PARIS (IPS) - A growing number of European journalists and political caricaturists are condemning the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed that have deepened the schism between Europe and the Muslim world.
In France, where several newspapers re-printed the Danish cartoons, leading caricaturists have particularly condemned the depiction of Mohammed as a terrorist.
"Such a cartoon directly associates one religion with terrorism, and this is unacceptable," PÈtillon, a cartoonist for the satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard EnchainÈ told IPS. "You cannot just say whatever you want about the Muslim community."
Jul, another French caricaturist, told IPS, "I think that the cartoons of Mohammed have caused this hysteria in the Muslim world because there is a deep anti-Arab and anti- Muslim racism in Europe."
Swedish writer Jan Guillou told IPS in a telephone interview from Stockholm that the Danish cartoons were "vulgar and cowardly, because they were intended to offend the already distressed Muslim immigrant minority."
In Germany, the Association of Journalists (DJV, after its German name) criticised the printing of the cartoons. "Publications, be it in word or in images, that insult the religious convictions of a community are incompatible with the responsibility of the press," said DJV spokesperson Hendrik Zoerner.
Many German political caricaturists have condemned the Danish cartoons. Klaus Staeck, a renowned political cartoonist, said he would have refused to draw a cartoon of Mohammed. "There are moments and situations in which one has to consider the implications of making jokes about others," he told IPS.
Political cartoonist Gerhard Haderer called the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's idea of drawing images of Mohammed "a stupidity." He said Islamic tradition opposes any pictorial depiction of the Prophet.
"Given that I am not Muslim, and that I cannot comprehend the fervour associated with that religion, I have to accept its taboos," Haderer told IPS.
Some commentators and cartoonists have pointed out that European freedom of the press is not absolute as some editors pretend, and that tribunals often rule against journalists and artists. French Catholic associations "bombard newspapers with petitions every time they believe journalists and cartoonists have offended Christian dogmas," Jul said.
Christian Schertz, a lawyer in Berlin, said German law provides for jail of up to three years for insults to religious belief. "And those beliefs are not confined to Christian ones, but to all religions."
Member of the German parliament and lawyer Christian Stroebele told IPS that he had to spend years defending a group of comedians who had put up a show on Mary's virginity. Three different courts sentenced members of the group to prison sentences, until a higher tribunal in Cologne finally acquitted them.
But some Muslims say such European laws are applied depending on who the culprit is, and that a Muslim is more likely to be sanctioned for taking action against Christian dogmas than the other way round.
"Last week a Muslim was condemned to eight months in prison by a court in Rome only because he removed a crucifix from his room in a hospital," said Navid Kermani, a German writer of Persian origin. "Such punishment has rarely been discussed in Europe," he said.
At the same time, Kermani said, a book by the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci 'The Rage and the Pride' in which she describes Muslims as "rats" is freely sold everywhere in Europe.
Published February 08, 2006, Inter Press Service News Agency