Respect of Religions sign now

For years, we have witnessed the rising tide of Islamophobia in the West and especially in Denmark and how media misuses the concept of freedom of expression to insult and degrade not only the Muslim Communities but to a larger degree the religion of Islam, its holy book, Quran and even Prophet Mohammad.

Danish politicians, the media and the man in the street has no qualm in calling Islam Nazist, terrorist, fascist and many other uncomfortable names. Even Parliament's podium is being used for such attacks.

But the largest daily newspaper, Jyllands Posten went one step further in September 2005 when it instigated the commissioning of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. 12 well known artists drew very insulting sketches of the Prophet and the newspaper published these on 30th September.

The Muslim communities in Denmark peacefully protested against this uncalled for provocation and many ambassadors from Muslim countries requested a meeting with the Prime Minster of Denmark on this issue. The response of the Danish authorities and the media has been an arrogant defence of the newspaper and its right to insult whom ever it pleases. Muslim communities were politely told to shut up and accept the treatment they are given.

This matter has been taken up in Al-Azhar University, United Nation's Commission for Human Rights, EU Commission vice President Mr Frattini, 22 retired Danish ambassadors, 250 Danish intellectuals, writers and priests and Organisation of Islamic conference. Even the former boss of the present Prime Minster has admonished the government for acting, undiplomatically. Nothing seems to work. No one knows what the consequences of this provocation will be for the future of minorities in Denmark and Denmark's trade and cultural relations with the Muslim world. The Arab League was so angry at the Danish government, that it threatened Denmark with trade boycott.

International media has also taken notice of the Danish Islamophobic atmosphere. Besides the huge outcry in the Arab and other Muslim countries, the media all over the world criticise Denmark. The latest to join this endless line of criticism are International Herlad Tribune (31 Dec 2005),The Economist (7 Jan 2005), New York Times (8 Jan 2006) and Swedish newspaper Aftenbladet (17 Jan 2006).

The Danish governmentвs response is its old and usual mantra: "The surrounding world do not understand us. We are democratic and want to protect our freedom of speech."

We are afraid that this Islamophobic atmosphere in Denmark is damaging the inter-ethnic and inter-cultural relationships in the society. Since we find ourselves helpless in this respect, we have no other recourse but to appeal to the international opinion.

We wish to say to those who have a desire to use or have used in their comments, uncivilized language about Quran, Prophet or Islam or other religions, please use your logic and not ignorance. By abusing Islam, you would not serve the purpose of a dialogue between different communities in Denmark or the Western World.

There is a big difference between criticism of Muslims, Islamic practices and even the religion of Islam and publishing insulting cartoons of Prophet. Since he is not around to answer (we are sure, he would have forgiven Jyllands Posten), it falls to his followers to react. It is very logical. They have a right to react in a peaceful manner, which they did.

Bashy Quraishy
President - ENAR (European Network Against Racism)
Belgium Member EU Commission's High Level Group on Integration

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Mitchell RothBy:
Transport and infrastructureIn:
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The Danish Government

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