“We don’t want the expression of our condemnation to be used by some to portray a distorted image of Islam,” Qabani said.

DAMASCUS, February 5, 2006 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Muslim scholars, organizations and leaders were united on Sunday, February 5, in condemning violent attacks against the Danish and Norwegian diplomatic missions during protests over insulting drawings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

“We don’t want the expression of our condemnation (of the cartoons) to be used by some to portray a distorted image of Islam,” Mohamed Rashid Qabani, Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim scholar, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“Today is a big test for us. Let our expression of condemnation be according to the values of Islam.”

Angry Lebanese protestors earlier Sunday set on fire the Danish consulate in the capital Beirut in protest of the anti-Prophet cartoons.

The incident came one day after infuriated Syrians torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus for the same reason.

Twelve cartoons, first published last September by Denmark’s mass-circulation Jyllands-Posten and then reprinted by several European dailies, have caused an uproar in the Muslim world and triggered a new cultural battle over freedom of speech and respect of religions.

Incensed Muslims have demonstrated against Denmark, burnt its flags and boycotted its products, while several Muslim ambassadors have been recalled in protest.

A cohort of Muslim dignitaries and organizations have called for the enactment of an international law banning the publication of any insults to religious symbols and values.

Regrettable

“We are sad about their actions which harms our dialogue with the Danish and Norwegian people,” Sheikh Hassun said.

Echoing the same position, the highest religious authority in Syria condemned Sunday the attack on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus a day earlier.

“It is regrettable that certain people have poorly expressed their protest against the publication by European newspapers of images that are offensive to the prophet,” said Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Badreddine Hassun.

“We are sad about their actions which harms our dialogue with the Danish and Norwegian people,” he said in comments carried by state media.

Sheikh Hassun lashed out at “elements who do not believe in dialogue who were introduced among the demonstrators” in Damascus.

The attacks have prompted Denmark and Norway to evacuate their nationals from both Syria and Lebanon.

The European Union and the United States dismissed the attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria as “utterly unacceptable”.

A White House spokesman said Syria’s “failure to provide protection to diplomatic premises, in the face of warnings that violence was planned, is inexcusable.”

Austria, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, said the attacks “can by no means be legitimized and are utterly unacceptable.”

Widely Condemned

Erdogan and Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had penned an open letter condemning the cartoons.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) deplored Sunday the attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, describing them as detrimental to the image of Islam.

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu “expresses his disapproval over these regrettable and deplorable incidents,” the pan-Islamic body said in a statement.

“Overreactions surpassing the limits of peaceful democratic acts … are dangerous and detrimental to the efforts to defend the legitimate case of the Muslim world and portray the true image of Islam,” it read.

The OIC had slammed the Danish government for failing to categorically condemn the publication of the provocative cartoons.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the attacks on the diplomatic missions, warning that violence would further undermine efforts to bring different cultures closer.

Speaking at a political party function, he stressed that “torching and destruction cannot be a means of correcting mistakes.”

The Turkish premier maintained that the solution “should be at the negotiating table, in diplomacy.”

Erdogan said Saturday he had penned an open letter with Spanish counterpart Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, condemning the cartoons.

The open letter, to be published in the European press Monday, is part of a Turkish-Spanish initiative to promote East-West dialogue, called “Alliance of Civilizations” and backed by the United Nations.

Turkey, a strictly secular state with an overwhelmingly Muslim population and ambitions to join the EU, sees itself as a bridge between East and West and has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring the two sides closer.

Disturbing

The torching of the Danish embassy and consulate in Damascus and Beirut also drew rebukes from the Muslim minority in Denmark.

“These practices are disturbing and tarnish the Muslim efforts on the issue,” Raed Halil, the head of the European Committee for Defending Prophet Muhammad, told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera channel.

He stressed that Danish Muslims were harmed by such practices.

“Danish Muslims are keen to preserve the country’s security and are badly affected by this.”

The Muslim activist urged the Danish government and Jyllands-Posten to apologize for the insulting cartoons.

“The daily should realize that it made a grave mistake and apologize for publishing the blasphemous drawings.”

Naser Khader, a Syrian-born Danish lawmaker, also criticized the attacks.

“This is no longer about the cartoons, the situation is out of control.”

Muslims in Denmark are estimated at more than 180,000 or around 3 per cent of population, mostly with a Turkish background.

There are three Muslim members of the Danish parliament; Khader, Husain Arac, who has a Turkish background, and Pakistan-born Kamal Qurashi.

Islam is Denmark’s second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, which is actively followed by four-fifths of the country’s population of 5.3 million.

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