7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

Cartoon protests 'must be peaceful'

MEMBERS of the Bahraini community have condemned violent demonstrations that erupted across the Muslim world in response to the publication of offensive cartoons in a Danish paper.

Politicians, clergymen, human rights activists and business leaders say the issue should be tackled through a unified stance among Muslim countries to demand a clear apology from the Danish government.

They were responding to the riots that have erupted all over the Middle East as a result of the publication of cartoons offensive to Islam in a newspaper last September.

The cartoons of Prophet Mohammed have since been published in 12 countries worldwide and resulted in several violent demonstrations in the Arab region.

Demonstrators have attacked European embassies and several people have died as outraged protesters clashed with police across the Middle East.

In Bahrain, thousands of people demonstrated at various areas in Muharraq, Dair, Manama, Ghufool, Sanabis, Duraz, Isa Town, Karzakan, A'ali, Sitra and Hamad Town following last Friday's prayers.

Demonstrators, led by MP Mohammed Khalid, also burned Danish flags in one of the rallies in Hamad Town.

But community and business leaders in Bahrain say violence was not the way to solve the issue.

"The Muslim message will remain one of peace and we will need to repair the situation and close any gaps (between cultures)," said Olama' Islamic Council member and Al Wefaq National Islamic Society's Shura Council member Sayed Haidar Al Sitri.

"We'll try not to make the division grow bigger and we'll work on strengthening relations.

"We regret the violent reaction which has caused damage or harm to the Danish embassy."

Al Eslah Society board member Ibrahim Al Hassan said violence should not be the method used to express anger at the situation.

"Violent protests are always refused, we are against it and protests should be carried out through peaceful means," said Mr Al Hassan.

He, however, backed calls for boycotting Danish products as a sign of condemnation even though there might be financial losses in the local market.

"We believe that any sacrifice for God will be compensated several times over," said Mr Al Hassan.

Northern Municipal Council vice-chairman Jawad Fairooz said people had the right to carry out peaceful demonstrations to express their anger.

"People should respect other people's beliefs. Although we believe in freedom of speech, this should not damage others' beliefs."

Mr Fairooz said leaders of the Islamic world should get together and find a common solution, which can be a clear apology from Denmark.

"I do not think it is right to burn flags or embassies. There should be a meeting between delegates from Muslim countries to find a solution."

Bahrain Human Rights Society secretary general Abdulla Al Durazi said the region should always steer away from violence that threaten its security and peace.

"In this region we do not need any more violence, not with Iraq and Palestine," he said.

Mr Al Durazi, however, said there was a fine line between religion and freedom of expression.

"We are condoning the cartoons in the way of free expression, but religious beliefs are also protected by human rights and this should be acknowledged," he said.

"The Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has refused to meet religious clerics and I think this is a mistake.

"It could have been solved quietly but now it has turned into a political issue."

Mashal Group chief executive director Dr Yousef Mashal said violent reactions would not resolve the issue.

"The riots were a direct reaction to the anger the people felt, the embassies represent the countries," he said. "But burning embassies does not affect the right people.

"It is best to tackle them though their own laws and there should not be violence. Islam is not a violent religion"

"An issue should be made of this event as our rights have been violated. They do have laws against that and we should use them."

National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ed) president Ibrahim Sharif said serious measures were required to resolve the issue, but not through violence.

"Peaceful reactions are fine and necessary," he said.

"However, I don't think you can use freedom of expression to insult people and to portray the Prophet as a suicide bomber. You can't stereotype all Muslims as Jihadists.

"The Danish Premier has not been forthcoming and needs to say that this is unacceptable.

"If law doesn't punish the newspaper then the people should do so by boycotting the paper for it causing a religious feud."

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