Imaams denounce Danish & Norwegian newspapers in cartoons row

Imams of mosques across the Kingdom yesterday denounced Danish and Norwegian newspapers that published cartoons tarnishing the image of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and urged Islamic countries to confront such hostile campaigns.

Delivering his Friday sermon, Sheikh Osama Khayyat, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, emphasized the lofty position of the Prophet in the minds of Muslims.

“The Prophet Muhammad was sent to the world as a mercy,” Khayyat said, quoting a verse from the Holy Qur’an. He said such blasphemous cartoons would not affect the noble personality of the Prophet.

He commended the Saudi government for taking a firm stand against the cartoons that defiled the Prophet and his teachings. “This goodly government has warmed our hearts with its clear Islamic stance,” Khayyat said in the sermon aired by state television. “It showed its extreme displeasure, did justice to the Prophet and warned of the dangers of continuing this grave hostile path,” he said.

Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s largest newspaper, ran 12 cartoons last September, including one in which the Prophet is portrayed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb. Islam considers images of prophets disrespectful and caricatures of them blasphemous.

The sermon of Sheikh Ali Al-Hudaify, imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, also centered on the cartoon issue. He said many people in the past had tried to defame the Prophet. “They were thrown in the dustbin of history and nobody remembers them,” the imam said, adding that Muhammad (pbuh) is remembered as a great Prophet and reformer.

The imam said the mockery of the Prophet would be considered a mockery of other prophets such as Moses, Jesus and Abraham (peace be upon them).

“We call upon governments, organizations and scholars in the Islamic world to extend support for campaigns protesting the sacrilegious attacks on the Prophet. They should also highlight the danger posed by such vilifications, using international forums and information media,” Hudaify said.

Saudi companies and organizations have already called for a boycott of Danish products until the daily apologizes for publishing the cartoons. Imams of mosques across the Kingdom yesterday used their Friday sermons to back the boycott campaign.

Abdullah Al-Othaim, executive president of Al-Othaim Holding Company, has said that his company would boycott of Danish products. “As Denmark has freedom of the press, we Muslims have freedom to buy or not to buy their products,” he said.

Al-Othaim’s decision, which he says includes a boycott of any supplier that includes Danish products, may help to impact SR1.3 billion worth of exports to Saudi Arabia.

“This is religious duty and all businessmen should do something,” said Sultan, manager of a Riyadh supermarket which had signs warning customers where the Danish products were.

Norway said on Thursday it had advised its Middle East embassies to voice regret that an Oslo-based newspaper ran reprints of the cartoons.

Kari Karame, an expert in conflicts and the Middle East at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, said it was wrong to exploit freedom of speech to defend any insults. “It’s a very bad principle to say you can treat people who are different from you as you want because of freedom of expression,” she told Reuters.

The cartoons have sparked uproar in the Muslim world. Saleh Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, called the newspaper’s actions part of “a culture of Islamophobia”. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Muslim World League and the Arab Foreign Ministers Council have issued statements condemning the cartoons.