“The visit is also a chance to show the problem of the cartoon and also denounce the exaggeration of the affair,” said Hanna.

By Mohammad Sabry, IOL Staff

CAIRO, March 5, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) – In response to an invitation from the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute, two delegates from IslamOnline.net will be traveling, along with a small group of Egyptian journalists and academics, to Denmark on Sunday, March 12, for meetings with Danish media representatives and Danish Muslims.

“The goal of the visit is to give journalists from IOL, [Egyptian dailies] Al-Ahram and Al-Masri Al-Youm a chance to explain their view about the current situation in Denmark after the cartoon row,” Hanna Ziadeh, a researcher with the Cairo-based institute, told IslamOnline.net on Sunday, March 5.

“It is also a chance to show the problem of the cartoon and also denounce the exaggeration of the affair,” added Ziadeh, a Danish citizen of a Lebanese background.

Twelve cartoons, one of them showing Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) with a bomb-shaped turban, were first published in Denmark last year and later reprinted by newspapers in many countries on the ground of freedom of expression.

The drawings, considered blasphemous under Islam, have triggered massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.

A five-member delegation representing 21 Islamic centers and organizations in Denmark, who toured a number of Arab and Muslim countries earlier this year over the cartoons, are being accused of exaggerating their case.

Listening

The IOL delegation hopes to get a closer look at the conditions of Danish Muslims and their current situation in the light of the ongoing controversy surrounding the cartoons.

“We are going there to listen more than to talk,” said Arwa Mahmoud, the Managing Editor of IOL’s Muslim Affairs section and one of the delegates.

“It is important to understand the situation on the ground and to communicate to our audience the problems and challenges that face Denmark’s Muslim community,” she added.

The delegation will meet with media representatives to discuss the recent controversy and its implications on issues such as freedom of expression and its compatibility with religion and how it has been dealt with in different cultural contexts.

“The problem between Muslim and Western cultures is more about information and perception,” believes Marwa Elnaggar, Managing Editor of IOL’s Discover Islam section and one of the delegates.

“We have been receiving individual apologies from many Danes on our Web site, and we realize that there are many initiatives from Danish non-Muslims calling for mutual respect. It is important to highlight these initiatives and to network with them,” she added.

IOL is currently soliciting feedback from its audience in a bid to form a more comprehensive picture of reactions on the ground, which will play a role in the discussions that will take place.

The integration of Muslims within European societies will also figure high on the agenda of the visit.

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.

Professional

Ziadeh, an expert on immigrants affairs, said IOL has been selected to visit the Scandinavian country for its professional experience and status as the world’s leading Muslim portal.

“We believe that the IOL journalists are professional enough to engage in direct contacts about the complication of the situation and to communicate their view away from formality.”

Two IOL reporters had visited Denmark last November as part of a three-leg Scandinavian tour, also organized by the Danish institute.

They had interviews with Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the mass-circulation Jyllands-Posten who commissioned and published the cartoons, as well as leaders of the Muslim minority, estimated at 180,000.

At the time, Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, a prominent Muslim figure in Denmark, told IOL the Muslim minority would seek to “internationalize” the issue of the cartoons to head off similar anti-Islam campaigns in the future.

In February, seventeen journalists representing different Danish media outlets and newspapers visited IOL Cairo headquarters.

IslamOnline.net decided in February to launch a multi-lingual Web site to acquaint non-Muslims with the life history, merits and characteristics of Prophet Muhammad in view of the crisis triggered by the cartoons.