EU Presidency Decries Muslims' Anti-Jewish Cartoon Campaign

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - The Austrian presidency of the European Union has condemned a campaign launched by a Belgium-based Muslim party, which reacted to the publication of caricatures of Mohammed by posting cartoons lampooning such sensitive issues as the Holocaust.

The Arab European League (AEL) says it plans to publish a "daring" new cartoon every day. Those posted on its website so far include one showing Hitler in bed with the Dutch teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank, and two suggesting the Holocaust was exaggerated or a myth.

Another deals with female genital mutilation, and includes a character believed to depict Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who campaigns against the practice, and who has faced death threats over her criticism of Islam.

AEL's Lebanese-born founder, Dyab Abou Jahjah, said on the site that the organization had "decided to enter the cartoon business and to use our right to artistic expression."

"Just like the newspapers in Europe claim that they only want to defend the freedom of speech and do not desire to stigmatize Muslims, we also do stress that our cartoons are not meant as an offense to anybody and ought not to be taken as a statement against any group, community or historical fact."

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said he was shocked by the material published by AEL.

"I call on all concerned to end this spiral of reciprocal provocations and insults," he said. "Neither disparaging caricatures of Mohammed nor the denial of the Holocaust or shameful jokes about the Holocaust have any place in a world where cultures and religions should live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect."

Holocaust denial is a criminal offense under hate-speech laws in a number of European countries, and a pro-Israel group in the Netherlands lodged a formal complaint about the AEL cartoons.

Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) in The Hague said in a statement the AEL caricatures were "a nightmare for the thousands of Jewish victims of the Holocaust who are still alive."

He also questioned why AEL felt it necessary to vent its anger over the Mohammed cartoons against Jews.

Jahjah responded to the complaints by arguing that "all we are trying to do is to confront Europe with its own hypocrisy."

He said the cartoon campaign would continue "and we will not be intimidated by the ridiculous [lawsuit] that was filed against us in the Netherlands."

See earlier story:
Iran Drags Jews Into Cartoon Row (Feb. 07, 2005)

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