Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Page update: 27.05.06
>> In May 2006, the US National Marine Fisheries Service ruled that two species of coral - elkhorn and staghorn - must officially be registered as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. Under US law, the USA Government is now obliged to take action to reduce the pollution that is causing the coral-threatening climate changes. Elkhorn and staghorn coral species in Florida and Caribbean waters — ecosystem anchors for nearly 500,000 years — are at risk of extinction. The coral species have suffered a 97 percent decline in areas off the Florida Keys and in the Caribbean since 1985.
Global warming is to blame. The warmer waters cause the symbiotic algae that provide food for the coral to die and turn white. If coral remains bleached for more than a week, the chance of death soars. Other stresses on coral include sewage and storm damage. The U.S. Virgin Islands have been particularly hard hit. Of more than 460 elkhorn colonies in the Virgin Islands National Park monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey, 45 percent were found to be bleached, 13 percent had some die-off, and 8 percent were completely wiped out.
Sources: The Coral Reef Alliance (San Francisco) - 05.05.06 and The Independent on Sunday newspaper (London) – 14.05.06
>> Oil was the substance that defined the century just ended; ice will define the one just begun. Frozen in the ice sheets of the globe's high latitudes and the glaciers of its high altitudes are more than 33m cubic kilometres of fresh water. And as the Earth's atmosphere warms, so the cryosphere - that part of the planet constituted by ice - dwindles.
Ice does not go quietly. In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica, a plate of floating ice the size of Luxembourg, suddenly shattered into thousands of vast icebergs, which then dispersed into the south Atlantic. In the Andes and the Himalayas, glacial meltwater lakes are filling to their capacity, and then bursting. In Spitzbergen, the glaciers howl as they calve into the ocean.
Source: Robert Macfarlane in The Guardian newspaper (London) 22.04.06
>> Concealed miles below the Antarctic ice are at least 150 lakes containing liquid fresh water. They are connected by flowing watercourses the size of the River Thames. The sub-glacial lakes are thought to have been sealed off from the surface for millions of years. The largest subglacial lake discovered so far in Antarctica is Lake Vostok. This is 250km (155 miles) long, 40km (25 miles) wide and 400m (1,300ft) deep – about the size of Lake Ontario in North America.
Source: BBC (London) Science News 19.04.06
>> The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. September 2005 saw the lowest extent of sea ice cover for more than a century. Scientists say the temperature there could rise by a further 4C-7C by 2100. The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the year 2060.
Source: The Guardian newspaper (London) 18.04.06
>> There is a useful slide-sequence called “Pretty Blue Planet” available online here. This document is a PowerPoint presentation showing various photographs of Earth taken from space. The speed of the slideshow can be controlled by left-clicking the mouse.
>> The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has risen considerably since the Industrial Revolution, but we are talking of a change from 0.030 per cent (300 parts per million) to 0.038 per cent (380ppm). Whether this small amount of CO2 is the reason for the average temperature rise (global warming) is open to doubt. We are still a long way from the heady levels of 6,000-7,000 years ago, when the average near-surface temperature of the northern hemisphere was more than 16C (currently 15.4C) yet CO2 levels were around 200ppm. (Interestingly, the level by the late 1700s was already 280ppm.)
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the world's population has risen by about 5 billion (about 4 billion of which has been since 1950). Each person's exhalations are about 4 per cent CO2 (about 1 litre per minute on average) so that today people themselves contribute to the carbon in the atmosphere to the tune of around 1.84 billion tonnes per year (fossil fuels are said to contribute around 7 billion tonnes a year). In February this year world population passed 6.5 billion. Curbing population growth could serve to reduce global warming, if that is a real threat, as well as alleviate poverty.
Source: Letter from M.C.Gilbert to the Sunday Telegraph (London) 02.04.06
>> Of the 1.3 billion people worldwide in extreme poverty, 70 per cent of them are women or girls. Gender discrimination is a major cause of poverty and, in many poor countries, women still have great difficulties in getting a basic education, finding a job, or having fair control of household income. Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, yet own less than one per cent of the world’s property; they hold only 14 per cent of parliamentary seats worldwide; and gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war put together.
Source: Oxfam Generation Why (Oxford) 31.03.06
>> 6,500 Africans are dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs which can be bought at any Western drug store. In South East Asia 150,000 lives were lost in the Tsunami. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. It’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.
