UK Muslims voice cartoons concern

UK Muslims have reacted with concern to the reproduction of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by European papers.

The Muslim Association of Britain accused the Danish paper which first carried them of “flagrant disregard” for the feelings of Muslims worldwide.

It said other papers would have been “prudent” not to “exacerbate” tensions by reprinting them and urged the British media not to follow suit.

The BBC aired “glimpses” of the images, which it said it used “responsibly”.

EU offices threatened

The cartoons, including one depicting Muhammad with a turban-shaped bomb on his head, have sparked protests across the Middle East.

The editor of the Danish paper which first carried them has apologized but newspapers in Spain, Italy, Germany and France have reprinted the material in a show of support.

Earlier, Palestinian gunmen briefly surrounded EU offices in Gaza to demand an apology over the cartoons.

The Muslim Association of Britain condemned any acts or threats of violence by those on either side of the row.

But it said any reproduction of the images by the British media would “only infuriate the British members of the Muslim community and Muslims around the world”.

A spokesman added: “It will be insult to injury. You cannot reproduce these images in a sensitive manner.”

A spokesman for the BBC said it had decided to show the images in full context to “give audiences an understanding of the strong feelings evoked by the story”.

“We are only showing these within the context of full reports of the debate,” a spokesman said.

‘Gloating about freedom’

The Muslim Council of Britain said its reaction to the BBC decision would depend on the context in which it used the images.

A spokesman said: “It depends on whether they’re broadcast to illustrate the story about the row developing or, in the same way as the European newspapers have published, to gloat about freedom.

“We recognise that the newspapers have full freedom. However we hope that they would be able to show restraint when it comes to these images because of the enormous hurt it would cause to Muslims.”

Liberal Democrat MEP Sajjad Karim, who represents north-west England in the European Parliament, said it was irresponsible for papers to publish the cartoons.

But it was also irresponsible for Muslims to threaten to retaliate against citizens of the countries where the newspapers were published and it was now time to “put the issue to bed”.

He said: “I would urge all sides now to climb down and treat this as a hard lesson in building inter-cultural ties.”

European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson earlier condemned those newspapers which re-printed the cartoons, accusing them of throwing “petrol on to the flames”.

He told the BBC: “I can understand the motivation at one level of these newspapers. They are, as they would see it, standing up for freedom of speech.

‘Kid gloves’

“What they also have to understand though is the offence that is caused by publishing cartoons of this nature.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said whether British media organisations decided to carry the images was a matter for them to decide.

He said: “In this country there are ways in which the media reach their judgments and they know they have to do so within the law. “It would be entirely wrong for the government to… dictate in advance what media organisations can or cannot do.”

Former Spectator editor and Conservative MP Boris Johnson told the BBC the Muslim religion should not be treated with kid gloves.

He said: “If you are a Muslim and your faith is strong and you believe in God and in your prophet then I don’t think you should be remotely frightened of what some ludicrous infidel says or does about your religion or any depiction he produces.

“I think we’ve got to move away from this hysterical and rather patronising idea that we have got to treat the Muslim religion with kid gloves and not subject it to all the same rough and tumble that we subject other faiths to.”

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Feb. 2, 2006

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This post was last updated: Oct. 25, 2014