- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2006

From combined dispatches

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Arab fury at the West intensified yesterday after images of British soldiers apparently beating Iraqi youths were aired in a region already inflamed by caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Some Arabs said the video, like the Danish newspaper cartoons, was proof of the contempt the West held for Islam, the dominant faith in the Middle East.

They also said the beatings, which occurred in 2004 and were publicized by a British newspaper Sunday, exposed the ugly side of Britain’s presence in Iraq despite its efforts to put a “friendly face” on the occupation.

“This beating is all part of the same war on Islam that the West is carrying out these days,” said Egyptian traffic policeman Gamal Bashir. “The [Muhammad] cartoons are part of the same war, too.”

The English-language Bahrain Tribune said the video could not have been aired at a worse time. “The Arab and Muslim world is already sitting on a powder keg over the offensive cartoons.”

The video, released by the News of the World, shows soldiers beating and kicking Iraqis, to the apparent delight of the cameraman.

British troops have been seen as being more respectful of the sensitivities of Iraqis than U.S. forces in Iraq. Some Arabs also think Britain, with its colonial history in the Middle East, is more sympathetic to their causes.

“Insults and degradation from so-called gentlemen,” remarked popular Arab television channel Al Jazeera when it aired the video, calling the mistreatment “savagery.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised a full investigation into the incident. British military police said yesterday they arrested a man in connection with the incident Sunday night.

Qatari political analyst Abdulaziz Mahmoud said the violence portrayed in the video was similar to the “beatings that go on in police stations in the region all the time.”

“The video itself is not a big deal, but it just adds fuel to the fire. Arabs are angry at the cartoons, the war on Iraq, the treatment of Palestinians, and this is another incident.”

Protests have rocked several countries over the cartoons, some of which portray Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb.

The cartoons were first published by a newspaper in Denmark, and later reprinted in many European countries. Denmark’s embassies were mainly targeted by protesters in the Middle East.

Yesterday, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with a new network of moderate Muslims in Copenhagen and called for peaceful dialogue to defuse Denmark’s biggest international crisis since World War II.

However, critics said the network did not represent Denmark’s estimated 200,000 Muslims and warned the prime minister could be heightening tensions by not reaching out to radical groups.

Protests against the cartoons continued, with Pakistani police firing tear gas on thousands of student protesters, Egyptian demonstrators calling for a boycott of European countries, and hundreds of Palestinian schoolchildren trampling on a Danish flag.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said the conflict had united moderate and radical Muslims “because this hurts the sentiments of every Muslim.”

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