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White House Calls for Calm in Face of Violent Protests Sparked by Cartoons


The White House is condemning violent acts committed by protesters who have been demonstrating around the world against cartoons published in Europe that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

The cartoons published by a Danish newspaper in September included one that showed the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban. The issue generated more anger after other European newspapers recently reprinted the cartoons, in what they called a demonstration of free speech rights.

Demonstrators in Iran Monday threw fire bombs at the Danish Embassy. In recent days, protesters in Lebanon and Syria burned Danish diplomatic posts. In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan appealed for calm. "We condemn the acts of violence that have taken place. There simply is no justification to engage in violence. We call for constructive and peaceful dialogue based on respect for all religious faiths. Those who disagree with the views have the right to express their views, but they should do so in a peaceful manner," he said.

He said he understands why Muslims would find the cartoons offensive. But he urged Muslims to speak out against all hate speech, not just the things that offend Muslims. "We also urge all those who are criticizing or critical of the cartoons to forcefully speak out against all forms of hateful speech, including cartoons and articles that frequently have appeared in the Arab world espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views," he said.

Mahdi Bray, of the non-governmental organization, Muslim American Society, said the cartoons were offensive to him. But he called on the protesters to show their disagreement in what he described as a "positive way." "Denmark has already paid an economic price for disrespecting Islam. And, I think that this was the best way to deal with it. And I think it is also important to say to people in the Muslim world that violence is not a way to address this particular issue," he said.

Meanwhile, American University Professor Akbar Ahmed says the main issue is respect, which he adds works both ways. "Muslims need to be much more sensitive to how the West functions. And the West needs to understand how Muslims respond to religiosity, to the Divine, to religion, and to theology itself," he said.

Demonstrators protested against the cartoons in Afghanistan, India, Indonesia and Somalia. Relatively peaceful protests were held in Mali and Nigeria.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Muslims to accept the apology from the Danish newspaper that first printed the cartoons.

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