Background: Muhammad cartoons controversy

13 February 2008
Background: Muhammad cartoons controversy

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The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy began after twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005.

The newspaper announced that this publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

The Akkari-Laban dossier is a 43 page document which was created by a group of Danish Muslim clerics from multiple organizations set out to present their case and ask for support in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Three faked additional images - which where never published - were added to the list of cartoons actually published in the dossier handed out during this tour.

Danish Imams tour the Middle East

Two imams who had been granted sanctuary in Denmark, dissatisfied with the reaction of the Danish Government and Jyllands-Posten, created a forty- three-page document entitled "Dossier about championing the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him."[30]

- Ahmed Akkari is a co-author of the Akkari-Laban dossier, which played a major role in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy by bringing the issue to the attention of influential decision-makers in the Middle East.

- Three additional images- allegedly sent to Abu Laban but never published - were added to the list of cartoons actually published in the dossier handed out during this tour. Ahmad Akkari has explained that the three drawings had been added to "give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims."

This consisted of several letters from Muslim organisations explaining their case including allegations of the mistreatment of Danish Muslims, citing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons (including the false claim that said publication was a government-run newspaper) and also supplementing the following causes of "pain and torment" for the authors:

1. Pictures from another Danish newspaper, Weekendavisen, which they called "even more offending" (than the original twelve cartoons);

2. Hate-mail pictures and letters that the dossier's authors alleged were sent to Muslims in Denmark, said to be indicative of the rejection of Muslims by the Danish;

3. A televised interview discussing Islam with Dutch member of parliament and Islam critic Hirsi Ali, who had received the Freedom Prize "for her work to further freedom of speech and the rights of women" from the Danish Liberal Party represented by Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Appended to the dossier were multiple clippings from Jyllands-Posten, multiple clippings from Weekendavisen, some clippings from Arabic-language papers and three additional images which also had no connection with Denmark.

French pig-squealing contestant from the imams' dossier. Original caption included in the dossier: "Here is the real image of Muhammad."

The imams claimed that the three additional images were sent anonymously by mail to Muslims who were participating in an online debate on Jyllands-Posten,[31] and were apparently included to illustrate the perceived atmosphere of Islamophobia in which they lived, and to trigger anti-Western hatred.[32] On February 1 BBC World incorrectly reported that one of them had been published in Jyllands-Posten.[33] This image was later found to be a wire-service photo of a contestant at a French pig-squealing contest.[34][35] One of the other two additional images (a photo) portrayed a Muslim being mounted by a dog while praying, and the other (a cartoon) portrayed Muhammad as a demonic paedophile. Equipped with the dossier, the two imams circulated it throughout the Muslim world, presenting their case to many influential religious and political leaders, asking for support.[36]

The dossier contained such statements as the following:

* We urge you [recipient of the letter or dossier] to — on the behalf of thousands of believing Muslims — to give us the opportunity of having a constructive contact with the press and particularly with the relevant decision makers, not briefly, but with a scientific methodology and a planned and long-term programme seeking to make views approach each other and remove misunderstandings between the two parties involved. Since we do not wish for Muslims to be accused of being backward and narrow, likewise we do not wish for Danes to be accused of ideological arrogance either. When this relationship is back on its track, the result will bring satisfaction, an underpinning of security and the stable relations, and a flourishing Denmark for all that live here.

* The faithful in their religion (Muslims) suffer under a number of circumstances, first and foremost the lack of official recognition of the Islamic faith. This has led to a lot of problems, especially the lack of right to build mosques [...]

* Even though they [the Danes] belong to the Christian faith, the secularizations have overcome them, and if you say that they are all infidels, then you are not wrong.

* We [Muslims] do not need lessons in democracy, but it is actually us, who through our deeds and speeches educate the whole world in democracy.

* This [Europe's] dictatorial way of using democracy is completely unacceptable.

The inclusion in the dossier of the cartoons from Weekendavisen was possibly a misunderstanding, as these were more likely intended as parodies of the pompousness of Jyllands-Posten's cartoons than as comments on Muhammad in their own right.[37]

They consist of reproductions of works such as the Mona Lisa (caption: For centuries, a previously unknown society has known that this is a painting of the Prophet, and guarded this secret. The back page's anonymous artist is doing everything he can to reveal this secret in his contribution. He has since then been forced to go underground, fearing for the wrath of a crazy albino imam). This is an obvious parody of the Da Vinci Code.

At a 6 December 2005 summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, with many heads of state in attendance, the dossier was handed around on the sidelines first,[38] and eventually an official communiqué was issued, demanding that the United Nations impose international sanctions upon Denmark.[39]

Jyllands-Posten response

In response to protests from Muslim groups, Jyllands-Posten published two open letters on its website, each of them in a Danish and an Arabic version.[40] The second letter, dated 30 January 2006, also has an English version:[41]

In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.

