'Mohammed Cartoons Worse Than Killing of Women and Children'

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed was a "greater and more serious tragedy" than the killing of Arab women and children by Western military forces, and the "reckoning for it will be more severe," said a message released Wednesday, purportedly featuring the voice of Osama bin Laden.

Released on an extremist Web site, the message also accused the pope of playing a key role in "a new crusade" against Muslims; described President Bush as "oppressive," and referred derisively to Saudi King Abdullah as "the crownless king in Riyadh."

The message evidently was recorded within the past five weeks, since it refers to the reappearance of one of the dozen newspaper cartoon interpretations of the Muslim prophet that first roiled the Islamic world in early 2006. Danish papers republished the sketch on Feb. 13, in a show of solidarity after the uncovering of a plot to kill the cartoonist.

The released videoclip featured a still graphic of the fugitive Saudi terrorist holding an assault rifle, a voiceover in Arabic, and an English translation text. At the top of the screen were the words, "May our mothers be bereaved of us if we fail to help our prophet (peace be upon him)." The logo of As-Sahab, al-Qaeda's so-called media wing allegedly run by American Muslim convert Adam Gadahn, also appeared.

Although the message was released on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, it made no mention of the date and said little about the war itself, instead dealing largely with the cartoon issue.

Addressing the "intelligent ones" of the European Union, it accuses them of neglecting to take the necessary steps to prevent the reappearance of the "insulting drawings."

The message attributed to bin Laden rejected the free speech argument supporting publication of the cartoons, ridiculing what he called "the sacredness you accord freedom of expression and the sacredness of your laws."

If freedom of expression was sacred, the voice asked, "on what basis do you suppress those who cast doubt on the statistics of an historical event?" - an apparent reference to laws in some European countries outlawing Holocaust denial.

"The laws of men which clash with the legislations of Allah the Most High are null and void, aren't sacred, and don't matter to us," he said, warning, "if there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions."

The last message attributed to bin Laden that directly addressed Europeans, released last November, focused on the "unjust war" in Afghanistan. A late December message warned Iraqis not to oppose al-Qaeda and to oppose the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad.

Bin Laden, whose al-Qaeda terrorist network carried out the 9/11 attacks and has a $50 million reward on his head, is presumed to be somewhere in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Gadahn, a California native, has been charged with treason and other serious crimes, and carries a reward of up to $1 million.

Many Muslims consider images of Mohammed and biblical figures whom they regard as Islamic prophets to be blasphemous.

Denmark's largest circulation daily paper in September 2005 published 12 artists' cartoon depictions of Mohammed in what it said was a desire to test the limits of free speech.

Among the more controversial of the sketches was one showing a man wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, with its fuse lit. Another showed "Mohammed" with blacked-out eyes, armed with a dagger and flanked by burqa-clad women. In another cartoon, the points of a crescent moon half-hidden behind the man's head suggested a pair of horns.

Initial reaction was muted, but after Danish Muslim clerics toured the Middle East to drum up support, protests - some violent - erupted in several Islamic countries in early 2006 and a boycott of Danish goods ensued. Meanwhile, newspapers and magazines in many other countries also ran the cartoons.

The furor fuelled a campaign by Islamic nations against the "defamation" of Islam and its prophets, and some of their governments reacted angrily last month after Danish newspapers reprinted the turban-bomb cartoon last month.

See Also:
OIC Wants 'Binding Legal Instrument' to Fight Islamophobia (March 13, 2008)
Formal Protests, Censorship As Governments React To 'Blasphemy' (Feb. 25, 2008)
Christians Targeted as Bloody Cartoon Violence Continues (Feb. 20, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow