Monday 15 February 2010

Norway now has problems with Muslims

Picture Source: AFP

About 2,500 people marched through downtown Oslo in a protest Friday against a Norwegian newspaper that printed a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

The demonstrators chanted "God is great" in Arabic and waved placards calling for a boycott of the Dagbladet daily.

On Feb. 3, the newspaper published a photograph showing a man in front of a computer screen with a depiction of Muhammad as a pig. The picture accompanied an article that said users were posting offensive material about Muslims and Jews on the Facebook page of Norway's security police.

Dagbladet's acting editor-in-chief, Lars Helle, told The Associated Press that he doesn't regret printing the offending image and that he welcomed Friday's protest.

"It was a test for Norwegian society — whether this would be a peaceful protest or not," Helle said.

He said Dagbladet has not received any direct threats since it published the caricature. A hacker attack originating from Turkey brought down the newspaper's Web site for two hours Wednesday evening, but Helle said it's unclear whether that attack was connected to the caricature.

Protesters said they wanted to show Norwegian media how hurtful such images are to Muslims. Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

"We have done nothing to anybody. We want to live here in peace. Norway is our home. Our children live here. Why should they (Norwegian media) hurt us like this?" said Naradim Muhammad, a 43-year-old school teacher who helped organize the demonstration.

The demonstration was peaceful, except for a firecracker that was apparently thrown by a protester onto a restaurant patio. It caused burn damage to a patio sofa, but nobody was injured. After the blast, organizers ordered the crowd to disperse, encouraging them to go home or to a local mosque to pray.

Police spokesman Joern-Kristian Joergensen said the protest concluded without further incident. However, Oslo police, who maintained a low profile during the demonstration to avoid confrontation, would remain on alert throughout the evening, he said.

Angry protests swept across Muslim countries in 2006 after a Danish newspaper printed 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. That newspaper said it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.

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