said.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators attacked an international observer mission in the city of Hebron. Sixty members of the mission were inside at the time, according to a spokeswoman for the Temporary International Presence. The observers have been in Hebron for a decade, helping to keep the peace between the city's Jewish and Palestinian residents.

No one was hurt after Palestinian police reinforcements were called in to restore order.

Clash Of Cultures By Cartoon

Despite a joint appeal by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations, and the European Union,there could be an escalation in tensions.

Iran's largest newspaper on 7 February upped the ante by announcing a competition for what it called "Holocaust cartoons." The daily "Hamshahri," which is run by Tehran’s municipal government, said it wanted to see whether freedom of expression extended to mocking the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews lost their lives during World War II. The newspaper invited foreign cartoonists to enter the contest.

That elicited an angry reaction from State Department spokesman Sean McCormack in Washington, who said, "Any attempt to mock or to in any way denigrate the horror that was the Holocaust is simply outrageous."

In Germany, Paul Spiegel, president of the Central Council of Jews, expressed revulsion at the Iranian move. But he also strongly criticized the publication of the cratoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, saying that they were not morally or ethically justifiable.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview aired today with Spanish television, had much the same reaction. He called on the media to be far more circumspect in what it chooses to publish.

"Any provocation in this area is absolutely unacceptable. One should think 100 times before publishing anything, doing anything or drawing anything," Putin said.

Product Of The 'Rage Machine'

But in the Western media, there is a growing feeling that the crisis has gotten out of hand, as extremist groups use the cartoon controversy to fight their own proxy wars.

In an editorial published in "The Wall Street Journal" today, writer Amir Taheri asks, "How representative of Islam are all those demonstrators?" Taheri says the "rage machine" has been set in motion by political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and others who seek to gain political capital out of fueling anti-Western riots.

Palestinians attacking the mission in Hebron on 8 February (epa)

Taheri says Islamic ethics are based on "limits and proportions," which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon, "is not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy."

He says Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the drawings. And likewise, he notes, "those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy."

In the Czech Republic today, foreign students at the country's two leading technical universities were being urged not to attend classes after an anonymous caller threatened their lives on 7 February. The Czech Republic's leading newspaper, "Mlada fronta Dnes," was one of the European dailies that reprinted the cartoons.

As the world prepares for the Winter Olympics, which begin on 10 February in Turin, Italy, there is now discussion about whether Denmark's athletes should receive special protection. Denmark's table tennis association canceled its participation in a tournament in Kuwait and Qatar later this month, citing security concerns.

The Cartoon Controversy

The Cartoon Controversy

Islamabad residents protesting against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons on February 15 (epa)

An Unfolding Conflict

19 February 2006: A full-page apology by "Jyllands-Posten," dated 5 February, appears in papers in Saudi Arabia. Churches in Libya, Nigeria, and Pakistan are attacked, as too is the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia.

18 February: Forty-five die in Nigeria as churches, hotels, and shops are torched in a predominantly Muslim northern state. Roberto Calderoli resigns from the Italian cabinet after being blamed for riots in Libya that ended with the destruction of the Italian Embassy and the loss of 10 lives. The Libyan interior minister and local police chiefs are sacked for using disproportionate force to quell the riots.

17 February: Ten Libyan protestors are killed during a demonstration that culminates with the burning of the Italian Embassy in Tripoli. Protestors link the demonstrations to the decision of an Italian minister to wear T-shirts showing the cartoons.

16 February: The Russian media watchdog pledges to take a tough line against any organization accused of "insulting religious feelings."

15 February: The Danish government says the Iraqi government wants Danish troops to remain. A far-right Italian minister, Roberto Calderoli, says he plans to wear T-shirts emblazoned with some of the "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons. In Pakistan, three more protestors are killed, one in Lahore and two in Peshawar, as tens of thousands demonstrate.

14 February: Pakistani police shoot dead two protesters in Lahore. In Iran, crowds attack the British and German embassies. Political leaders in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah call for Danish troops to leave the country. In Israel, a cartoonist launches a competition for the best anti-Semitic cartoons by Jews themselves. In Europe, the Portugese president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, promises support for Denmark and the democratic system in a dispute that reminds him of his country's dictatorial past.

13 February: A leading Iranian newspaper, "Hamshahri," invites cartoons about the Holocaust in a competition aimed at testing the limits of free speech in the West.

12 February: Intelligence reports suggest Danes in Indonesia are under threat. Denmark urges its nationals to leave the country. It had previously made similar appeals to Danes in many Muslim countries.

10 February: Thousands of Malayans protest, as Western and Muslim political, cultural, and religious leaders gather to discuss differences between the Western and Muslim worlds.

9 February: The Swedish government forces offline a website that asked readers to submit their own cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

8 February: Security forces open fire on protestors in the Afghan city of Qalat, killing four, on a day of angry and sometimes violent scenes around the world. Washington accuses the Syrian and Iranian governments of inciting violence.

7 February: Iran's largest newspaper invites cartoons of the Holocaust, saying it wants to test the limits of Western freedom of expression.

6 February: Widespread unrest over the cartoons reported in Afghanistan. One person was reported killed and four wounded in Laghman Province.

6 February: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expresses "distress" over the publication of the cartoons, but condemns the violent reactions in the Muslim world.

5 February: The Danish Consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, is torched.

4 February: Mobs burn the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Chilean embassies in Syria. Protests in Denmark turn violent.

1 February: Papers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain run reprints of the cartoons in a show of solidarity.

30 January: The EU says it will take World Trade Organization (WTO) action if the boycott persists. Several Islamic groups, including Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, call for a worldwide boycott of Danish products. Masked gunmen in storm EU office in Gaza. The Danish paper apologizes.

29 January: "Jyllands-Posten" prints a statement in Arabic saying the drawings were published in line with freedom of expression and not a campaign against Islam. Palestinians burn Danish flags and Libya announces it will close its embassy in Denmark.

28 January: The Danish company Arla places advertisements in Middle Eastern newspapers to try to stop boycott of its products.

27 January: Thousands denounce the cartoons during Friday prayers in Iraq.

26 January: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador to Denmark and initiates a boycott of Danish goods.

10 January 2006: The cartoons are reprinted by the Norwegian newspaper "Magazinet."

14 November: Jamaat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based group, protests in Islamabad.

20 October: Ambassadors of 10 Muslim countries complain to Danish Prime Minister. "Jyllands-Posten" reports that illustrators have received death threats.

30 September 2005: The Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten" publishes 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

(compiled by RFE/RL)

See also:

Calming The Storm

Former Jailed Iranian Cartoonist Discusses Muhammad Caricatures

Western, Eastern Media View Cartoon Crisis As Test Of Values