Source: Rockstar Bono on Data.org (London and Washington) 02.02.06
>> Speaking about the possible forthcoming bird flu pandemic, Dmitry Lvov, the Director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Virology Research Institute said that one-third of the world’s population might become infected with the virus in a short period of time. “Bird flu is a very serious infection, which has existed among birds for millions of years. In 1918, the Spanish influenza killed about 50 million people all over the world. The history of fighting a pandemic shows that quarantine measures are unable to hold in check the circulation of the virus."
The H5N1 virus has killed more than 90 people since 2003, mostly in Asia. It may mutate into a form which can pass between humans. The world’s population is about 6.5 billion at present. According to Lvov’s projection, if a third of these were to succumb, it might mean 2,170,000,000 human cases. Not all of these would die if a good vaccine were made available.
Source: MosNews.com (Russia) 07.03.06
>> 80% of global warming is due to atmospheric pollution and 20% is due to the Earth moving closer to the Sun.
Source: Share International Magazine (London) March 2006.
>> 90% of Planet Earth’s ice is contained within the Antarctic ice sheet. 36 cubic miles of this ice are melting every year. A modern city the size of Los Angeles uses one cubic mile of fresh water every year. Antarctica is the Earth's fifth largest continent and contains 70% of its total fresh water resources. The ice sheet covers 98% of the continent and is, on average, 2,000 metres thick.
Source: The Guardian newspaper (London) 03.03.06
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Thursday, March 02, 2006
The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons row 2005-2006
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Page update: 02.01.10
On the 30th September 2005, Jyllands-Posten (Denmark) published twelve satirical cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The twelve cartoons can be viewed at the bottom of this page here. One of the cartoons, by Kurt Westergaard, depicted Muhammad as a suicide bomber. On the 10th January 2006, the cartoons were reprinted in a Norwegian Christian magazine. Kurt Westergaard later told the Glasgow Herald (Scotland) that the cartoons were inspired by "Terrorism - which gets its spiritual ammunition from Islam".
On the 29th January 2006, on the IslamOnline website, the International Union for Muslim Scholars expressed its opinion on the Muhammad cartoons. The "IUMS Statement on Publishing Anti-Prophet Cartoons in Denmark and Norway" can be seen here.
On the 30th January 2006, as it became apparent that a boycott of Danish goods was building across the Arab world, Carsten Juste, Editor-in-Chief of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, wrote an open letter to Muslims in his newspaper, saying that the cartoons "were not in violation of Danish law but have undoubtedly offended many Muslims, which we would like to apologize for ...."
On the 1st February 2006, newspapers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprinted the cartoons. On the 2nd February, the Irish Daily Star in Dublin followed suit and, in the days which followed, the cartoons were published in Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Israel, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine. No major British newspaper printed the cartoons. The reasons for this were addressed in The Guardian's leader of the 4th February. Entitled "Muslims and cartoons – Insults and injuries" it can be found here.
An international row followed the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. The diplomatic exchanges articulated sharp differences between Western and Islamic opinion on freedom of expression issues. Some suggested that it was not an issue of freedom of expression at all; it was an issue of what it is to be civilised and what constitutes bad manners in a plural society. Others commented that the row was simply an impromptu dramatisation of the fuzzy overlap between secular humour and religious hatred.
On the 2nd February 2006, three of the twelve Muhammad cartoons were published in Jordan in the weekly newspaper, Shihan. An editorial in the same issue was entitled: "Muslims of the world, be reasonable." The editor, Jihad al-Momani, asked his readers: "Who offends Islam more? A foreigner who endeavours to draw the prophet as described by his followers in the world, or a Muslim armed with an explosive belt who commits suicide in a wedding party in Amman? What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras?"
On the 3rd February, Jihad al-Momani was fired from his post at the newspaper. On the 7th February, he was arrested and charged for the second time in three days. He and another editor faced criminal charges that included blasphemy and incitement to violence. The second arrest came as a result of a lawsuit brought by Jordan's state-run press and publications department.
