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New anger over cartoons: CEN 2.22.08 p 6. February 23, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Pakistan, Islam, Persecution.

Christian minorities in the Muslim world will suffer the consequences of the decision by 17 Danish newspapers to republish cartoon caricatures of the prophet Mohammad, the Church of Pakistan has warned.

Seventeen Danish newspapers, including the country’s three largest dailies, on Feb 13 republished a caricature of the prophet Mohammad that first appeared in the Jyllands-Posten in 2005.  The cartoon showed the head of the prophet Mohammad wearing a turban that contained a bomb with a burning fuse.  The September 2005 publication of 12 caricatures sparked protests from Islamists around the world and death threats against the cartoonists and the editor of the newspaper.

Last Wednesday the Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon as a protest against censorship following the arrest of three Muslim men charged with conspiracy to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew the turban-bomb cartoon.

“Freedom of expression gives you the right to think, to speak and to draw what you like… no matter how many terrorist plots there are,” the conservative Berlingske Tidende wrote in an editorial, and urged “the Danish media to stand united against fanaticism.”

Support for Westergaard and the Jyllands-Posten crossed political lines, with the tabloid and left wing press joining the condemnation of the murder plot.  The leftist newspaper Politiken—which in 2005 had denounced publication of the cartoons—said the murder plot showed “there are fanatic Islamists who are ready to make good on their threats and there are people in this country who neither respect freedom of expression nor the law.”

Westergaard told one newspaper “with this drawing I wanted to show how fanatical Islamists or terrorists use religion as a kind of spiritual weapon.”

“I feel that I am fighting a righteous fight to defend freedom of expression, which is under threat,” he said.

However, the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore on Feb 15 said reprinting the cartoons would damage Christian Muslim relations.  Church leaders also feared it could provoke a violent response.  Following the publication of the cartoons in 2005, mobs set fire to the Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut and over one hundred people died in sectarian clashes in Nigeria and Pakistan.

“Prophets are regarded in great esteem in all religions and no amount of freedom of expression should have the right to ridicule them,” he said.

“Such acts hurt the sentiments of people and widens the gap between different faith communities instead of building bridges of understanding,” said Bishop Malik.

Pakistan’s Roman Catholic bishops have also denounced the Danish decision.

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