- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CAIRO — Egyptian officials and prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders moved yesterday to stem the popular anger over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

Violent protests against the drawings still raged elsewhere. In Pakistan, three persons, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed on the third straight day of protests in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The Egyptian political leaders took softer approach, stressing dialogue and educational outreach, after a visit Tuesday by Javier Solana, foreign policy chief of the European Union.

Mr. Solana sought to smooth the crisis over the cartoons in meetings with President Hosni Mubarak and Sheik Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi of Al-Azhar University, the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam.

“Solana came to present an apology, and we thank him for that. … If an apology isn’t enough, what else do you want?” Sheik Tantawi told reporters.

Some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist movement that made spectacular gains in parliamentary elections last year, announced a plan for a forum to educate non-Muslims about Islam.

The forum, organized by a nongovernmental organization called Arabs Against Discrimination, will include Brotherhood leaders such as Abdel Monem Abu Fatouh, the head of Egypt’s medical professional association, and Essam el-Elerian, a Brotherhood spokesman who spent much of last year in detention.

George Ishaq, a leader of the Kifaya pro-democracy protest movement, and Nagi Ghatrifi, the acting head of the Tomorrow Party of imprisoned opposition politician Ayman Nour, are also among the forum’s 20 members, said Emad Gad, the secretary-general of the organization.

“In my opinion, the Arabs and Muslims overreacted to the Danish cartoons. It is enough, and we have to close this issue and search for a dialogue,” Mr. Gad said.

Mr. el-Elerian said the Brotherhood still wanted to push for a U.N. resolution that would bar insults to Islam and other religions, but the group was uncertain whether it would continue to lead protests.

“I think the Solana apology may be enough for the officials in Egypt to end their criticism. But the people will go on for some time,” he said yesterday.

Egyptians have employed artful ways to express their anger at the cartoons.

Local video channels were swamped yesterday with requests for an indignant new pop song by Shaaban Abdel Rehim, a former laundryman who released his hit song “I Hate Israel” in 2001.

His latest effort, titled “Denmark,” praises Islam and calls for boycotts and stronger actions against the Scandinavian nation.

On the music channel Muzzika, many viewers sent text messages reminding Egyptians to boycott Danish butter and other goods, said the station’s media adviser, Ali Abdel Fattah.


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