Danish youth group videotapes Mohammed drawing contest - government warns against travel to Islamic countries and apologises to Muslims
October 10, 2006
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark acted on Monday to calm Muslim indignation at a new series of cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad and advised its citizens against traveling to the Middle East as Islamic leaders condemned the drawings.
Muslim anger was roused when a public Danish television station aired amateur video footage showing members of the youth wing of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP) taking part in a competition to draw images mocking the Prophet at a summer camp in August.
The foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that footage of the cartoons was first posted on the video-sharing web site YouTube, which is not hosted in Denmark.
"Danish television channels TV-2 and DR later aired extracts," it said. "The intention of airing the extracts was not to provoke Muslims but to illustrate the matter in an interview on DR with the chairman of the DPP Youth Organization, who distanced himself (from) the video clips."
The ministry issued a strong advisory to Danes against travel to the Gaza Strip and cautioned against travel to Israel and the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
"A militant group in Gaza has made threats against Danes in the Palestinian areas in connection with the (cartoon) matter on October 9," the advisory said. "We urge Danes to use caution as the matter could lead to negative reactions."
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, heavily criticized in the Muslim world earlier this year for refusing to apologize for a previous assortment of Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet, has condemned the behavior of the DPP activists.
The DPP is not a member of the ruling coalition, but supports the government in parliament.
Denmark's second highest foreign ministry official met ambassadors from Muslim countries in Copenhagen on Monday to explain the prime minister's position.
In Tehran, Iran summoned the Danish ambassador to complain about the broadcast, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said those who insulted the Prophet were "low life" devoid of human values.
Lebanon's top Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, did not blame the Danish government for the latest drawings, but called for unspecified legal action.
"This nonchalance toward the continued insults against Islam could set the stage for negative responses due to inflamed emotions," he said in a statement.
"We affirm that Muslims should respect Westerners and not insult them," he added. "We affirm that Westerners should respect Islam and refrain from insulting Muslim sanctities so this doesn't turn into a hot or bloody (issue) with reactions that harm the relationship between Muslims and Westerners in one way or another."
The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also condemned the cartoons, saying the values of tolerance were eroding in Europe.
"The OIC spokesman deplores the act of caricaturing of Prophet Mohammad by the youth members of the Danish Peoples Party and this being shown, regrettably, on state television," said a statement sent to Reuters by the Jeddah-based OIC, the world's largest Islamic grouping.
The Egyptian foreign ministry branded the behavior of the DPP activists "childish", saying it reflected ignorance of Islam, but urged Muslims to exercise self-restraint.
A year ago, a Danish daily published cartoons of the Prophet, including one showing him with a bomb in his turban.
Muslim clerics denounced those cartoons as blasphemous, sparking protests in which more than 50 people died in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Angry Muslims attacked Danish embassies and boycotted Danish goods in several countries.
Most Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
(Additional reporting from Yara Bayoumy in Beirut, Edmund Blair in Tehran and Andrew Hammond in Riyadh)