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Cartoons that provoked a backlash
Fazle Rashid

          THE chasm between the West and the Muslim world which began in the wake of American invasion of Iraq has further widened with newspapers in Europe printing the imaginary pictures and cartoons of Prophet Mohammad ( SM ). Although about four months late the cartoons have ignited outpourings of anger and outrage across the Muslim world.
The United States while condemning the outbreak of violence picked up Iran and Syria for fomenting trouble with the ulterior motive of furthering their own political interest. The public utterances both by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were amusing. What led them to jump to that conclusion is difficult to fathom but singling out Syria and Iran for inciting the public scorn across the Muslim world including India, the fourth largest Muslim populated nation in the world, was as wide off the mark as Washington's decision to march in its soldiers to Iraq on the assumption of Baghdad stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and Saddam's had link to Al-qaeda -- allegations that proved grossly erroneous.
Syria and Iran both have stoutly denied the US allegations. Outpourings of anger across the Muslim world was spontaneous. The people in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Lebanon, and Afghanistan did not wait for the Iranian or Syrian prompting to take to the streets and give vent to their pent-up anger. The Muslims around the world have been singled out as terrorists by the US and the West since the ghastly incident of 9/11.
The New York Times (NYT) ran a three-column front page story on February 09 saying that printing of cartoon by Danish newspaper figured prominently in the last Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit meeting held in December in Mecca. The OIC communique expressed grave concern over the rising trend of inciting hatred against Islam and Muslims and condemned the satirization of Prophet Mohammad (SM) by papers in Europe. Using freedom of expression as a plea the papers stigmatised Islam and Muslim.
The West must realise the fact that the Muslims across the globe -- barring handful of people like Salman Rushdie ( though this scribe is an avid reader of his books) -- will protest in unison any smear campaign against Holy Koran, Prophet Mohammad (SM) and sweeping generalisation of the Muslims as terrorists and Islam.
The boycott of Danish products by many Muslim countries was a natural response to the printing of the cartoons. British Prime Minister Tony Blair will visit Indonesia to repair the damage in the ties between the Muslim world and the West.
Meanwhile, the United States and Israel expressed their anger over Russian President Vladimir Putin deciding to invite a Hammas delegation who gained majority in Palestine in the parliamentary elections described by foreign observers as the best conducted polls ever held in the region. Vladimir Putin does not accept West's accusation that Hammas is a terrorist organisation. They have been elected by the people in a free and fair elections, Putin said in response to criticism.
The USA and the West potray Hammas as a terrorist unit and refuse to recognise them unless the organisation renounces violence and accept Israel as a sovereign state. Hammas-led Palestine faces the grim prospect of cessation of the flow of all foreign assistance including those flowing from the multilateral agencies like the World Bank. A World Bank-led rehabilitation programme was on in Palestine.
Russia will face probing questions from seven other members of the elite club of group of eight. The group of eight meeting is scheduled to be held in Moscow. The summit will be held in the same venue in July.
In another grim incident, the inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre for suspected Al-Qaeda activists have gone on hunger strike and threaten to commit suicide protesting their indefinite detention without any charge. The US military officials are employing force to feed the detainees..
NYT in a report said the protests are becoming difficult to contain and one or two custodial deaths will spark off international outrage.
The United States is tightening its security. President Bush while defending his authority to order eavesdropping and wiretapping of the telephones of the American citizens without court order said that his administration had been able to thwart a terrorist attack on the West coast of the country immediately after 9/11.
This disclosure by the President had induced both Republicans and Democrats lawmakers to soften their stand on eavesdropping and wiretapping. They have decided to further extend the time limit of the stringent law known as Patriotic Act. The act was given extension upto March this year. The Patriotic Act vests on the executive branch of the government sweeping powers.


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