Saudi Sheik Al Sudais "demands stiff punishments" for Westerners - Khatami :'burning embassies enables West to claim innocence"
February 10, 2006
MIM: For anyone who thinks the cartoon furore is dying down - think again - Saudi government employee Sheik Abdur Rahman Al Sudais - who is known for urging Muslims to kill Jews and American worshipprs of the cross" on Saudi State television has once again issued a government statement by saying "we demand stiff penalties without leniency for those who insult the Prophet Muhammed..." The Iranian Ayatollah Khatami - who is viewed by some to be a 'moderate' voice explained that Muslims shouldnt burn embassies, not because it was wrong, but because it would give Europeans an excuse to "claim they are innocent". Reporter Nidal Al Mughrabi seems to have missed the irony that "peaceful Jordanian demonstrators" shouted that "insulting Islam is a declaration of war..."
Militants threaten violence over Prophet cartoons
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - A Palestinian militant group threatened on Friday to "burn the ground" beneath nations that continue to publish cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammad, saying apologies from governments were not enough.
In another signal that the row is not about to die down, a prominent Saudi Arabian cleric in Islam's holiest city of Mecca called for those who deride the Prophet to be punished.
Islamic Jihad, which has carried out suicide bombings in Israel, warned that if the printing of the cartoons, which have been published around the world, did not stop, it would "defend the Prophet with our souls and blood".
"So far we have demanded an apology from the governments," Khader Habib, a leader of the Palestinian group, told thousands of supporters after Friday prayers in Gaza city.
"But if they continue their assault on our dear Prophet Mohammad, we will burn the ground underneath their feet."
The threat was the first of its kind from a militant Palestinian group.
Other groups have threatened to kidnap Europeans to protest at the cartoons. Banners carried by some Muslim demonstrators in London last week carried threatened to behead those seen as responsible for offending the Prophet.
Protests against the cartoons have exploded across the Muslim world over the past 10 days and show little sign of dying down, despite apologies from the editor of the Danish newspaper which first published them and from Denmark itself.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has accused Syria and Iran of fanning Muslim anger to exploit the crisis.
In Jordan, thousands of people marched after Friday prayers in the capital Amman in the country's biggest protest yet against the caricatures, which include one of the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse.
"Insulting Muslims means a declaration of war," the peaceful crowds in the city chanted as they marched from the main King Abdullah mosque to the office of the European Union.
"These vile, despicable Europeans who insult us, we will trample on them with our shoes," they said, using an image particularly insulting in the Muslim world. "God is greatest."
The Jordanian authorities gave rare permission to the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Islamic Action Front, to stage the protest, but deployed hundreds of police with batons, many of them on horseback, to maintain order.
The Saudi cleric, Abdel-Rahman al-Sudeis, said in a televised Friday prayer sermon that apologies were not enough.
"We demand stiff penalties without leniency against those who deride the Prophet Mohammad," he declared.
"With one voice, millions of Muslims around the world are defending the Prophet of God," he added.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, took the first move by recalling its ambassador to Denmark last month, following a popular boycott of Danish goods and a fatwa by a leading cleric against the newspaper which first published the images.
While the paper, Jyllands-Posten, has said it published them to spark a debate about freedom of expression, the crisis now has aspects of a clash between the West and the Muslim world.
Muslims feel the freedom-of-speech defence is merely a guise under which the West feels free to insult their religion.
Sudeis, a leading figure in Saudi Arabia's strict Wahhabi religious establishment, said the West had double standards.
"Tell us about freedom of expression. It only counts when the issues, people and prophets of Muslims are insulted," he said, calling on Muslims nevertheless to show restraint.
A leading Iranian cleric said demonstrators should stop attacking foreign embassies, but keep up peaceful protests.
Protesters have hurled stones and petrol bombs at the embassies of Denmark, Norway, Austria and Britain in Tehran, causing damage but no serious injuries.
"Chanting slogans, staging protests and condemning such measures are holy," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers in the Iranian capital in comments broadcast live on state radio.
"But I feel that they (Western countries) want their embassies to be set on fire so they can say that they are innocent," he said. "Take this excuse away from them."
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Andrew Hammond in Riyadh and Parinoosh Arami in Tehran)