On the 3rd February, at Friday prayers around the world, words were said by the imams. On the 3rd and 4th February, in London (UK) there were protest marches to the Danish embassy in Knightsbridge. On the first of these days, the Metropolitan Police provided a motorcycle and helicopter escort for the leading al-Ghurabaa protesters. Some well-researched investigative journalism by The Guardian newspaper (London) showed that al-Ghurabaa was, essentially, the same organisation as al-Muhajiroun, an extreme Islamist group banned in Britain.
A Muslim cleric influential in London, but now excluded from the UK and said to be resident in Lebanon, Omar Bakri Mohammed, issued a religious fatwa from his hideout stating that the first person to be murdered should be the editor of the Danish paper which first published the cartoons. Leader of al-Muhajiroun, he was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on the 6th February: "In Islam, God said, and the messenger Muhammad said, whoever insults a prophet, he must be punished and executed."
The Guardian article entitled "Reborn extremist sect had key role in London protest" was written by Ian Cobain, Nick Fielding and Rosie Cowan, and included work by an undercover reporter called Ali Hussain. It was published on the 11th February 2006 and can be found here.
And the al-Ghurabaa website can be viewed here.
At the London demonstrations, placards were photographed which read: "Leave Muslims Alone"; "Freedom is Hypocrisy"; "Freedom go to Hell"; "Liberalism go to Hell"; "Freedom of expression go to Hell"; "Free Speech Equals Cheap Insults"; "Rudeness, Slander, Disrespect – Is This Freedom of Speech?"; "Massacre those who insult Islam"; "Butcher those who insult Islam"; “Butcher those who mock Islam”; "Slay those who insult Islam"; "Behead those who insult Islam"; "Kill those who insult Islam"; “Exterminate those who slander Islam”; "Denmark – Go to Hell"; "UK you will pay – 7/7 is on its way"; "Europe, you will pay - Fantastic 4 are on their way"; "Europe you will pay – Bin Laden is on his way"; “Europe you will pay - demolition is on its way”; “Europe you will pay - extermination is on its way”; "Europe you'll come crawling when Mujahideen come roaring".
Other banners and placards praised the "Magnificent 19" who flew the planes into the World Trade Centre (New York, USA) and into the Pentagon (Washington, USA) on the 11th September 2001 ("9/11").
It was reported at the time that the only arrests made by the Metropolitan Police during the London protests were of two men found carrying placards showing cartoons of Muhammad. Police chiefs offered various excuses for this, some of them plausible.
One of the much-photographed protesters at the London demonstrations was Omar Khayam (22) who strutted up and down provocatively in front of police vehicles attired as a fancy-dress suicide-bomber. It transpired that he was a pillar of the Muslim community in Bedford (UK) and a convicted drug dealer. Two days after the demonstrations, on the instructions of the Home Office, Khayam was arrested by the police and returned to prison. In behaving as he did in London, he had breached one of the conditions of his parole. The imam at his local mosque in Bedford did not seek to claim the young Muslim as a martyr for Muhammad or a prisoner of faith. Speaking on BBC Radio with an authentically-nuanced, estuary-chav accent, Asif Nadim said: "Omar Khayam is not a terrorist; he is an idiot."
On the 3rd February 2006, in Copenhagen, the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussens, spoke to the Heads of seventy Diplomatic Missions accredited to Denmark. Many of these were from Arab countries. The full text of his address can be found here. Rasmussens' eirenic approach to the ambassadors on this occasion sat rather uneasily with a more robust comment he had placed on the record previously: “Freedom of speech should be used to provoke and criticise political or religious authoritarians.”
On the 4th February, the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus (Syria) were ransacked and burned out, actions it was said which the all-pervasive Syrian security services could easily have prevented. On the 5th February, the ground and lower floors beneath the Danish consulate in Beirut (Lebanon) were burned out. Government sources in Lebanon suggested that Syrian elements had fomented the unrest. Hundreds of thousands also protested in other cities around the world, including Chaniot, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, Baghdad (Iraq), Khartoum (Sudan), Jakarta (Indonesia), and in various centres of population throughout Palestine. In the following days there were violent demonstrations throughout Afghanistan, including one outside the American military base at Bagram, in Benghazi (Libya) and in Katsina and Maiduguri (Nigeria).
