Diplomatic Front

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Diplomatic front

American Muslim leaders have opened a diplomatic front in Washington over the dispute over cartoons that lampooned the prophet Muhammad in European newspapers.

They met with Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek and Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen to protest the publication of the cartoons in Norway and Denmark and to offer help in calming the tension that has sparked riots throughout the Middle East.

"Intentionally provocative attacks on Islam should be rejected in the same way that credible media outlets quite rightly decline to publish anti-Semitic materials," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mr. Vollebaek called the publication of the cartoons in a Norwegian magazine "unfortunate and deplorable."

"All people have the right to respect their religion and the right to presume that neither their religion nor their religious affiliation will be subject to contempt," he said, after meeting with the Muslim leaders last week.

They met with Mr. Petersen on Monday. A Danish Embassy official said the ambassador did not want to comment on the meeting.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, said he thought that the Middle East boycott of Danish products helped get the attention of the Danish government.

"Personally, I don't think we would have received such a prompt response for a meeting if the Danish economy wasn't losing millions of dollars daily due to the boycott of Danish products throughout the Muslim world," Mr. Bray said.

The Muslim leaders also called on American Muslims to avoid violence and conduct any protests peacefully.

"As a Muslim, I can understand the emotional intensity of the issue," Mr. Bray said. "However, responding through violence does not uphold the dignity of our faith.

"Burning buildings and throwing bricks is definitely not the answer. Muslims united and using their economic leverage - now that's something the world can respect. …