Vandals in Denmark Strike Muslim Graves

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, February 13, 2006

COPENHAGEN, Feb. 12 -- About 25 Muslim graves in western Denmark were vandalized late Saturday night, bringing swift condemnation from Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as tensions simmer from a Danish newspaper's publication last year of cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

"I strongly condemn this disgraceful act, and I deeply regret the desecration of Muslim graves," Rasmussen said in a statement released by his office Sunday night. "I have made it clear that the Danish government condemns any expression or any action which offends people's religious feelings."

Ahmed Akkari, a prominent Muslim leader in Denmark, said he was "happy" that Rasmussen had issued the statement so quickly. He said that in similar cases in the past, "nothing happened." Akkari said he believed that those who vandalized the Muslim graves in the city of Esbjerg, in Jutland, west of Copenhagen, "do not represent the Danish people's general attitude."

Tensions between Muslims and ethnic Danes have been extremely high in the past two weeks as the Muhammad cartoons, which other papers have reprinted, have sparked violent protests around the world. Akkari said that Rasmussen's swift condemnation, with his promise that authorities would "bring the perpetrators to justice," was "maybe one of the positive signs" of increased awareness between the two communities.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company