Muslim Protesters Walk in Silent Procession
Indian Muslim protesters walk during a silent procession in Bhopal, India, Friday, Feb. 10, 2006. Thousands of Indian Muslims participated in the march to protest the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers.
Prakash Hatvalne -- AP
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Anatomy of the Cartoon Protest Movement

"A revolution inside me started," he said.

He found that the most informative Web sites were the most religiously rigid. In the past, he had recoiled at some of their views, but he now came to rely on them for help in what had become a personal campaign.

On one Web site, he found the e-mail addresses of Danish embassies overseas, and a form letter to them. He cut and pasted a 27-page letter, written in both Arabic and English, and sent it to the embassies. The following day he sent a shorter version of the letter to the same list as well the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet, which had republished the cartoons in January. This time it was only in English. The third day, he e-mailed the same group a copy of a letter calling for a boycott.

He sent a copy of each e-mail to a separate list of 100 people, including colleagues in Egypt and Lebanon. Some he knew from training in Canada, others he met at conferences in the region. In the past, the list was often used to send jokes. This time, his messages encouraged those on the list to boycott Danish goods and, like him, write letters of protest to Danish diplomats, journalists and businessmen.

He joined what had become a virtual sphere of activism, with themes repeated from London to Jakarta, Indonesia. Its speed and scope were unprecedented; to him, it was empowering. As Balkhy sent his e-mails, thousands of others were circulating as well. Dozens of Web sites were set up. Among them was http://www.no4denmark.org/ . Text messages beeped on cell phones: "Danish papers are making fun of our prophet," read one. "Boycott their products." Supermarkets in Saudi Arabia began pulling Danish goods from their shelves, and Saudi companies published advertisements citing their support for the boycott. The kingdom recalled its ambassador to Denmark.

"We had accomplished something," Balkhy said. "Our campaign was working."

Denmark Stopping Short of an Apology

By Jan. 30, intense pressure had built on Rasmussen, a tough-talking farmer's son, and the editors at the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. Protesters in Muslim countries were burning Danish flags. The economic boycott that started in Saudi Arabia had nearly shut down sales of Danish cheese, butter and other products in the Muslim world. On that day, a Monday, Rasmussen expressed his first public criticism of the cartoons.

"I personally have such respect for people's religious feelings that I personally would not have depicted Muhammad, Jesus or other religious figures in such a manner that would offend other people," Rasmussen told Danish television. He stopped short of the apology demanded by Muslim leaders, saying he could not apologize for what was printed in a newspaper exercising free speech.

Hashim Balkhy
Hashim Balkhy,a Saudi consultant plastic surgeon, looks at a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad with his turban shaped like a bomb.
At about the same time, Carsten Juste, editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, posted a similar statement. "In our opinion, the 12 drawings were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims, for which we apologize," he wrote.

Al-Shahal, the Lebanese cleric, watched Rasmussen's remarks on al-Jazeera satellite television. So did Balkhy, on both al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, another Arabic-language satellite network. Both felt the same way. "Truthfully, it wasn't a real apology, in the precise meaning of the word," al-Shahal said. Balkhy was blunter: Rasmussen had "tried to weasel out of an apology."

February

Berlin A Free Expression Paradox


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