Jordan king condemns Prophet Muhammad caricatures as protests continue
Outrage over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad continued in the Arab and Islamic world on Friday. The protests spread to Indonesia on Friday, with local Muslims storming into a building housing the Danish Embassy and burning the Scandinavian country's flag. The Indonesian government had earlier condemned the drawings, the AP reported.
In Iraq, Islamic leaders called on worshippers to stage demonstrations following weekly prayer services Friday. Iran summoned the Austrian ambassador, whose country holds the EU presidency.
The issue opened divisions among European Union governments. Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stated EU leaders have a responsibility to "clearly condemn" insults to any religion. But French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said he preferred "an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship."
Sarkozy joined journalists in rallying near the editorial director of France Soir, who was sacked by the newspaper's Egyptian owner after publishing the caricatures this week in a show of support for freedom of expression.
On Thursday, Palestinian gunmen briefly kidnapped a German citizen and protesters in Pakistan chanted "death to France" and "death to Denmark."
Palestinian activists surrounded European Union headquarters in Gaza, and gunmen burst into several hotels and apartments in the West Bank in search of foreigners to take hostage.
Islamic law forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad and other major religious figures to prevent idolatry. Muslims claim the drawings were insulting because some appeared to ridicule Muhammad. One cartoon showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.
In the Arab world, a Jordanian magazine, Shihan, Thursday published some of the drawings, saying it wanted to show its readers how offensive the cartoons were but also urging the world's Muslims to "be reasonable."
King Abdullah II of Jordan condemned the cartoons in comments published Friday by Petra. ' Equally, whilst we respect and revere freedom of speech, we condemn needless desecration and injury of Islamic sensibilities, such as the recent cartoons misrepresenting and vilifying my ancestor the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him),'' The King made these comments during a speech delivered on Thursday to 3,000 world and US figures. The King added that extremists, of any religion, who teach intolerance and violence, mutilate Scripture to advance their cause. ''We behold with horror and disgust the recent targeting of Christian churches in Iraq, breaking with a 1400 year tradition of Christian-Muslim friendship and mutual acceptance amongst the Arabs of the Levant,'' the Jordanian monarch said. ''Extremism is a political movement, under religious cover. Its adherents want nothing more than to pit us against each other, denying all that we have in common,'' said the King.
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