Muslims angry at new Danish cartoon scandal
By Brian Whitaker
The world's largest international Muslim body complained of shrinking tolerance in the west yesterday as a new row erupted over Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference said in a statement: "Muslims have noted with concern that the values of tolerance are eroding and there is now shrinking space for others' religious, social and cultural values in the west."
The statement followed the airing on Danish state television of amateur video footage showing members of the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples' party (DPP) taking part in a contest to draw images ridiculing the prophet. "The running of the footage affected the sensibilities of civilised people and religious beliefs of one fifth of humanity," the OIC said.
Just over a year ago violence ensued after the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of the prophet. The protests led to the deaths of more than 50 people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Yesterday, the foreign ministry in Copenhagen cautioned against travel to Gaza, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
In the latest incident, a video initially posted on the internet showed members of the DPP youth group at a summer camp last August. They appeared to have been drinking alcohol and one woman was seen presenting a cartoon showing a camel with the head of Muhammad and beer cans for humps. A second drawing showed a bearded man wearing a turban next to a plus sign and a bomb followed by an equals sign and a nuclear mushroom cloud. The video was produced by an artists' group, Defending Denmark. In a message posted along with the video, the group said it had infiltrated the DPP's youth wing, known as DFU, "to document [their] extreme rightwing associations".
"This is not an example of something that is meant to provoke. This is an example to show how things are in Danish politics," artist Martin Rosengaard Knudsen told Danish public radio.
Portions of the video were shown by two Danish television channels, DR TV and TV2.
The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, condemned the youth group's actions.
"Their tasteless behaviour does in no way represent the way the Danish people or young Danish people view Muslims or Islam," he said on Sunday.
The DPP, which advocates tighter anti-immigration controls, is allied with Mr Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right coalition but holds no government positions. The youth wing's leader, Kenneth Kristensen, said two of the people who figured in the video had gone into hiding. "They are very shaken by the huge reaction the drawings have had," he was quoted as saying on the website of the newspaper Politiken.
Indonesian Muslim groups have said they were insulted by the video and Egypt's largest Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, denounced what it called "new Danish insults".
In Iran, the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented: "If someone enjoys an iota of humanity and wisdom then he will not insult and offend the shining holy presence of Muhammad," according to national television.