Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Iran protests to Denmark over cartoon reprint


Iran summoned the Danish ambassador to Tehran in protest over the reprinting of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by leading Danish newspapers, state TV reported yesterday.

The report said that during a meeting between Foreign Ministry officials and the Danish envoy, the Iranian side strongly condemned Wednesday's reprint and demanded the Danish government take a "serious approach" to the case and prevent its recurrence.

Leading Danish newspapers reprinted what was arguably the most controversial of the 12 Mohammed cartoons that enraged Muslims in early 2006 when they appeared in a range of Western newspapers and sparked deadly riots across the Muslim world. The reprint came as a gesture of solidarity after police revealed a plot to kill the creator of the caricature.

The drawing, by newspaper cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, depicts Islam's prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable.

Three people -- two Tunisians and a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin -- were arrested on Tuesday in western Denmark for plotting to kill Westergaard.

"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," said the Copenhagen-based Berlingske Tidende.

At least three European newspapers -- in Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain -- also reprinted the cartoon as part of their coverage of the Danish arrests.

In Denmark, all eyes turned to the Islamic Faith Community, a network of Muslim groups that many Danes say provoked the riots of 2006 by embarking on a Middle East tour seeking support for their fight against the paper that first published the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten.

Group spokesman Kasem Ahmad said even though printing the cartoons "was like a knife in our hearts," the group would not take any action this time.

"We have no plans to travel abroad or export this problem," he told reporters at a mosque in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

"Now we have decided to neglect and ignore any possible provocation," he said.

Other European Muslim groups agreed.

"I just don't want go through this again," said Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim educational group in London.

Shafiq said he had already written a protest letter to the Danish ambassador in London.

Some critics claimed the Danish papers were using the arrests as an excuse to provoke Muslims.

The British Muslim Initiative, a group devoted to fighting what it calls Islamophobia worldwide, said the republication showed the West's double standards.

Meanwhile, the Danish suspect in the Westergaard case was released on Tuesday after questioning, his lawyer said.

Danish intelligence service chief Jakob Scharf has indicated the man could still face charges of violating a Danish terror law.

The two Tunisians are to be expelled from Denmark because they are considered threats to national security, Scharf said.

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