Accessibility links

Breaking News

World: Cartoon Protests Continue But Violence Diminishes

Protester burning Danish, Norwegian flags in Sarajevo on 8 February (epa) Protests against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad continued today in several countries, although major violence declined. As governments continued to appeal for calm, the gulf separating free-speech advocates on one side and religious-minded activists on the other remained as wide as ever.

PRAGUE, 9 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice became the latest government official to urge an end to violence over the cartoons.

"Nothing justifies the violence that has broken out in which many innocent people have been injured," she said on 8 February at a news conference in Washington. "Nothing justifies the burning of diplomatic facilities or threats to diplomatic facilities around the world. This is a time when everyone should urge calm."

Rice also accused Tehran and Damascus of using the crisis to deliberately fan anti-Western hatred.

"There are governments that have also used this opportunity to incite violence. I don't have any doubt that given the control of the Syrian government in Syria, given the control of the Iranian government, which, by the way, hasn't even hidden its hand in this, that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and use this to their own purposes," Rice said.
Totalitarianism changes its shape and doctrine in order to survive. So, today it's about the Islamic extremism. But any concession fuels violence."

Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, on a visit to Indonesia, rejected the charge as a "lie."

But picking up on the story, "The New York Times" today quoted Middle East experts who say the public campaign against the cartoons got a huge boost following a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Mecca in December.

At that summit, 57 Muslim heads of state issued a joint communique expressing concern at what they called "the desecration of the Prophet Muhammad in the media of certain countries." They warned against "using the freedom of expression as a pretext to defame religions."

It was at that point that boycotts of Danish goods began and that politicians in several Arab countries became publicly involved in anti-Danish rhetoric -- even though the cartoons had been published several months before, without much notice.

According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, Muslim leaders hoped to accomplish two goals by giving the cartoons a high profile. They hoped to outflank Islamic opposition movements by positioning themselves as true defenders of the faith. And they also hoped to slow American-led demands for democratization by stoking popular wrath against the freewheeling Western media.

Worldwide Protest

The crisis, however, has now acquired a momentum of its own.

In Indonesia again today, student protesters gathered outside the Danish Embassy in Jakarta to demand that the editors of the newspaper that originally printed the cartoons be punished.

Protest leader Abdul Rachim, with the world media clearly in mind, formulated his demands in English: "We want from this demonstration to show to the embassy of Denmark and to the Denmark government that we want the [Danish] government to punish the magazine which published the picture of Prophet Muhammad because this insults the Muslim community."

Totalitarianism With A Different Face

Philippe Val, editor of the French weekly "Charlie Hebdo," which reprinted the drawings this week, remained uncompromising. He told Reuters, in an interview on 8 February, that in his opinion, Europe's media should not back down on their commitment to free speech.

"Any concession is an encouragement to totalitarianism," he said. "Today, it's about Islam, tomorrow it would be something else. Totalitarianism changes its shape and doctrine in order to survive. So, today it's about the Islamic extremism. But any concession fuels violence."

Meanwhile, a man identifying himself as senior Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah told the AFP news agency by telephone from Afghanistan that 100 militants have enlisted to become suicide bombers since the appearance of the cartoons.

Dadullah also said the group has offered a reward of 100 kilograms of gold to anyone who killed people responsible for the drawings. At current prices 100 kilograms of gold is worth about $1.9 million.

In a more encouraging sign, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was due to meet a Danish parliamentary deputy of Turkish origin later today to discuss the possibility of Turkish representatives mediating in the ongoing row.

In a letter to Rasmussen, the Turkish-born member of the Danish parliament, Huseyin Arac, suggested that Turkey could host a meeting between Denmark and other Muslim countries on the issue. He did not give further details. Arac comes from Aarhus, the city where the Danish newspaper "Jyllands-Posten," that first published the drawings, is published.

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