Swiss Muslims condemn "insulting" caricatures

Many Muslims, including those in Indonesia, have protested about the cartoons Keystone

Members of Switzerland's Muslim community say the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed is unacceptable and provocative.

This content was published on February 3, 2006 - 13:58

The controversial caricatures first appeared in a Danish newspaper last year, with some of them being reprinted by Swiss and European publications this week.

The images - one of which shows the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb - have caused an outcry in the Muslim world. Islamic tradition bans depictions of the prophet or Allah.

In Switzerland some of the cartoons have been reproduced by at least two newspapers in the French-speaking part of the country and by the mass-circulation Blick.

Hafid Ouardiri, spokesman for the Geneva mosque, says the images are offensive.

"We think these caricatures are provocative and crude, insulting and even obscene. They offend Muslims, because they are about the prophet and the prophet is for us someone that we love more than ourselves," he told swissinfo.

"Furthermore he taught us to respect all members of humanity, whatever their beliefs or non beliefs."

Fuel to the fire

He said that the reprints by newspapers, which claimed they were expressing their right to freedom of speech, had "added fuel to the fire".

"We are not at all against freedom of expression, but for us it has to be discerning about what is right and wrong," said Ouardiri.

Ouardiri and Swiss Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan both said it was important to now initiate a dialogue over the incident.

The League of Swiss Muslims said on Friday it found the images unacceptable and that it had been contacted by many Swiss Muslims who were shocked by them.

For his part, Ramadan said the situation had to be considered from both points of view.

"We have to be very cautious and to say to Muslims: look, take a critical intellectual distance from this, don't overreact emotionally, you can just express the fact that it's against your principles and that's not the way to use freedom of speech," he told swissinfo.

"On the other side, I really think that [despite freedom of speech] you have to be respectful towards the people.

"You have to understand that European society has changed, that now you have millions of Muslims living in these countries and they are adding a new sensitivity to European culture."

Continuing protests

On Friday calls for protests by Iraqi, Egyptian and Palestinian groups continued. The Pakistani parliament condemned the caricatures.

In Indonesia protestors broke into the building housing the Danish embassy.

Meanwhile Denmark has summoned ambassadors from Muslim countries to talk about the row. Syria and Saudi Arabia have already withdrawn their envoys.

On Thursday the Danish government apologised on Arabic TV for any offence caused by the cartoons but said it was not responsible for what newspapers published.

The Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which originally printed the cartoons last September, has also apologised, but maintains their publication was legal under Danish law.


In brief

According to the 2000 census, 311,000 Muslims live in Switzerland. Most of then come from the Balkans or Turkey.

Numbers have risen in recent years, rising from 2.2% of the population in 1990 to 4.3% in 2000.

Much of the increase was due to an influx of refugees as a result of the war in the former Yugoslavia.

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