TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s best-selling newspaper has launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the publication in many European countries of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Brussels-based Conference of European Rabbis (CER) denounced the idea and urged the Muslim world to do likewise.
The daily paper Hamshahri said the contest was designed to test the boundaries of free speech — the reason given by many European newspapers for publishing the cartoons of the Prophet.
“A serious question for Muslims … is this: ‘does Western free speech allow working on issues like America and Israel’s crimes or an incident like the Holocaust or is this freedom of speech only good for insulting the holy values of divine religions?”‘ the paper said on Tuesday.
Davoud Kazemi, who is in charge of the contest, told Reuters that each of the 12 winners would have their cartoons published and receive two gold coins (worth about $140 each) as a prize.
In Paris, CER President Joseph Sitruk, who is also Chief Rabbi of France, said: “The Iranian regime has plummeted to new depths if it regards the deaths of six million Jews as a matter for humor or to score cheap political points.
“Sadly, we are not surprised by this action,” he said, recalling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls last year for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and his dismissal of the Holocaust as a myth.
In a statement issued by the CER, which represents chief rabbis from over 40 European countries, Sitruk said the Iranian government menaced Jews and the whole international community.
Sitruk noted that European religious leaders had condemned the publication of images likely to offend believers’ feelings.
“This is a test for the Muslim world to react immediately to condemn their own co-religionists in Iran for such obscene behavior as we condemned those who sought to insult them,” he said.
Iranian protesters hurled petrol bombs and stones at the Danish Embassy in Tehran for a second successive day on Tuesday.
Iran announced it had cut all trade ties with Denmark because of the cartoons and hundreds of protesters hurled rocks and fire bombs at the Danish embassy on Monday night.
A Danish newspaper first published the cartoons in September, and newspapers in Norway and a dozen other countries reprinted them last month.
Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris)