STOCKHOLM,(Reuters) – A far-right Swedish party’s website showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad has been shut down by the Internet hosting company after pressure from police and the foreign ministry, fearing it would fuel Muslim anger.
The anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats had invited readers to send in cartoons for publishing on its website alongside the Danish cartoons, which have sparked violent demonstrations by Muslims around the world.
After Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds warned of “grave consequences for Swedish people and Swedish interests” and said Muslim countries were already reacting, the web hosting company Levonline pulled the plug, a company director said on Friday.
“We have been in contact with the foreign ministry and SAPO (security police) and in consultation with them we decided this was best,” its deputy director Anna Larsson told Swedish Radio.
The party, which is too small to have seats in parliament, said it had withdrawn the pictures from its newspaper SD-Kuriren’s site “out of consideration for the security of Swedish citizens abroad” before the site was shut down.
The caricatures were pulled overnight, it said.
Party spokesman Bjorn Soder said it was now mulling legal action against the web hosts for shutting it down.
SAPO chief Klas Bergenstrand said his agency monitored sites closely to spot potential security threats. It cannot shut down a website unless a specific crime is being committed, but it was able to convince Levonline that it posed a potential threat.
“The reason can be seen clearly in the images from the Middle East of both Swedes and Danes being attacked. This threat against Nordic interests is new,” he told news agency TT.
Sweden, which unlike Denmark opposed the war in Iraq and is rarely mentioned as a potential target for terrorist attacks by Muslim militants, has so far only been dragged into the cartoon row by association with Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway.
Its embassy in Damascus shared a building with the Danish mission that was torched by protesters on Saturday and Swedes in Muslim countries have had to take precautions like the Danes.
While a few Swedish papers reproduced the pictures after they first appeared last year, none has run the cartoons in recent weeks and the country’s large Muslim community has so far staged only peaceful protests against the Danish cartoons.
Freivalds accused the Swedish Democrats of trying to provoke Muslims by running the Danish cartoons and one from a reader. The reader’s cartoon showed the Prophet looking in a mirror with a black strip over his eyes and the words: “Danish Mohammad self-censorship”. Sweden has a large Muslim community but is largely free of
the anti-immigrant sentiment expressed by some Danish media and
politicians. Like Norway, it is a large aid donor in the Middle
East, especially to the Palestinians.