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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)



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THE CARTOON CONTROVERSY -I - JP Sharma

 
 


The publication of 12 cartoons of prophet Mohammed in a small Danish newspaper Jyllands- Posten on 30 September 2005 has brought to the fore the simmering religious tensions between the Christian populations of European countries and their largely immigrant Muslim minorities of North African/ Asian origins. The cartoons did not attract much notice when they first appeared in Denmark possibly because the attention of the international media was focused on the wave of arson attacks which was sweeping across France at that time. By February-March 2006 however the cartoon issue had snowballed into a serious confrontation between the secular Christian West and the Islamic world.

BACKGROUND

Denmark is a tiny country of 5.4 million people about 92 % of whom are Lutheran Protestants. Muslims, largely the offspring of immigrants, form about 5% of the population and the second largest religious group. Catholics come third. There is also a Jewish population of about 6000. The earliest Muslim immigrants were those who arrived during the 1970s from Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, and Yugoslavia in search of jobs. Later arrivals (during the 1980s and 1990s) were mainly asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia.

Denmark, with a liberal socialist government cherishing the ideal of multi-culturism holding power, was generous in its treatment of the immigrants who were provided liberal welfare benefits. Islamist militants fleeing from the law of their home countries also took advantage of Denmark's hospitality. Among those who found a second home in Denmark was Ayman Al Zawahiri a prominent leader of Egypt's Gamaat al Islamiya who for many years published Al Mirabitoun the official organ of the Gamaat from his quiet home in Copenhagen. One of Zawahiri's associates in the enterprise was Ahmad Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, a Palestinian, who worked as translator and distributor of the publication which glorified the killing of western tourists in Egypt and called for the annihilation of Jews in Palestine. Keeping his Al Qaida connections well concealed, Abu Laban later emerged as one of the most prominent Danish imams and spokesman of the Danish Muslims.

Another Islamist organization which established a presence in Denmark was the Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, founded in 1953 in Jerusalem, which seeks to create a worldwide Caliphate governed according to the sharia laws.(This organization is banned by several countries including some Arab Muslim countries and had called for the assassination of Pakistan President general Musharraf ).Even Sheikh Omar Bakri (who preached holy war against Britain in his sermons at London's Finsbury Park mosque), was given permission for setting up a branch of his organization Al Muhajiroun in Denmark.

Denmark's disenchantment with militant Islam

Like their counterparts in other European countries Danish Muslims too belied the host government's expectations of getting integrated into the civil society. They tended to live in ghettoes and under the influence of the Islamist organizations, started making strident condemnations of Jews and to talk openly of the time when their numerical strength would lead to the application of sharia law in Denmark. Many Danes also disliked the practices of the Muslim immigrants. Reaction of the Muslims towards 9/11 aggravated the apprehensions of the Danes and the tensions between the Muslims and the Christians and the Jews. The elections of November 2001 resulted in the ouster of the Socialist Democratic Party from power. A center-right coalition of the Liberals and Conservatives under the leadership of A F Rasmussen took over and started toughening laws governing immigration and welfare spending. Yet another factor in aggravating the tensions was the 2002 offer of a reward of a reward of about $30000 by some Danish Muslim bodies for killing some prominent Danish Jews. Jewish schoolchildren too felt threatened.

The gruesome murder (eight bullets pumped, throat slit, two knives driven into torso, one pinning a five page warning) in November 2004 of Theo Van Gogh, a maverick Dutch writer, actor and film director in Amsterdam by an Islamic fanatic, for having produced a short film entitled "Submission" dealing with violence against Muslim women naturally added to the dread of Islamic fanatics in the Netherlands and among the populations of the neighbouring Scandinavian countries.

THE CARTOONS

In 2005 the art editor of the Aarhus based Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten invited some artists to provide drawings of Prophet Mohammed to help an author who could not find any one willing to make illustrations for a book he had written. The 12 cartoons received in response were published in Jyllands -Posten on 30 September 2005.The local Muslims reacted by sending angry letters to the paper. By mid October some death threats were received which in turn gave rise to some anti Muslim comments in the media. This was followed by a demonstration by some 5000 Muslims in Copenhagen. A group of ambassadors of some Muslim countries then sought a meeting with the Prime Minister who declined on the ground that he did not consider it appropriate for the government to intervene in a matter involving press freedom.

THE MOBILIZATION

Several delegations of Danish imams undertook tours of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Qatar and other Middle East countries to arouse their coreligionists throughout the Muslim world against Jyllands Posten and the Government of Denmark. They carried with them a 43 page dossier which included, besides the 12 cartoons published in Jyllands -Posten, 3 other cartoons which were highly offensive but had not appeared in any Danish publication. The folder also contained material alleging oppression of Muslims, racism and Islamophobia in Denmark. In Egypt the delegation met Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, Sheik Mohammed Tantawi the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and the Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa. The delegation that went to Syria met the well known Shiite cleric Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah besides others.Other delegations similarly met Islamic leaders of other Muslim countries The dossier was also circulated on the sidelines of the OIC summit held on 6 December 2005.

In Qatar Abu Laban met and briefed Yusuf al-Qaradawi the most influential scholar of Sunni Islam. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is believed to be the brains behind the Muslim Brotherhood's international network and the leading opinion maker in the Middle East. Besides his weekly show ash- Shariah wal- Hayat (sharia and life ) on Al Jazeera he has his own website IslamOnline and has authored many books. In his Friday 3 February 2006 sermon on Qatar TV, Qaradawi exhorted "We must rage and show our rage to the world" and issued separate warnings addressed to the "weak" Muslim governments and to the western world. The initiative of the Danish Imams was successful in uniting the entire Muslim world in expressing its anger against Jyllands- Posten and the government of Denmark. In fact it went much further and transformed the issue of the cartoons published by a little known Danish newspaper into one of insult of Islam and its Prophet by the Western world.

( to be continued)


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

 
     
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