Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif called on international religious institutions, especially the Vatican, to step into the developing row between Muslims and the European press over the publication of cartoons insulting the Prophet and condemn these actions.
The drawings originally appeared in a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September and were later re-printed in a Norwegian publication and, earlier this week, in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
In January, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark and citizens began boycotting Danish products in protest over the drawings.
Prince Naif denied pressure had been exerted on the Kingdom in the controversy surrounding the publication of offensive cartoons about the Prophet. “No one can pressure the Kingdom to change its position in a basic issue such as this”. “The Kingdom respects the opinions of others and everyone is entitled to their opinion. But we reject insults to the Prophet.”
“It is not just Saudi Arabia but more than a billion Muslims and the entire Muslim world and all religions that reject this. The prophets and messengers of God are sacred above everything. I do not believe that there is a single believing Muslim who could insult a prophet or messenger with something such as this.”
The Interior Minister Prince defended the Muslim outcry and indicated, “If freedom has reached this degree, I think it is unacceptable no matter what.” He added, “If they are free to carry out such act, then surely others are also free to wholly reject it. I do not believe it is logical that the international media or any institutions or government object to the actions of an Arab or Muslim country.” He hoped that other religious institutions would step into the controversy and denounce the cartoons.
Commenting on the Asian tour of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who is currently in Pakistan, after visiting China, India and Malaysia, the Saudi Interior Minister described the tour as a resounding success adding, “It is important to establish strong and lasting relations with these countries. As for Pakistan, our relationship with it is well known. It is a brotherly nation.”
On Saudi detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Prince Naif said, “This issue is very important to us. There are individuals following this matter and Saudi lawyers working in this regard. We are in constant communication with the US authorities and [the men] will return to the Kingdom in the near future.”
Prince Naif also answered questions about Iran’s nuclear program and international pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear research, “What we hear from the Iranians is that it is for peaceful purposes and we hope this is the case.” He also expressed his regret about attempts to punish Iran while Israel already had nuclear weapons, “This poses a big question not just for Arab world. It is an excuse for every country to consider developing nuclear weapons.”
Commenting on the unexpected victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections, Prince Naif indicated that the Islamic movement had come to power through democratic elections and said, “I believe this was to be expected” and underlined the need for all Palestinian factions to reach an agreement and said, “Undoubtedly, reason and wisdom should triumph in this issue. We hope that our Palestinian brothers will not harm us Arabs.”
Speaking about the groups of young Arab men who have joined the insurgency in Iraq , the Saudi Interior Minister said, “Unfortunately, some young men go to Iraq to fight and return to the Kingdom. A number of them have been detained after coming back to Saudi Arabia. We are coordinating with the Iraqi authorities and the powers in Iraq to hand us over any Saudi that arrives in Iraq.”
Prince Naif also spoke about his country’s fight against terrorism and said, in response to a question on the subject, “Of course we are satisfied and have full confidence in the capabilities of the Saudi security services.”
But he cautioned, “We cannot say that there are no longer any sleeper cells or that we are finished with this. We cannot say at all that we have purged the country from those terrorists as long as certain parties are still offering them training, financing and leading them in ways that have nothing to do with true Islam.”
Naif stressed Saudi determination “to confront the terrorists with force”, vowing, “We will not slacken in combating them no matter how long tit takes.” He added that Saudi police and security services had aborted no less than 90% of the attacks planned by al Qaeda in the Kingdom and said Saudi Arabia was seeking the cooperation with all countries of the world in combating terrorism, stressing the need to upgrade anti-terror efforts.
Prince Naif asserted that terrorist attacks that have hit Saudi Arabia since May 2003 did not affect national stability and the life of Saudis. “Activities are normal as we have not found ourselves obliged to declare martial law or emergency measures or curfews… nothing of that sort has happened. The biggest evidence of stability and security is economic activity and financial liquidity, which were not affected at all”, he said.
At least 256 people, including civilians, security forces and gunmen, have been killed in terrorist attacks and clashes in Saudi Arabia since 2003.