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BANGLADESH: Danish envoy says sorry for cartoons

As security tightens around Danish embassy in Dhaka, prominent journalists sign statement condemning cartoons

The Daily Star
Friday, February 10, 2006

Dhaka --- Officials of the Danish mission in Dhaka are passing their days in "grave fear" in the wake of violent protests in some countries against the publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, said the envoy.

Addressing a press briefing at a city hotel yesterday, Ambassador Niels Severin Munk apologised to the Muslim world for publishing the cartoons in a Danish daily that hurt the sentiments of Muslims and non-Muslims alike across the globe.

Focusing on the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Denmark, the envoy said: "We have full-fledged cooperation with Bangladesh."

He noted that Bangladesh is a trusted development partner of Denmark and his country has a pledge to provide Bangladesh with financial help in agriculture, sanitation, improving governance and some other sectors.

At the briefing, the diplomat read out two messages from his prime minister and from world bodies for pacifying the protestors, who launched attacks on western missions in several countries.

One message was issued by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the other jointly by the secretaries-general of UN, OIC and high representative for common foreign and security policy of the European Union.

"In a press statement issued few days ago, the Danish daily Jyllandsposten apologised to the Muslim world. The newspaper stressed that it was not their intention to be offensive. The newspaper apologises for the indisputable offence to many Muslims caused by the drawings," the envoy quoted his prime minister's message.

Ambassador Niels Severin Munk presented another joint statement issued on February 7 by the UN, OIC and EU.

It states that the anguish in the Muslim World at the publication of these "offensive caricatures" is shared by all individuals and communities who recognise the sensitivity and responsibility in treating issues of special significance for the adherents of any particular faith, even by those who do not share the belief in question.

"We fully uphold the right of free speech. But we understand the deep hurt and widespread indignation felt in the Muslim World. We believe freedom of press entails responsibility and discretion and should respect the beliefs and tenets of all religion," the statement reads.

The spokespersons of the world communities, at the same time, condemned the deplorable attacks on diplomatic missions that have occurred in Damascus, Beirut and elsewhere.

"Aggression against life and property can only damage the image of a peaceful Islam," the joint statement said.

Meanwhile, strict security measures have been taken in and around the Royal Danish Embassy in Dhaka, as Hijbut Tahrir Bangladesh, an Islamist organisation, has declared to lay a siege to the embassy today.

"The Danish people have been asked to move in the city with caution," police sources said.

"About 80 policemen are guarding the Danish embassy while the plainclothes men are keeping strict vigilance surrounding the embassy as part of the security measures," said a police official.

Besides, the elite Rab members are also patrolling the area.

Additional law enforcers will also be deployed at five entry points of the diplomatic zone and other Danish instalments to avert any untoward incident, police said.

They (police) said vehicles will also be checked while passing the area during the programme to ensure foolproof security of the Danish embassy.

Publication of cartoons of prophet condemned

Thirty-seven eminent personalities have signed a statement condemning the publication of cartoons of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (SM) in Denmark and other countries and called on the people not to take the law into their own hands while protesting.

The statement expressed resentment especially at the reprint of the satirical cartoons by newspapers in France, Germany, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Hungary and Iceland.

"Printing the cartoons and reprinting them in about a dozen European newspapers cannot be justified in the name of freedom of speech," said the statement.

"It is part of a deep-rooted conspiracy against the Muslims. A certain quarter is perhaps trying to instigate the crusade of the 21st century."

The statement also demanded that the governments of the countries where the cartoons were printed and reprinted should seek unconditional apology from the publishers to mitigate the ongoing tension.

It also urged all to exercise restraint in the face of provocation to uphold the image of Bangladesh as a liberal and democratic country.

The signatories include, former chief of caretaker government Justice Latifur Rahman, former chief election commissioner Abdur Rouf, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University Emazuddin Ahmed, Dr Shamsher Ali, Chairman of Sonali Bank Managing Committee Prof Mahbub Ullah, columnist Sadeq Khan, Editor of Madina Muhiuddin Khan, former state minister for foreign affairs Abul Hasan Chowdhury, former director of Islamic Foundation Syed Ashraf Ali, Editor of Khabarpatra Gias Kamal Chowdhury, Editor of New Nation Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Editor of Sangram Abul Asad, Editor of Naya Diganta Alamgir Mohiuddin, Editor of weekly Holiday Syed Kamal Uddin, Director General of Shilpakala Academy Ahmad Nazir, journalists Atiqul Alam and Gaziul Hasan Khan.