Copenhagen, Feb. 8. (AP): Denmark’s Prime Minister called the protests over the Prophet Mohammad cartoons a “global crisis” and appealed Tuesday for calm.
“We are now facing a growing global crisis,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference as thousands of Muslims worldwide continued to protest over the caricatures first published in Denmark.
Muslim demonstrators have set fire to the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon, and rallied in Indonesia, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere. At least seven demonstrators have died in two days of bloody demonstrations in Afghanistan, authorities said, forcing NATO to send in more troops.
“Now it has become an international political matter,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “I urge calm and steadiness.”
Protesters have demanded that the Danish government apologize for the cartoons _ 12 caricatures of Mohammad that many say are degrading and an insult to Islam, which prohibits depictions of the prophet. One show the prophet wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.But Fogh Rasmussen has said he cannot apologize on behalf of his country’s free press. He urged Muslims to take part in a dialogue on the issue instead. He said U.S. George W. Bush called him earlier Tuesday and agreed dialogue was the way forward. Spain’s foreign minister also pushed for dialogue.
“In Denmark, we have a long tradition of solving disagreements through dialogue, and that is what the government will do _ enter a dialogue,” Fogh Rasmussen said. “We must look ahead and everyone must contribute to a solution.”
Jyllands-Posten has apologized for any offense taken by Muslims, but has defended the publication of the caricatures, calling it a legitimate exercise in freedom of expression. A number of newspapers, mostly in Europe, have reprinted the cartoons, in a show of support for freedom of the press. European Parliament President Josep Borrell urged media to exercise their rights and freedoms keeping consequences in mind.
“Freedom of expression is a right which should be exercised like other rights in a responsible way, and that is true of any exercise of rights because you need to take into account the consequences that could have,” Borrell told reporters.Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said the caricatures should not have been published, but condemned the violence by Muslim radicals