“This is not a case of freedom of expression,” averred Abu Laban.

By Ayman Qenawi, IOL Staff

COPENHAGEN, November 18, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – The Muslim minority in Denmark will send delegations to a number of Muslim countries to meet with senior officials and prominent scholars on the provocative caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recently published by Denmark’s main daily.

“A delegation will visit Cairo to meet with Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi,” Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, a prominent Muslim figure in Denmark, told IOL Friday, November 18.

He added that Moussa has been informed of the visit, citing contacts with his secretary to schedule a meeting.

The Muslim leader further said that Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni world, has been notified of the forthcoming visit.

“The delegation will also visit Saudi Arabia and Qatar to meet with renowned Muslim scholar Sheikh Yussef Al-Qaradawi,” said Abu Laban, the imam of the Scandinavian Waqfs mosque.

Twelve drawings depicting Prophet Muhammad in different settings appeared in Denmark’s largest circulation daily Jyllands-Posten September 30.

In one of the drawings, the Prophet appeared with a turban shaped like a bomb strapped to his head.

The images, considered blasphemous under Islam, have drawn rebuke from the Muslim minority especially with the paper’s adamancy to apologize on the ground of freedom of expression.

Muslims Worldwide

“We want to internationalize this issue so that the Danish government would realize that the cartoons were not only insulting to Muslims in Denmark but also to Muslims worldwide,” said Abu Laban.

“It was decided to take such a step because it is wrong to turn a blind eye to the fact that some European countries discriminate against their Muslims on the grounds that they are not democratic and that they can not understand western culture.”

He added that this strategy has been agreed upon by organizations representing Pakistani, Turkish and Arab Muslims in Denmark.

“There are more than 1.3 billion Muslims and scores of Muslim organizations worldwide. We belong to the same faith and share the same vision.”

Abu Laban made it clear that the ultimate aim was for Muslims in the West “to have a normal life and to have a correct global and European vision of Islam”

The cartoon issue, which is already causing diplomatic tension with some Muslim countries will be high on the agenda of the upcoming Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia.

The ambassadors of eleven Arab and Muslim countries, including Egypt, Palestine, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia, have written a letter to Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen to protest the caricatures and demand an official apology from the newspaper.

Rasmussen said in a written reply that he would not intervene in the affair, on the grounds of freedom of expression, but said the diplomats were free to undertake legal proceedings.

Mobilizing Danes

Muslim volunteers inside the Scandinavian Waqfs complex.

Abu Laban stressed that Muslims in Denmark will also try to mobilize support for their case among Danes.

“The government has been busy with the issue of municipal elections and any protest would have fallen on deaf ears.”

The Liberal-Conservative coalition, which came to power in 2001, and relay on the anti-immigrants People’s Party for the parliamentary majority, has not done so well in the polls.

The pro-immigrants Social Democrats has won more than 40 percent of possible mayoral posts in the country’s local elections, including in the two biggest cities.

“We will be organizing seminars and sending messages to as many newspapers as possible,” said the Muslim leader.

“We are not quite sure how much cooperation we will get but hope to be able to make our case to the Danish society.

In mid-October, as many as 5,000 Muslims demonstrated in Copenhagen against the paper and the drawings.

Danish Muslims are estimated at 180,000 or around 3 per cent of Denmark’s 5.4 million.

Islam is Denmark’s second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, which is actively followed by four-fifths of the country’s population.

Provocative

The Muslim leader lashed out at Jyllands-Posten‘s claim that the publishing of the cartoons was only a case of freedom of expression.

“I told a reporter from the newspaper that they have cheated the people because they did not open a debate.”

He stressed that the cartoons were meant as an insult to and provocation of Muslims.

“We have fled our countries because we were denied freedom of expression so no one should play this tune with us.

“This is not a case of freedom of expression,” averred Abu Laban.