On February 26, the cartoonist who had drawn the "bomb in turban" picture, the most controversial of the twelve, explained:

There are interpretations of it [the drawing] that are incorrect. The general impression among Muslims is that it is about Islam as a whole. It is not. It is about certain fundamentalist aspects, that of course are not shared by everyone. But the fuel for the terrorists’ acts stem from interpretations of Islam. [...] if parts of a religion develop in a totalitarian and aggressive direction, then I think you have to protest. We did so under the other 'isms.

Akkari-Laban dossier

The Akkari-Laban dossier is a 43 page document which was created by a group of Danish Muslim clerics from multiple organizations set out to present their case and ask for support in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.[1][2][3]

Cover page: "Dossier about championing [the cause of] the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him"

Among the leadership of the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, formed as an umbrella group of Muslim organizations were Imam Ahmad Abu Laban of the Islamisk Trossamfund and Akhmad Akkari, the spokesman of the group. Danish Sheik Raeed Huleyhel was named head of the group and signed the petition letters.

The first delegation of five, headed by Abu Bashar of The Community of Islam, landed in Egypt on 3 December 2005 and returned 11 December 2005. Among the people the group met on their visit to Egypt were: The General Secretary of the Arab League Amr Moussa, the Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and the Sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar university Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy and Muhammed Shaaban, an advisor to the Egyptian Foreign Minister. This meeting was arranged by Egypt's ambassador to Denmark, Mona Omar Attia, later criticized by the Danish foreign ministry for adding to the unrest by alleging that Islam was not an officially recognized religion in Denmark,[4] and transferred from her post at Copenhagen.

The second delegation, comprising four Danish Muslims headed by Sheik Raeed Huleyhel, traveled to Lebanon 17 December 2005 and returned to Denmark 31 December 2005. In Lebanon they met the Grand Mufti Muhammad Rashid Kabbani, top Shiite Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, Maronite Church leader Nasrallah Sfeir. During that time, Imam Ahmed Akkari also visited Syria to present their case to Grand Mufti Ahmed Badr-Eddine Hassoun.[1] Furthermore a smaller delegation traveled to Turkey while individuals visited Sudan, Morocco, Algeria,[2] and Qatar, where Abu Laban briefed Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood.[3]

At a 6 December 2005 summit of the OIC, with many heads of state in attention, the dossier was handed around by the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit on the sidelines first,[4] but eventually an official communiqué was issued.[5]

The dossier consists of several letters from Muslim organizations explaining their case, multiple clippings from Jyllands-Posten, multiple clippings from Weekend Avisen,[6] and some additional images that, according to the dossier's authors, had been sent to Muslims in Denmark.

The dossier appears to have been assembled and added to until some point after 8 December 2005, with the first lobbying visits to Egypt having taken place before finalization. Several pages contain hand written notes, mostly translations from captions of cartoons. It is unknown if these were already present in the dossier or are later additions.


1. ^ Alienated Danish Muslims Sought Help from Arabs. Spiegel (February 1, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-05-07. 2. ^ Redirects to Ekstra Bladet main page. Retrieved on 2006-05-07. 3. ^ A clash of rights and responsibilities. BBC News. Retrieved on 2006-05-07. 4. ^ (Danish) Trossamfund angriber Muhammed-satire i Egyptisk ambassadør fik verbal afklapsning

30 ^ "The imam and the unbelievers of Denmark", Ekstra Bladet, 2006-01-15.

31 ^ "Sådan gik chatten - Bjerager og Akkari", TV2, 2006-03-08. See question asked by xaria and answered by Akkari (Danish)

32 ^ "What the Muhammad cartoons portray", BBC, 2006-02-09.

33 ^ "Imam viste falske billeder", Jyllands-Posten, 2006-01-30. (Danish)

34 ^ Neandernews: Danish Imams Busted!, A clash of rights and responsibilities, BBC

35 ^ Duo hogs top prize in pig-squealing contest

36 ^ Alienated Danish Muslims Sought Help from Arabs

37 ^ Trossamfund angriber Muhammed-satire i Weekendavisen (Danish)

38 ^ "How a meeting of leaders in Mecca set off the cartoon wars around the world", The Independent, 2006-02-10.

39 ^ "Muslims seek UN resolution over Danish prophet cartoons", IslamOnLine, 2006-01-29.

40 ^ Jyllands-Posten's letter in Arabic PDF (18.2 KiB) (Arabic)

41 ^ "Honourable Fellow Citizens of the Muslim World", Jyllands-Posten, 2006-01-30.