After an initial diplomatic delay, non-Danish Western cartoonists began to respond to the Muhammad cartoon row. In Britain, Steve Bell (here and here) and Martin Rowson led the way in the Guardian newspaper. Elsewhere, other notable new cartoons came from Filibuster, Buck, Daryl Cagle, Cox and Forkum, Delize (here and here), D.T.Devareaux, Plantu, and Stagie.
On Sunday the 5th February, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Andrea Santoro (60) was shot in the back as he knelt to pray in his church in Trabazon (Turkey). His killer was a sixteen-year-old boy who told police that he was angered by the Muhammad cartoons. Shortly afterwards, the Pope announced that he would be paying a three-day visit to Turkey in November 2006.
In the debate which followed the publication of the Muhammad cartoons, several Muslim spokesmen made the point that many educated Muslims could not understand the West's manipulation of the principle of free speech to suit their own sectarian interests. On the one hand, within the thought-world of Western freedom of expression, it was legally acceptable to publish cartoons which poked fun at Muhammad and Muslims, and to be anti-Islamic, but on the other hand it was legally unacceptable to voice or publish material which was anti-Semitic, which denied the Holocaust, or which poked fun at Jews and Judaism. This was not freedom of expression; it was specious parochialism.
On the 5th February, The Jerusalem Post (Israel) published the Muhammad cartoons. An accompanying editorial was headed "The Prophet's Honor". In this the protests that the Danish cartoons were causing in the Muslim world were compared with the behaviour of Arab cartoonists who "routinely demonise Jews as global conspirators, corrupters of society and blood-suckers. Just this Saturday (4th February), Britain's Muslim Weekly published a caricature of a hooked-nose Jew - Ehud Olmert. Arab political 'humour' knows no bounds. A cartoon in Qatar's Al-Watan depicted prime minister Ariel Sharon drinking from a goblet of Palestinian children's blood. Another, in the Egyptian Al-Ahram al-Arabi, showed him jackbooted, bloody-handed and crushing peace."
The Jerusalem Post editorial continued: "There are those who would argue that the controversy does not reflect a clash of civilisations. Yet it is precisely this persistent refusal to acknowledge the obvious that weakens the cause of tolerance and liberty. Must 'understanding' invariably result in the abdication of western values? If anyone wants to appreciate why the west views with such suspicion the weapons programmes of Muslim states such as Iran, they need look no further than the intolerance Muslim regimes exhibit to these cartoons, and what this portends."
The following day, the 6th February 2006, Aljazeera.net reported that Hamshahri, Iran's largest selling newspaper, was launching a cartoon competition of its own. "It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," the graphics editor, Farid Mortazavi, said. The stated plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression. "The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons."
Hamshahri is a right-wing publication owned by the Tehran city council. Last year it published the comments of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he dismissed the systematic slaughter by the Nazis of mainland Europe's Jews as a "myth" used to justify the creation of Israel. This view was privately applauded in many Western liberal quarters. The growing view there is that the biggest avoidable political mistake made in the twentieth century was the establishment of an official Jewish nation based on Jerusalem. Iran's current government regime is supportive of Holocaust revisionist historians, who argue that the systematic slaughter by the Nazis of mainland Europe's Jews during the Second World War (1939-1945) has been either invented or exaggerated.
On the 7th February, Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten (Denmark) said: "My newspaper is trying to establish contact with the Iranian newspaper, and we would run the (Holocaust) cartoons the same day as they publish them." Shortly after announcing this, Flemming Rose had a public disagreement with his editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, and was sent on indefinite leave. It was Flemming Rose who originally commissioned the twelve Muhammad cartoons in September 2005. Tage Clausen, a spokesman for Jyllands-Posten, said: "The editorial management and Flemming Rose have agreed that he needed a break from work until further notice."
Some of the alternative news websites suggested that Flemming Rose was a Mossad agent-provocateur working to a Zionist agenda and that, belatedly, Carsten Juste had become aware of this. It was manifestly beneficial to sectarian Judaism that Muslims should be presented in a bad light. The Mohammad cartoon row was fomented by Jewish interests to achieve this. An article on this theme appeared on the La Haine website here, and was repeated on Conspiracy Planet here.
Jewish racial unpopularity has been a repeating historical datum with deep spiritual roots. Zionism is perceived by many in the Middle East as an affront to Islam. In the first half of the twentieth century, Alice Bailey explained the esoteric provenance of the Jewish problem. Her source was well-placed and reliable. Attempts were made to label her as anti-Semitic. The background of Bailey’s views are discussed here. And Yonassan Gershom offers a refutation of Bailey’s views here.
On the 8th February, Muslim hackers broke into 600 Danish websites and posted death threats. In France, the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo announced in advance that it was going to reprint the twelve Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. Five Muslim groups went to law to prevent the publication on the ground that reprinting the cartoons would further incite religious and racial hatred. They failed. The French court refused to examine the issues in the case and threw out the suit on technical grounds, declining to grant an injunction. It said that the public prosecutor's office, which is always represented in French courts, was not properly notified of the case.
When Charlie Hebdo hit the news stands on the 9th February, it bore a new Muhammad cartoon of its own blazoned across the front page. Under the headline "Muhammad stressed out by the fundamentalists," it depicted a depressed Muhammad with his head in his hands saying: "It's hard to be loved by fools."
Most of the initial print run of 160,000 copies was sold out by mid-morning, and the magazine embarked on a second edition. Inside was a double-page spread of cartoons satirising political correctness. All religions were depicted in caricature above a caption which asked: "How can you live normally if you have to worry about offending everyone from Sikhs to Scientologists, Jews to Jehovah's Witnesses?"
Charlie Hebdo singled out for special attention the original Kurt Westergaard cartoon which depicted Muhammad as a suicide bomber. This cartoon can be seen here and here. "This is not a comment on Islam," said the Charlie Hebdo editorial, "but on the interpretation of Islam and the Prophet by Muslim terrorists. Not to publish the drawings would be interpreted by religious fanatics as an encouraging victory."
An unnamed cartoonist from Charlie Hebdo spoke to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't mean to be offensive and we show other respect to the Muslim believers, but we also believe very much that the freedom of speech has to be enforced by publishing these cartoons."
The executive director of Charlie Hebdo, Philippe Val, spoke on AP Television News: "We published those caricatures first for solidarity with the cartoonists from Denmark and with the director of the publication of France-Soir, who has shamefully been sacked since the publication. Exercising one's rights to freedom of caricatures and freedom of the press is not a provocation."
On the 8th February, the Danish government, annoyed by the behaviour of local Danish imams in using the Muhammad cartoons to stir up anti-Danish sentiments in the Middle East, announced that it would exclude the imams from talks on ethnic minority integration.
A number of Danish politicians and the media accused some Danish Muslim leaders of fomenting unrest during a tour they had made to the Middle East in December 2005 and January 2006. Speaking to the Berlingske Tidende newspaper (Copenhagen), Danish Immigration Minister Rikke Hvilshoj said: "I think we have a clear picture today that it's not the imams we should be placing our trust in if we want integration in Denmark to work."
Danish imam, Abu Laban, who led the group of Muslim leaders to the Middle East and has been an interlocutor of the government in integration talks, told Reuters Television that he regretted if his criticisms had contributed to the violence: "If the violence is against the issue of intellectual communication and engagement, then yes I regret it."
Abu Laban took a dossier containing the original twelve Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons with him to the Middle East. But the dossier was sexed-up with three more extreme cartoons which Jyllands-Posten had not published. One of these portrayed Muhammad looking like a pig and another depicted Muhammad having sex with a dog.
Denmark has a population of 5.4 million people of which 3.3% (180,000) are Muslims. Some of these are reported to have said that they have felt growing discrimination since the centre-right government of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussens began clamping down on immigration a few years ago. Responding to this, Rasmussens said that the aim of the measures - such as limits on the entry of foreigners married to Danes and requirements that they abide by Danish social norms - is to improve integration.
There is no mosque in the whole of Copenhagen, although there are about 200 mosques elsewhere in the country, mostly converted warehouses, factories and apartment buildings. There is not a single Muslim cemetery in Denmark, but some general-purpose cemeteries have special Muslim sections.
On the 11th February, Danish police reported that about 25 Muslim graves were vandalised at a cemetery in Esberg. Several headstones had been smashed into pieces. Christian graves were left untouched.
