German Minister in Cartoon Crisis
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies, Wed. Feb. 27, 2008
BERLIN — German's interior minister embroiled himself on Wednesday, February 27, in a growing international controversy triggered by the reprinting of a satirical cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
"I have respect for the fact that Danish newspapers have now all printed the Muhammad caricatures, on the basis (that) we will not let ourselves be divided," Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview with the Die Zeit weekly.
"In fact, all European newspapers should print these cartoons," he suggested.
Seventeen Danish newspapers reprinted on Wednesday, February 13, a drawing of a man described as Prophet Muhammad with a ticking bomb in his turban.
The move came following the arrest of two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin for allegedly plotting to kill the cartoonist who drew the caricature.
The re-printed cartoon was one of 12 commissioned and published by Denmark's mass-circulation Jyllands-Posten daily in 2005.
Schaeuble said Europe's newspapers should print the cartoon "with the caveat: 'We too find them pathetic, but the exercise of press freedom is no reason to resort to violence.'"
His spokesman did not contest the quote but he told a news conference the minister had made the comments in a long conversation, and was not urging papers to reprint the cartoons.
"I see no reason to interpret this as Schaeuble calling for the cartoons to be printed across Europe. He rather said that we have the principle of press freedom and that under the threat of violence, we must not move away from…press freedom."
Schaeuble's controversial remarks coincided with boiling anger in some Muslim countries over the reprinting of the cartoon.
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese marched through the capital Khartoum Wednesday, carrying banners and shouting slogans against Denmark.
The crowd, walking or riding pick-up trucks through the city center, demanded a rapture in diplomatic ties with Denmark.
"Any Dane will be prevented from setting foot on Sudanese territory," President Omar al-Bashir told the angry crow.
He called on Muslims around the world to follow Sudan's example in boycotting Danish products, companies, personalities and institutions.
Sudan has declared a national boycott of Danish products after a presidential degree.
Muslims worldwide boycotted Danish products during the 2005 crisis, causing Danish companies nearly $1.5 million in losses a day.
Denmark's leading dairy company Arla Foods, one of the hardest hit, issued at the time a strong condemnation of the cartoon and appealed to Muslims not to boycott its products.
Protests have raged in a number of Muslim countries since the cartoon was reprinted two weeks ago.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Pakistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Sudan, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip to condemn the move.
The Vatican joined Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni world, Tuesday, February 26, in condemning the reprinting of the cartoon.
"Freedom of expression should not become a pretext to insult religions and defaming religious sanctities," they said in a joint statement.