Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Shevat 5766 - February 8, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Violent Moslem Protests Sweep Through Middle East; Europe also a Target

By M Plaut in Jerusalem and Arnon Yaffeh in Paris

Moslem protests of Danish cartoons that satirized the Prophet Mohammed swept across the Middle East and elsewhere in the world on Monday. Many were violent. There was violence in Afghanistan where at least five protesters died and more than a dozen police and protesters were wounded. Protesters turned out in Turkey, Indonesia, India, Thailand and even New Zealand, where newspapers recently reprinted the cartoons. A teenager died in Somalia on Monday when the police set off a stampede by firing into the air to disperse protesters.

Syrians torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday. The Danish Consulate in Lebanon was also torched. The Beirut consulate building is located in a Christian neighborhood, and a Maronite church there was also stoned by the violent protesters. Some Lebanese citizens told news media that the protesters were not Lebanese Moslems but Syrians and Iranians.

Reports from Beirut said Hizbullah and/or Syrian intelligence were behind the attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus. An SMS notice sent from an unknown source claiming, "the Koran is being burned in a public square in Denmark," was enough to bring an angry mob against the Danish Embassy. The suspicions are that Hizbullah or the Syrians are making use of Moslem rage for their own political ends.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Damascus with Hamas and Hizbullah flags — both terrorist organizations sponsored by the Syrian and Iranian regimes. One reporter saw people handing out the flags to the masses. Nobody in Damascus keeps Hamas flags in their homes. Syrian forces only intervened to stop the mob when it turned against the French Embassy, repelling the attackers based on fears of a French response by the new aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.

Thousands of rioters representing Hizbullah set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut, located in the Christian neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh, and then destroyed nearby stores. The next morning notices saying churches were being burned were distributed in Christian mountain areas. It seems that someone wants to renew religious civil war that Lebanon suffered from in the past.

In Gaza, armed Palestinians being nourished by generous European aid money to the Palestinian Authority, attacked European Union offices in Gaza. Palestinians marched through the streets, storming European buildings and burning German and Danish flags. Protesters smashed the windows of the German cultural center and threw stones at the European Commission building. The leader of Hamas called the cartoons "an unforgivable insult" that merits punishment by death.

Iraqis rallying by the hundreds demanded an apology from the European Union.

Pakistan summoned the envoys of nine Western nations in protest, and Moslem Europeans took to the streets in Denmark and Britain.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the current controversy. One ministry official said that the "cartoon wars" were not Israel's battle, and that it did not want to get dragged into it. If Israel would react at all to the whole controversy, the official said, the Islamic world would eventually blame Israel for being behind the whole incident.

The West does not know how to mollify the fury and violence among Moslems around the world. However, a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, called the locations of major protests "very peculiar," especially singling out Iran, Syria and the Gaza Strip. These states have been the objects of particular Western pressure: Iran over its nuclear weapons development, Syria over its support of terror in Iraq and Lebanon, and Gaza to suppress its violent terrorists.

On Sunday the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) condemned the Danish caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed. France's Chief Rabbi Joseph Sitruk also issued a statement condemning all publications offensive to religious sentiment. Rav Sitruk said that all publications that are meant to offend people's religious sentiments should be prohibited.

"I understand the anger of Moslems. And I understand the anger among religious Moslems at publications like these. Publishing material that hurts people's religious feelings should be forbidden in Denmark as in Syria," he added. "Yet we should in no way tolerate violent responses to these publications. We the Jewish people have witnessed antisemitic publications in many countries around the world."

CER Chairman Rabbi Aba Dunner said similarly that "we expect a similar attitude from Moslems when horrific antisemitic caricatures are published in Moslem countries. We are publishing condemnation statements across the world and we hope we will be treated similarly."

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten originally published the 12 cartoons last September, and they were republished in other European news media in the last week. A number of European newspapers published the cartoons, including Norway's Magazinette, France Soir in France, Germany's Die Welt and Berliner Zeitung and El Pais in Spain. The editor of France Soir was fired for publishing the cartoons.

One cartoon depicted the Prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb. The Danish paper said it had asked cartoonists to draw the pictures because the media was practicing self-censorship when it came to Moslem issues. Islamic law is said to forbid all depictions of Mohammed.

People in the streets of Europe are alarmed and governments are asking the public to remain calm and newspapers to print gestures to placate insulted Moslems. Suddenly they were reminded to respect religion. Europe is being targeted by Moslem rioters, Le Figaro wrote this week.

The anger manifests itself as violence against the West. The Islamic regime in Iran also seems to want to settle other accounts with Europe. Hundreds of demonstrators hurled dozens of firebombs and stormed the Austrian Embassy in Teheran as a show of retribution for the decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency, convening in Vienna, to report Iran to the UN Security Council. An Iranian newspaper announced a cartoon contest on the Holocaust to goad Europe, which forbids publishing any Holocaust denial.

In Europe these provocations are being interpreted as a message from Iran and Syria that they can dispatch mobs to seek revenge against the West following the recent decision to refer Iran to the UN Security Council. And this is merely a taste of Islamic fury if sanctions are imposed against Iran.

In London and Washington, government officials alleged Syria and Hizbullah were responsible for the attacks since no efforts were made to halt the rioters. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced an economic boycott against Denmark and recalled his Ambassador.

Arab embassies in Paris offered human rights and Moslem organizations anonymous funding to hire attorneys to sue the newspapers that printed the cartoons as well as entities that defended press freedom. The Arabs are taking advantage of the fear and confusion in the West to increase their blackmail power.

The unrest and inflamed sermons at mosques are inflaming a culture war that the West has been afraid to confront. The gap between Moslem extremists and Europeans addicted to indulgent lifestyles is growing.

The violence is an expression of Moslems' general hatred and frustration towards Europe, since it seems highly unlikely they are so irate over a few cartoons in a low-circulation newspaper — cartoons that nobody knew about until the unrest began. In Europe the cartoons are seen as an excuse to inflame Moslem sensitivities, which are easy to transform into a blaze directed against the West, re-igniting the hostile atmosphere of yesteryear.

Although no London newspaper ran the cartoon, after last Friday's sermon at the London Central Mosque, demonstrators marched to the Danish and French embassies, chanting, "Jihad! Jihad!"


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