Muslim Anger Over Cartoons Increasingly Directed at US

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - Muslims protesting the publication in European media of cartoons depicting Mohammed have once again directed their anger at the United States despite the fact most American mainstream newspapers have not reproduced them.

Sentiment about the allegedly blasphemous cartoons appears increasingly to be blurring into a broader anti-U.S. feeling in some parts of the world, with some angry Muslims using President Bush's scheduled tour to India and Pakistan early next month as a rallying point.

In the Indian city of Lucknow, protestors decried the cartoons but also demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government cancel its invitation to Bush.

A senior cleric addressing the demonstration in the city of 2.2 million also declared he would no longer attend functions where Coca Cola or Pepsi, beverages associated with the U.S., were served.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the U.S. rather than Europe was targeted again, when hundreds of Muslims marching behind a banner reading "We are ready to attack the enemies of the prophet" tried unsuccessfully to storm the U.S. Embassy on Sunday.

Protestors burned a poster of Bush and American flags, and smashed windows of a guardroom. The embassy in a statement called the incident "thuggery" and said it was "pre-meditated" for the benefit of television cameras.

In Pakistan, a small demonstration was allowed in central Islamabad after police set up checkpoints around the capital to prevent a planned mass march.

The protestors, led by the leader of an opposition coalition of Islamist parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), chanted slogans saying that any friend of America was a traitor, an apparent reference to President Pervez Musharraf.

Defying a government ban, the MMA has vowed to continue protests against the cartoons, culminating in a nationwide shutdown it has called for March 3, around the time Bush is supposed to be visiting.

In both Pakistan and India, Muslim leaders have publicly offered large rewards to anyone who kills any of the 12 cartoonists who penned the caricatures that were first published by Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily last September, and have since appeared widely on the Internet, in newspapers across Europe, and in several other parts of the world.

In several Muslim countries, publications that reprinted one or more of the cartoons are facing difficulties.

The media freedom lobby group Reporters Without Borders says it knows of seven journalists under arrest in Yemen, Syria and Algeria for reprinting the caricatures; another 12 who are facing prosecution, including two in Jordan charged with encouraging disorder; and 13 publications shut down permanently or temporarily in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"Whatever one thinks of the cartoons or whether they should be published, it is absolutely unjustified to jail or prosecute journalists, threaten them with death or shut down newspapers for this reason," the group said.

In Russia, a newspaper partly owned by the city administration of Volgograd, was shut down after publishing a cartoon that was not one of the Danish dozen, but was intended as an editorial commentary on the controversy, and portrayed Mohammed, Moses, Jesus and Buddha.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the decision to shut down the Gorodskiye Vesti, a step the city's mayor said was designed to prevent the incitement of religious hatred.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow