More cartoons, protests in Mohammad blasphemy row

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PARIS - In PARIS story headlined "More cartoons, protests in Mohammad blasphemy row" please read in first paragraph ...controversial Danish caricatures and... instead of ...Danish caricatures of him and...

In fourth paragraph, please read ...Le Temps in Geneva and Budapest's Magyar Hirlap ran another offending cartoon showing an imam telling suicide bombers to stop because Heaven had run out of virgins to reward them... instead of ...Switzerland's Le Temps and La Tribune de Geneve ran some of them on Thursday, as did Magyar Hirlap in Budapest...

A corrected story follows:

By Tom Heneghan

An international row over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad gathered pace on Thursday as more European dailies printed controversial Danish caricatures and Muslims stepped up pressure to stop them.

About a dozen Palestinian gunmen surrounded European Union offices in the Gaza Strip demanding an apology for the cartoons, one of which shows Islam's founder wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous.

The owner of France Soir, a Paris daily that reprinted them on Wednesday along with one German and two Spanish papers, sacked its managing editor to show "a strong sign of respect for the beliefs and intimate convictions of every individual."

But the tabloid staunchly defended its right to print the cartoons. Le Temps in Geneva and Budapest's Magyar Hirlap ran another offending cartoon showing an imam telling suicide bombers to stop because Heaven had run out of virgins to reward them.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the issue had gone beyond a row between Copenhagen and the Muslim world and now centered on Western free speech versus taboos in Islam, which is now the second religion in many European countries.

"We are talking about an issue with fundamental significance to how democracies work," Rasmussen told the Copenhagen daily Politiken. "One can safely say it is now an even bigger issue."

The clash has commercial repercussions. Danish companies have reported sales falling in the Middle East after protests against the cartoons in the Arab world and calls for boycotts.


Reaction in Middle East countries has been scathing.

"In the West, one discovers there are different moral ceilings and all moral parameters and measures are not equal," wrote the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

"If the Danish cartoon had been about a Jewish rabbi, it would never have been published."

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said Riyadh considered the cartoons an insult to Mohammad and all Muslims. "We hope that religious centers like the Vatican will clarify their opinion in this respect," he told the state news agency SPA.

In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizbollah said the row would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.

"Had a Muslim carried out Imam Khomeini's fatwa against the apostate Salman Rushdie, then those lowlifers would not have dared discredit the Prophet, not in Denmark, Norway or France," Hizbollah head Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday night.

The late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called on Muslims in 1989 to kill Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his book "The Satanic Verses." Rushdie went into hiding and was never attacked.

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Mohammad, and Syria have recalled their ambassadors to Denmark.


Defending its decision to publish the cartoons, France Soir wrote: "Imagine a society that added up all the prohibitions of different religions. What would remain of the freedom to think, to speak and even to come and go?

"We know societies like that all too well. The Iran of the mullahs, for example. But yesterday, it was the France of the Inquisitions, the burning stakes and the Saint Bartholomew's Day (massacre of Protestants)."

Other European dailies printed cartoons mocking the row. Le Monde in Paris ran a sketch of a man whose beard and turban were made up of lines saying "I must not draw Mohammad."

Jyllands-Posten has apologized for any hurt the caricatures may have caused, but police said the paper's offices in Aarhus were evacuated on Wednesday evening for the second time in two days after a bomb threat. Workers returned after the all-clear.

Denmark says it cannot tell free media what to do.

Danish police said on Wednesday they had told the country's imams they were "highly aware of the risks of an escalation of the case, including the calls to burn the Koran, which these days flourish on the Internet and via SMS (phone messages)."

Published February 02, 2006, ABC News

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