'Moderate' Sheik threatens Australia: Publishing cartoons "could disturb people who can do things we don't want them to do"
February 5, 2006
Don't reprint cartoons begs Sheikh
A senior Islamic cleric has called on Australia's media not to publish the cartoons which have sparked riots across the Muslim world.
Sheikh Fehmi El-Imam, the general secretary of the Board of Imams of Victoria, warned reprinting the cartoons here could "disturb people who can do things that we don't want them to do".
"In some parts of the world there is rioting against the Danish and the Dutch, we don't want that in Australia," the sheikh said.
"Unfortunately, New Zealand has (published the cartoons) ... I'm trying to avoid, to put far away, any possibility of disturbing the peace in Australia."
The hand drawn caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, hit a nerve in the Arab and Islamic world.
They have since been republished by newspapers across Europe and New Zealand, in a move defended by media companies as making a stand for free speech.
Sheikh El-Imam said his call to Australia's media not to follow those companies was an "advisory gesture" in the hope the nation's "atmosphere of peace" would not be broken.
The Mosque sheikh, considered a moderate voice amongst Australia's Muslim clerics, is based at the Preston Mosque in Melbourne's north.
He also agreed senior Muslim figures should send a call for calm to Muslims in Australia and across the world.
"We have already done that in the mosque, we are working together to try and defuse this," Sheikh El-Imam said.
The cartoons have been interpreted as blasphemous because Islamic law forbids any depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, favourable or otherwise.
Aggravating the affront was one caricature of Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse.