//Muslims in Gulf step up Danish ban over cartoons

Muslims in Gulf step up Danish ban over cartoons

DUBAI – Muslims in the Gulf region intensified their boycott of Danish goods as the uproar over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) raged unabated on Monday.

Some moderate clerics and regional trade groups also urged Muslims to use this economic weapon to punish other European nations whose dailies printed the inflammatory caricatures.“I think a boycott is the decent way of responding to the attack. Anything that has to do with money is very effective,” said Ayman Abdulrahman, an Egyptian executive in Dubai. “I might expand my boycott to include other countries who insist on escalating the situation,” he said. Iran’s state radio said the Health Ministry had banned the importation of Danish medical products. Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce said it had halted dealings with Danish and Norwegian delegations, urging Muslim states to do the same. In Bahrain, parliament formed a committee to contact Arab and Islamic governments to enforce the boycott. Supermarket shelves remained void of Danish dairy products as Muslim scholars, state-run organisations and text messages rallied people to maintain their stand.

The ban showed signs of harming more Danish firms as Novo Nordisk, the world’s biggest maker of insulin, said pharmacies and hospitals in Saudi Arabia had been avoiding its products. “Some customers ask about what’s Danish and avoid it,” said one pharmacy owner in Riyadh. The controversial drawings, including one which shows the Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September and were later reprinted in more European newspapers.

European firms jittery — Non-Danish companies rushed to inform the public about the origin of their products. In a newspaper advertisement, Switzerland’s Nestle said its Nido and Klim powder milk brands were not made or imported from Denmark.

Italy’s Ferrero in a similar ad disassociated its popular Kinder chocolates with both Denmark and Norway.Kuwait Danish Dairy Company told newspaper readers that despite its name it was “100 percent Arab” after Danish partners sold their stake in the 1980s. And New Zealand’s Fonterra Co-Operative, published an ad with New Zealand in large print next to its Anchor powder milk.

Thousands of protesters torched the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday, a day after Syrians set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus. Many moderate clerics condemned the attacks and urged Muslims to stick to peaceful protest. “Not a single sachet of a Danish product is left on our shelves,” said the director of a Kuwaiti supermarket. “They have to respect our religion,” added Khalid Abdulrahman, a civil servant who was shopping at the store. Danish-Swedish dairy company Arla Foods said it is losing $1.8 million of sales a day in the Middle East. Its products were removed from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. Branches of French hypermarket Carrefour in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also stopped selling Danish goods. “Danish products have been removed from all (UAE) branches of Carrefour,” one official told Reuters. “I’ve joined the boycott from the first day … economics affects politics,” said Bahraini trader Ghassan Al Shehabi.

Some Muslims, however, said the boycott was not the best way to resolve the crisis.“I think we should seek dialogue, not boycotting products or burning flags in the street which only escalates the problem,” said Suha Krimeed, a Lebanese marketing manager living in Dubai.