Monday, January 30, 2006

Norway's Foreign Ministry was heeding a warning from Islamic groups that want all Scandinavians out of Gaza

Nina Berglund:

One Islamic group burned a Danish flag over the weekend

The groups claim the Scandinavians have offended them by printing controversial caricatures of their prophet Mohammed.

The first drawing, which showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in September and was re-printed in a Norwegian Christian publication called Magazinet earlier this month. Islamic law forbids any illustrations of the prophet Mohammed, so the caricatures have spurred protests from Islamic countries and from Muslims living in Denmark.

One Islamic group demanded on Sunday that all Scandinavians leave the Gaza Strip within 48 hours. Armed members of another group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, handed out pamphlets in Gaza encouraging Danes and Swedes to leave within three days.

Members of the al-Aqsa Brigade burned a Danish flag, and a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official said the ministry has alerted Norwegians to the groups' threats.

Anne Kjersti Shaw of the ministry said efforts had been made to contact aid workers "who we know are in the Gaza Strip. We have coordinated their travel out of the area."

At the same time, the ministry is advising Norwegians against travelling to Gaza "unless it is absolutely necessary."

The Arab League and the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference, meanwhile, have requested a UN resolution that would forbid attacks on religious beliefs and another that would impose sanctions on countries that don't abide by the resolution.

Many Muslim countries have started boycotting Danish products, while there have been several demonstrations against Danish embassies.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre last week urged Norway's embassies to apologize for the publication of the caricature, but that has spurred counter-criticism that Muslim countries should respect freedom of expression.

Norway has long been active in trying to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Now it appears both sides are angry at the Norwegians: Israelis were furious over support from one of Norway's government parties for an Israeli boycott that supports the Palestinians, and now the Palestinians are angry with Norway as well.

Norwegian flag burned in Gaza

Gaza gunmen drag EU into Danish-Muslim blasphemy clash

Anti-Dane protests over 'blasphemous' cartoons

Gaza EU offices raided by gunmen

Gaza gunmen warn Denmark, Norway on Islam cartoons

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