Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), has denounced the attacks on and burning of the embassies of Denmark and Norway in the Syrian capital Damascus and the Lebanese one Beirut by demonstrators protesting the publication by a Danish newspaper and a Norwegian one of cartoons offensive to Prophet Muhammad, may the best blessings and peace of God be upon him.
Talking about the OIC’s assessment of the developments of events in Damascus and Beirut, Professor Ihsanoglu told “Asharq al-Awsat”: “What happened in Syria and in Lebanon is a mistake that cannot be accepted. Muslims everywhere should continue their peaceful stand without infringing on the rights of the others.” He disclosed that he talked to Syrian Foreign Minister Farooq al-Sharaa yesterday morning following what happened to the Danish and Norwegian Embassies and that he informed him that the Syrian authorities had launched a security investigation into the two incidents.
Ihsanoglu talked about telephone contacts with the Saudi Foreign Ministry, Yemen, and Libya during the past two days to discuss the developments and exchange views in order for the council of the Islamic countries’ foreign ministers to take a specific stand and measure soon. He added that he had in the past few days telephone contacts with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and EU Representative Javier Solana to exchange views on the current situation resulting from the cartoons. He said: “I exchanged views with Kofi Annan about what the international organization can do to draw up principles of respect for the freedom of religions. I also had a meeting with the European countries’ ambassadors and representatives at the OIC secretariat general to discuss the ways out of the present crisis.”
The OIC secretary general welcomed the Vatican statement denouncing the cartoons that were published on 31 September 2005 but said this statement came somewhat late.
He stressed that the OIC secretariat escalated the stand toward the Danish Government four months after the Islamic countries’ ambassadors in the capital Copenhagen contacted it and their media and informed them of the dangerous situation but all these efforts to solve the crisis from the beginning were ignored and the Danish Government ignored them.
He explained that the OIC role is a diplomatic one in the cartoons issue and noted that it withdrew from a project that was being prepared in the Danish capital under the theme of “Middle East pictures” after the Danish Government ignored the cartoons that were offensive to more than 1 billion Muslims.
He called the popular boycott in the Arab and Muslim countries a peaceful and civilized action, adding: “The boycott showed and changed the balance of power and which the other party sensed and felt its danger after ignoring the issue.”
Professor Ihsanoglu appealed to the Muslim nation’s sons around the world to continue the peaceful march without resorting to violence and urged them to respect the diplomatic embassies that have their special status under international law and also under Islamic law. He said there were several motives behind the decision of a number of European newspapers to publish the cartoons that are offensive to the Prophet, may the best blessings and prayers of God be upon him, during the past few days and added: “The main motive behind these newspapers’ publication is briefly the defense of the freedom of opinion and of expression.” He said: “They believe that freedom of expression in Europe came after a long struggle against the church and its hegemony during the last century and that having overcome the church they can overcome other religions after it.”