Scandinavians threatened over cartoons of Prophet

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark warned its citizens on Monday to avoid Saudi Arabia, and gunmen in Gaza said any Scandinavians there risked attack, as Muslim fury mounted over newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Denmark has defended the newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish the satirical drawings that seemed to portray the Prophet as a terrorist and which a Norwegian paper has run too.

Some Muslims, who deem images of prophets disrespectful and caricatures blasphemous, have threatened Danes and demanded an apology.

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Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy from Denmark and its religious leaders called for a boycott of Danish products.

Many Saudis have started boycotting Danish goods and across the Gulf, several supermarkets pulled Scandinavian foods off the shelves after consumers complained.

The 12 cartoons were published in September, but the row erupted only this month. One showed Mohammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.

Jyllands-Posten said on Monday that it regretted offending Muslims but defended its right to publish the drawings.

“We cannot apologize for having printed the cartoons as part of a debate about the right to free speech,” Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste told Reuters.

Libya has closed its Copenhagen embassy, and thousands of Palestinians marched in protest on Monday.

An Iraqi militant group called on Monday for attacks on Danish and Norwegian targets, saying a boycott was not enough, according to a statement attributed to the Mujahideen Army.

The Internet statement called on fighters to “hit whatever targets possible belonging to these two countries and others that follow their steps”. It could not be authenticated.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday advised colleagues in the European Union of the situation and the bloc’s executive said it might complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about the boycott if the Saudi government had encouraged it.

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS

“The EU strongly rejects any threats by militant factions against EU citizens,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement.

The Danish Foreign Ministry advised against non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia and urged Danes to be cautious in other Muslim countries.

“Danes who choose to stay in Saudi Arabia should show extraordinarily high watchfulness,” it added on its Web site.

The Danish Red Cross said it had pulled two employees out of Gaza and one from Yemen, and Norway’s Foreign Ministry said two Norwegian aid workers in Gaza were planning to leave on Monday.

Sweden warned its citizens against traveling to Gaza and the West Bank and the Swedish consulate in Jerusalem received a fax claiming to be from Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades demanding that all Danes and Swedes leave the area.

“All Swedes and Danes that exist on our soil have 48 hours to leave our country or else,” according to the fax read to Reuters by a consulate official.

Swedish officials said they were taking the threat seriously even if it might be the result of being confused with Denmark.

Dozens of Palestinians with rifles and grenade launchers rallied outside the EU headquarters in Gaza City, demanding an apology and warning Danes and Norwegians they would be at risk in Gaza.

Some of the gunmen fired in the air, while others burned Danish and Norwegian flags.

Hamas, the militant Islamic group which won Palestinian elections last week, urged Islamic countries to take “deterrent steps against idiotic Danish behavior”.

Hardest hit by the boycott was Danish-Swedish dairy product maker Arla Foods, with annual sales of 3 billion Danish crowns ($487 million) in the Middle East. The world’s biggest maker of insulin, Novo Nordisk, also said it was affected.

Rasmussen said on Monday that “the Danish government cannot apologize on behalf of a Danish newspaper. It doesn’t work like … and we have explained that to the Arab countries. Independent media are not edited by the government.”

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Reuters, UK
Jan. 30, 2006
Per Bech Thomsen
today.reuters.com
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday January 30, 2006.
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