Rasmussens' minority government relies on the support of the far-right, anti-immigrant Danish People's Party. Its leader, Pia Kjaersgaard called for the deportation of any imam who is not a Danish citizen and has whipped up protests. "The seeds of weeds have come to Denmark - Islamists and liars - who have fuelled the lethal fire through their tour of the Middle East. We will deal with them," she said. The DPP has described Islam as a terrorist religion and an inferior civilisation.
On the 12th February, Jyllands-Posten published the results of an opinion poll which was conducted during the period 6th – 8th February. It showed a surge in support for the Danish People's Party. Their following in the country had risen by 3.6% to 17.8% in a month. The DPP reported that during the week 6th – 10th February 2006, it had received seventeen times as many applications for membership as normal.
One of the more puzzling aspects of the Muhammad cartoon row concerned the timing. How did a bunch of not particularly funny or well-drawn cartoons, published on the 30th September 2005 in a Danish newspaper, produce such pandemic anger across Europe, the Middle East and the wider Muslim world four months later in February 2006?
The BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, identified the key player. It was Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Foreign Minister of Egypt. As early as November 2005, he was protesting about the cartoons and calling them an insult. “Egypt,” he said, “has confronted this disgraceful act and will continue to confront such insults.”
Simpson suggested that perhaps Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s anti-cartoon enthusiasm was a convenient way for the Egyptian government to demonstrate some Islamic credentials while not attacking any of the countries which really mattered to Egypt. Gheit raised the issue at a series of international meetings and slowly, with the assistance of the peripatetic Danish imams, the news of blasphemy was filtered out onto the streets.
Rabble-rousing aside, the arguments were about where freedom of speech ends and gratuitous insults begin. Militant secularists clashed on air and in print with militant Islamists, each talking past each other to the wallpaper. And as in the Satanic Verses row back in 1989, the wallpaper had ears to hear.
The full text of John Simpson’s piece, dated the 6th February 2006, can be found here.
On the 17th February 2006, after Friday prayers in Peshawar (Pakistan), a Muslim cleric called Muhammad Yousef Qureshi offered a £600,000 reward plus a Toyota car to anyone who killed the Danish Muhammad cartoonists. “This is a unanimous decision by all imams of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get the prize,” Qureshi said. “This killing will enhance respect for Islam and for Muslims. Next time nobody will dare to commit blasphemy against our prophet.”
Most of the bounty money offered for the assassination was put up by the city jewellers’ association. “We can pay it in 24 hours after confirmation they have been killed,” said the association’s president, Haji Israr Khan. “We are confident someone will find them. They will not be able to hide like Salman Rushdie. It is a small price to pay for protecting the prophet’s honour.”
The Muslim cleric, Muhammad Yousef Qureshi, runs the Jamia Ashrafia religious school in Peshawar. After Friday prayers, his supporters burned an effigy of the Danish prime minister. The Guardian newspaper (London) approached the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and spoke to Tariq Ahmed Khan about the cleric. “I have seen this mullah (Qureshi) many times at receptions at the American consulate,” he said. “He just wants to become famous like Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.”
On the 17th February 2006, in Benghazi (Libya), at least 10 people were killed and several wounded as police tried to stop an angry protest of hundreds of Muslim demonstrators outside the Italian consulate. The crowd splintered off from a larger, peaceful demonstration in the centre of the city. The Italian foreign ministry said protesters broke into the grounds and set the first floor of the building on fire. The Libyan government blamed what it called a small irresponsible group that it said did not reflect the Libyan spirit.
On the 18th February, the Libyan Interior Minister Nasr al-Mabrouk was suspended from his post and referred for investigation into police actions during the rioting. "We condemn the excessive use of force and the inappropriate way that went beyond the limits of carrying out the duties of the police," said a statement from the Libyan parliamentary secretariat.
The Libyan trouble had been sparked off by Roberto Calderoli, the Italian reform minister. He had been seen wearing a T-shirt decorated with Western media cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. On the 18th February, after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had urged him to step down, Roberto Calderoli, of the anti-immigration Northern League party, said he had decided to hand in his resignation "out of a sense of responsibility and certainly not because it was demanded by the government and the opposition."
On the 18th February 2006, in Maiduguri (Nigeria) sixteen people were killed in anti-cartoon protests by Muslims. Most of the dead were from Maiduguri's minority Christian community. Eleven churches were set on fire and Christian shops and businesses were targeted. Crowds of Muslim protesters carrying machetes, sticks and iron rods rampaged through the city centre. One group threw a tyre around one man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze. Soldiers were deployed and a curfew was imposed. Around 115 people were arrested in Maiduguri and 105 in Katsina.
