Yesterday (Thursday) Mullah Krekar, the alleged leader of the Islamist group Ansar al-Islam who has been living in Norway as a refugee since 1991, said that the publication of the Muhammad cartoons was a declaration of war. “The war has begun,” he told Norwegian journalists. Mr Krekar said Muslims in Norway are preparing to fight. “It does not matter if the governments of Norway and Denmark apologize, the war is on.”
Islamist organizations all over the world are issuing threats towards Europeans. The Islamist terrorist group Hizbollah announced that it is preparing suicide attacks in Denmark and Norway. A senior imam in Kuwait, Nazem al-Masbah, said that those who have published cartoons of Muhammad should be murdered. He also threatened all citizens of the countries where the twelve Danish cartoons [see them all here, halfway down the page] have been published with death.
It is important, however, to stress again that there are Muslims of great courage. While it is risky to publish the Muhammad cartoons in Europe, it is even riskier to do so in the Middle East. Yet the Jordanian independent tabloid al-Shihan published three of the twelve Muhammad cartoons yesterday. The editor of al-Shihan, Jihad al-Momani, said he decided to publish the cartoons to show what the issue was all about. In an editorial under the headline “Muslims of the world, be reasonable” he pointed out that Jyllands-Posten had apologized for offending Muslims. He deplored that few in the Islamic world seem to be willing to listen to this. “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 or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?” the editor asked.
The spokesman of the Jordanian government, however, said that the editor had done a great mistake by publishing the cartoons and announced that the government is considering suing the newspaper. Before the day was over the paper’s owners had sacked Mr Momani.
Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, has criticized those papers which publish or republish Muhammad cartoons. According to Mr Mandelson they are „throwing petrol onto the flames of the original issue and the original offence that was taken.” The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the decision by newspapers to republish the cartoons could encourage terrorists. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he is worried about the cartoon issue. His spokesman said that Mr Annan believes freedom of expression should always be used with respect for religion.
This is not, however, the opinion of the French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy. He said that the reactions of extremist Muslims towards the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the original cartoons, and towards Denmark are shocking. Mr Sarkozy praised the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for his determination and defense of freedom of expression. “Freedom of expression is not an issue for negotiation and I see no reason to give one religion a special treatment,” Mr Sarkozy said.
Meanwhile the Muhammad cartoons have been published in a number of newspapers in various European countries. The BBC broadcast them in the news so that its audience would understand what the fuss is all about. The French newspaper Le Monde published its own cartoon of Muhammad [see it here] on yesterday’s front page. On Wednesday the editor of the French daily France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, was fired because he had republished the Muhammad cartoons. Journalists at France Soir defended Mr Lefranc’s decision yesterday by publishing a front page and an editorial defending freedom of speech. In Tunesia and Morocco, however, the sale of France Soir has been prohibited.
Yesterday morning armed Palestinians again surrounded the offices of the European Union in Gaza City, demanding its closure and an apology for the cartoons within 24 hours. They threatened attacks on all Danes, Norwegians and Frenchmen in Palestine. “We suggest that all offices and embassies of the three countries will be closed, otherwise we will not hesitate to eliminate them,” their statement said. Norway at once closed its consulate on the West Bank for the public, but has not yet decided to withdraw its staff. On Thursday evening Palestinian gunmen also entered a number of hotels to threaten foreigners. Many Europeans are leaving Palestine before the Cartoon War really starts.