- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Diplomatic front

American Muslim leaders have opened a diplomatic front in Washington over the dispute over cartoons that lampooned the prophet Muhammad in European newspapers.

They met with Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek and Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen to protest the publication of the cartoons in Norway and Denmark and to offer help in calming the tension that has sparked riots throughout the Middle East.

“Intentionally provocative attacks on Islam should be rejected in the same way that credible media outlets quite rightly decline to publish anti-Semitic materials,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mr. Vollebaek called the publication of the cartoons in a Norwegian magazine “unfortunate and deplorable.”

“All people have the right to respect their religion and the right to presume that neither their religion nor their religious affiliation will be subject to contempt,” he said, after meeting with the Muslim leaders last week.

They met with Mr. Petersen on Monday. A Danish Embassy official said the ambassador did not want to comment on the meeting.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said he thought that the Middle East boycott of Danish products helped get the attention of the Danish government.

“Personally, I don’t think we would have received such a prompt response for a meeting if the Danish economy wasn’t losing millions of dollars daily due to the boycott of Danish products throughout the Muslim world,” Mr. Bray said.

The Muslim leaders also called on American Muslims to avoid violence and conduct any protests peacefully.

“As a Muslim, I can understand the emotional intensity of the issue,” Mr. Bray said. “However, responding through violence does not uphold the dignity of our faith.

“Burning buildings and throwing bricks is definitely not the answer. Muslims united and using their economic leverage — now that’s something the world can respect.”

Representatives of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and the Islamic Society of North America also attended the meeting at the Danish Embassy.

India’s condolences

India sent one of its top diplomats to Georgia yesterday to deliver the country’s condolences at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, whose husband’s nonviolent civil rights struggle is often compared with Mohandas K. Gandhi’s peaceful protests against the British.

Raminder Singh Jassal, the deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy, carried a letter from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Mrs. King’s daughter, Yolanda.

“We in India knew and admired her as a comrade and partner of your father Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and, more recently, as a powerful voice who carried his message forward,” Mr. Singh said in his letter.

“India’s bonds with your mother were particularly strong because she proved through her life and work that Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and values had universal applicability.”

Mr. Jassal represented India because Ambassador Ronen Sen was on a home visit to India.

Pitch for Hamas

On his Washington visit, Jordan’s King Abdullah II yesterday urged the West to deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, although the United States and other nations have refused to support a group widely condemned for terrorism.

King Abdullah met here with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to discuss efforts to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel is among the nations that refuse to have any contact with Hamas, which publicly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Jordanian leader urged the United States and other nations to continue financial support for the Palestinians and to recognize that Hamas was democratically elected.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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