On the 18th February, a government minister in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh offered a £6m reward to anyone who beheaded one of the Danish cartoonists. Yaqoob Qureshi, minister of minority welfare, said the killer would also receive his weight in gold. He made the offer during a rally in his constituency in Meerut, northeast of Delhi. Protesters then burnt an effigy of a cartoonist and some Danish flags.
On the 21st February it became apparent that The British National Party (UK) would be using Kurt Westergaard’s Muhammad cartoon in its campaign material for the English local authority elections in May 2006. The BNP, an extreme right-wing party, hoped to field 1,000 candidates. One of its planned leaflets asked voters: "Are you concerned about the growth of Islam in Britain? Make Thursday the 4th May Referendum Day….we owe it to our children to defend our Christian culture."
On the 22nd February the British National Party confirmed that half a million leaflets had gone out to 14 local groups across the country. In these leaflets, Kurt Westergaard’s Muhammad cartoon was juxtaposed with a photograph of Muslim demonstrators carrying banners urging violence and death against publishers of the cartoon. These pictures were not intended to cause offence, a BNP spokesman explained, they were to illustrate the point that Islamic and Western values do not mix. “What the leaflet says is which do you find most offensive? The cartoon? Or Muslim demonstrators calling for terrorist attacks on Europe?”
Nick Griffin, the BNP’s chairman, urged members to print off the leaflets from the BNP website and “pin them to church notice boards” and “leave them on trains and buses”. The leaflets, he explained were a reaction to a decision by British newspapers not to publish the images out of respect for the Muslim faith.
The BNP, which currently has 19 councillors, is expected to concentrate its election efforts in parts of the country where it has performed strongly in the past, such as localities within Lancashire, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and East London. The British National Party’s share of the vote rose from 1% in 1992 to 4.2% in 2005. It describes itself as: “The foremost patriotic political party in Great Britain.” The BNP’s website can be found here.
On the 22nd February in Onitsha (Nigeria) more than 20 people died in a second day of violence connected with the Muhammad cartoons. Groups of armed youths rampaged through the city attacking Muslims, in retaliation for the deaths of Christians in riots in Maiduguri, Katsina and Bauchi and other northern towns on the 18th February and 21st February. Eyewitnesses spoke of streets "littered with bodies" as thousands of Muslims fled from the city.
Bands of Christian men belonging to the Ibo tribe wielded clubs and machetes and attacked any Muslims they could find belonging to the Hausa tribe. Cars driving into the city were stopped by angry crowds demanding to know if there were any Hausa on board. Those who were identified were dragged out and taken away. The Reuters news agency said that some of the victims had been burnt and some had had their stomachs cut open. Many Hausas still in the city sought shelter inside police and army facilities. The north of Nigeria is mainly Muslim and the south is predominantly Christian.
By the 23rd February 2006, at least 77 people around the world had been killed during Muhammad cartoon-related violence. These included 49 in Nigeria, 12 in Afghanistan, 11 in Libya and 5 in Pakistan.
On the 9th November 2006, one of the original London Muslim protesters was found guilty, in court, of stirring up racial hatred. His name was Mizanur Rahman. He had carried placards saying "Behead those who insult Islam" and "Annihilate those who insult Islam."
Using a megaphone he had addressed the London protest on the 3rd February 2006, saying of British and American troops: "We want to see them coming home in body bags. We want to see their blood running in the streets of Baghdad." Rahman, 23, also shouted out: "Oh Allah, we want to see another 9/11 in Iraq, another 9/11 in Denmark, another 9/11 in Spain, in France, and all over Europe."
At his London trial, Mizanur Rahman said that he felt "almost ashamed .... I didn't think anyone would take me seriously." He also explained that he had no intention of anyone carrying out the actions he had called for.
British press reports of Mizanur Rahman's trial can be found here, and here, and here, and here and here.
