Muslim anger mounts over cartoons, movie

Sudan threatens to ban Danish aid workers; Europe braces for possible protests.

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Outrage continued to rise this week in parts of the Muslim world over the depiction of Islam in Danish newspapers earlier this month and the possible release of a film in the Netherlands critical of the religion.

Muslims in Sudan, Pakistan, Turkey, the Middle East, and other parts of the Islamic world, have been angered over the republication of one cartoon from a 2005 series that satirized Islam's prophet Muhammad. Muslims regard visual depictions of the prophet Muhammad as blasphemous.

Governments in Europe are also bracing for protests against the possible broadcast of an anti-Islamic film by right-wing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders that links Islam to violence. Mr. Wilders says the film, which he plans to broadcast on the Internet and possibly television, will be finished Sunday, Reuters reports. Pakistan's YouTube shutdown last weekend has been attributed in part to the film's appearance on the video-sharing website.

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In Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir said Wednesday that Danes would be banned from Sudan and the Danish peacekeeping force faced possible expulsion. He was speaking before a crowd of tens of thousands denouncing Denmark during a government-backed protest against the republications of the cartoons, reports the Associated Press.

"We urge all Muslims around the world to boycott Danish commodities, goods, companies, institutions, organizations and personalities," Al-Bashir told the crowd.

Mr. Bashir's Islamist government has used other perceived insults to the prophet to bolster support for the regime and oppose the acceptance of United Nations peacekeepers in Sudan.

Denmark's foreign aid minister said Thursday she was considering whether Sudan's call could have an impact on aid to Sudan, South Africa's Independent Online reports. Sudan is one of the largest recipients of aid from Denmark.

One Muslim blogger living in Denmark, Helen Latifi, criticized the reaction from the Sudan – because it was such a large aid recipient – in comments published in the Sudan Tribune. Ms. Latifi called for a boycott of the boycott, claiming Sudan's complaints against Denmark were a double standard.

Earlier in February, 17 Danish newspapers reprinted the 2005 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad originally printed in the local Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and Danish police arrested several people for planning to attack a cartoonist who drew the most controversial caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, reports the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian.

The newspapers said they had republished the cartoons to show a commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot was discovered.

The second publication of the Muhammad cartoons has pitted sections of the Muslim world against those who defend the media's right to publish or broadcast what it wishes. The German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Wednesday more European newspapers should publish the cartoons in response to the protests in the Sudan, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports.

"All European newspapers should print the [Muhammad] caricatures with the explanation, 'We also think they're pathetic, but the use of press freedom is no reason to resort to violence," Mr. Schaeuble said.

In Egypt, a Muslim-Christian body, the Al-Azhar Vatican interfaith dialogue, denounced the republication of the cartoons on Tuesday, press agency Adnkronos International reports. The Al-Azhar-Vatican committee issued a final statement after a two-day meeting calling on Christianity and Islam to respect each others' beliefs and symbols. The Al-Azhar mosque is among the most respected sources of learning within Sunni Islam.

Pakistan condemned the republication of the cartoons on Wednesday, saying they had offended Muslim feelings and sentiment, Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua reports.

"No civilized society should allow disrespect of the belief system of other communities," the statement said, adding the cartoons had deeply offended Muslims all over the world. The government said the cartoons had incited growing Islamophobia in Europe, undermining efforts to build understanding between Islam and the West.

Tensions have also risen over Wilders's film. Pakistan telecommunication authorities ordered the video-sharing website YouTube blocked on Feb. 22. The ban disrupted YouTube worldwide on Sunday, but Pakistan lifted it two days later after the video was removed, reports Wired Magazine's blog Threat Level. Others attributed the ban to Internet videos showing election discrepancies in Pakistan, reports Pakistan's The News.

So far, Wilders has given few details about the content of his film, "Fitna," other than saying he intends to present his views about the Koran.

In the past, he has said the Koran should be banned, likening it to Adolf Hitler's book, "Mein Kampf." Wilders said the film may be televised and would be available on a special Internet site, www.fitnathemovie.com, aimed at dodging any access restrictions.

This week, Pakistan upper house of parliament adopted a resolution condemning efforts to denigrate Islam and promote hatred, referring to the prophet Muhammad cartoons and Wilders's film specifically.

The Dutch government also warned Wilders on Wednesday about the dangers of broadcasting his film, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Dutch government said it was worried about its reputation and the security of Dutch citizens living abroad. Since the 2004 murder of Dutch director and columnist Theo Van Gogh, a columnist who directed a film criticizing women's position in Islam was killed by a radical Muslim, Wilders has been living under police protection.

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