Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Denmark warns of new cartoon crisis with Muslims

Kim McLaughlin:

Denmark said on Tuesday a new cartoon crisis with the Muslim world could erupt after Danish television stations broadcast footage last week deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.

In Tehran, dozens of Iranian protesters pelted the Danish embassy with stones and petrol bombs, witnesses said. Riot police guarded the embassy.

Muslims were angered when Danish television stations aired footage on Friday of members of the youth wing of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP) drawing cartoons in August mocking the Prophet. Iran condemned the broadcast.

In September last year the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons that Muslim clerics denounced as blasphemous, sparking protests early this year in which more than 50 people were killed in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

"(The latest cartoon issue is) smoldering around in the Muslim world. We hope it will die out but we don't know if it will pass," Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller told the Danish national broadcaster DR.

Most Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.

"Don't forget that the (last) cartoon crisis broke out four months after the drawings were first published, so I can't guarantee anything," said Moller.

This time Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen acted quickly and condemned the behavior of the DPP members. He was criticized earlier this year for refusing to apologize for the previous cartoons of the Prophet.

The DPP is not a member of the ruling coalition but supports the government in parliament.

Moller said he had talked to Iranian and Syrian leaders and that he hoped the government's efforts to calm anger in the Muslim world would bear fruit.

"The question is what the religious leaders will say at Friday prayers," he said.

Witnesses said the protesters outside the Danish embassy in Tehran chanted "Down with Zionists" and "God praise the party of God".

The protesters set fire to a tire next to the embassy compound wall but firefighters put it out.

Denmark's ambassador to Tehran was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Monday about the television footage.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned those involved in the footage as "low life".

More than 230 legislators in Iran's 290-seat parliament urged Ahmadinejad on Tuesday to cut Iran's trade ties with Denmark, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported.

"The past attempts of the Danish government regarding this insult (to the Prophet) have been repeated, this time by the visual media," said Mehr.

Danish industry praised the government on Tuesday for taking swift action to calm Muslim anger and said a Muslim consumer boycott of Danish goods, like the one that occurred earlier this year, had been largely avoided.

"This unfortunate matter has been handled competently by the government and so far we've only had two companies in Saudi Arabia report that they were affected," said Peter Thagesen, a senior adviser at the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Total Danish yearly exports to Muslim countries are about 10 billion crowns ($1.81 billion), or roughly 2 percent of all exports.

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Danes travel warning over Muslim video


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