The day after Rahman had been convicted in London, two hundred miles north at Leeds Crown court, Nick Griffin, 47, the Chairman of the British National Party, was acquitted of race hate charges. The jury's decision was unanimous. The case had no direct link with the Muhammad cartoons, but Griffin had certain advantages over Rahman. He was white, he was a Cambridge-educated lawyer and he was not a Muslim. Also Griffin, unlike Rahman, had not said anything explicit which might reasonably be construed as soliciting murder.
During the trial, the jury heard extracts from a speech Griffin had made in the Reservoir Tavern in Keighley (Yorkshire, UK) on the 19th January 2004, in which he described Islam as a "wicked, vicious faith" and said Muslims were turning Britain into a "multi-racial hell hole".
In previous years, Nick Griffin had made other robust comments which were not considered by the court on this occasion. On the subject of race he is reported as having said: "Without the White race, nothing matters. (Other right-wing parties) believe that the answer to the race question is integration and a futile attempt to create 'Black Britons', while we affirm that non-Whites have no place here at all and will not rest until every last one has left our land.” And on the subject of the holocaust he is reported as having commented: "The ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lies and latter witch-hysteria.”
British press reports of Nick Griffin's trial can be found here, and here and here and here.
Kurt Westergaard’s Muhammad cartoon published in Jyllands-Posten (Denmark) in September 2005 (from the Atlas Shrugs Blog).
Another copy of Kurt Westergaard’s Muhammad cartoon published in Jyllands-Posten (Denmark) in September 2005 (from Uriasposten.net).
The original Jyllands-Posten page with all twelve of the cartoons in situ can be viewed here, under the heading "Muhammeds ansigt".
Michelle Malkin has all twelve Muhammad cartoons on her page.
The Brussels Journal has all twelve Muhammad cartoons at the foot of its page here.
Comments about the Muhammad cartoons by the Cartoonists Rights Network International (Virginia, USA) made on 20.01.06.
Comments about the Muhammad cartoons by Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers (from Al-Jazeerah.info 24.02.06).
Comments about the Muhammad cartoons by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh – Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric (from Dawn.com 26.02.06).
BBC (London) 03.02.06 – "Those cartoons – right or wrong?" by Peter Barron, BBC Newsnight editor.
BBC (London) 03.02.06 – "BBC's dilemma over cartoons" by a senior BBC NewsWatch staffer.
BBC (London) 03.02.06 – Official editorial policy – "Finding the right balance" by David Jordan (BBC Editorial Policy Controller).
BBC (London) 04.02.06 – "Cartoon row highlights deep divisions" by Magdi Abdelhadi (BBC Arab Affairs analyst).
IslamOnline.net offered advice to its Muslim visitors about their conduct in connection with the Muhammad cartoons. On a page headed "Ask the Scholar" here, the matter is addressed.
And on the 5th February 2006, the IslamOnline website held a live dialogue between the Danish journalist, Adam Hannestad, and some of its visitors. A transcript of that dialogue under the heading: "Freedom of Expression : Diverse Danish Media Attitudes?" can be found here.
In a poll of 56,085 people visiting the IslamOnline website since the 31st January 2006, 71.13% said that there "should be no limit to free speech when it comes to the sacred in religions," and 28.87% indicated that there should be a limit to free speech in such circumstances. These figures were up-to-date at 7.00pm on Sunday 5th February 2006.
The Free Muslim – a humanitarian, politically independent, Islamic assembly advocating non-violence, free speech and toleration of the opinions of others.
Free Muslims Coalition – Muslims against terrorism and extremism.
Zombietime.com has a compilation of published images of Muhammad here.
Zombietime has also published this compilation of Muhammad images at various mirror sites around the world, including at the thirteen listed below:
In Denmark here and here,
In Finland here,
In the Netherlands here and here,
In Norway here and here,
In Russia here,
And in the USA here, and here, and here, and here, and here.
The original illustrated children’s book which started the Muhammad cartoons row was called “The Koran and the life of the prophet Mohammed” by Kaare Bluitgen.
Some of the Muhammad illustrations it contained can be viewed here.
Fundamentalism is a closed room.
The door is shut and the curtains are pulled.
In the corner is a single book.
The book is out of date.
We can defuse this tension between competing conceptions of the sacred
Karen Armstrong argues that the crisis occasioned by the Danish Muhammad cartoons has become a microcosm of the wider conflict between Islam and the western world - The Guardian newspaper (London) 11.03.06.