JORDAN – A Jordanian newspaper sacked its editor and the Government warned of legal action after he published Danish caricatures of Prophet Muhammad damned by the Muslim world.
Jihad al-Momani, editor of Shihan, said he reprinted the cartoons to show readers “the extent of the Danish offence”, but his editorial also questioned what sparked the Muslim uproar months after the cartoons were published in September.
The Arab Publishers Company , which owns Shihan, fired Momani for the reprints, saying the editor caused a “shock to the firm”.
The company withdrew the edition and was determining if other staff had been involved. A spokesman said al-Momani’s “termination is conclusive”.
Momani’s said the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten had apologised for the cartoons, “but nobody in the Muslim world wants to hear.”
“Who offends Islam more? A foreigner who draws the Prophet as described by his followers, or a Muslim with an explosive belt who commits suicide in Amman or anywhere else,” the editorial said.
A Government spokesman said Shihan had committed a “flagrant mistake” by reprinting the drawings, adding that authorities expected an “immediate” apology and was considering legal action.
‘A plot against Islam hatched many years ago’
Arab commentators have criticised the double standards of the European press, saying that it can defame Islam, but protects Judaism and Israel from criticism.
Jyllands-Posten, Page 3 of culture section, Sept., 2005.
The cartoons can be viewed here.
Some called for punishment of the offenders but others said Arabs had more important things to mobilise against, such as the United States military bases in the region.
“The least we have to do is boycott those who offended us by not buying their products,” said influential Muslim cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi. “We thought it was only Denmark and Norway … but several European countries and newspapers started re-printing these extremely offending pictures.”
“It’s no longer a matter of freedom of thought or opinion or belief. It’s a plot hatched against Islam and Muslims, the preparation of which began many years ago,” former editor Samir Ragab wrote in the Egyptian state daily el-Gomhuria.
Columnist Mohammad Kharoub wrote in the Jordanian daily al-Rai: “They promote their hatred under the pretext of freedom of expression and turn a blind eye to the crimes that are committed in the name of Christianity and more dangerously Judaism.”
Saudi commentator Hussein Shobokshi, in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, said: “If the Danish cartoon had been about a Jewish rabbi, it would never have been published.”
But some liberal commentators questioned the wisdom of pressing an issue they saw as secondary to more important concerns.
“This active movement against the insults to the Prophet has been absent on many other issues which are no less important,” Saad Hagra wrote in Egypt’s Nadhet Misr.
“It is discouraging that the collective energy of the Muslim world is consumed punishing a small European country over a drawing, while US military bases infest the heart of the Arab world,” Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote in Egypt’s English-language al-Ahram Weekly.
As’ad AbuKhalil, a Lebanese-born academic based in California, said Arab governments were inciting the campaign “to channel the political anger of their citizens. They would not dare to lead a campaign against Israel, so let them bash Denmark and Norway”, he said.
Sami Yusuf, a British Muslim singer of Azeri origin, said the campaign gave the cartoonists and their publishers too much attention. “I’m not saying turn a blind eye, but we shouldn’t make too much of an issue out of it.”
The leader of Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hizbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said the cartoonists would have thought twice if Muslims had fulfilled a 1989 edict by late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to kill British author Salman Rushdie over his novel The Satanic Verses.
“Had a Muslim carried out Imam Khomeini’s fatwa against the apostate Salman Rushdie, then those low-lifers would not have dared discredit the Prophet, not in Denmark, Norway or France.”