2006-02-13 12:51:00

Reaction of the Islamic world to the cartoons opens up a way to silencing the press

Chief producer of the Arabic service of the Russia Today TV channel gives an interview to Interfax-Religion.

- Why, in your opinion, a conflict situation has developed with regard for the Muhammad cartoons? Who profits from this scandal?

- I believe this scandal is of political rather than religious nature. Certainly, there are Islamic organizations connected with certain forces in the West and their aim is to cause the Arab states to quarrel with Europe. It is known that after the September 11 events, millions of dollars were transferred from banks in the USA to Europe. And now there are forces interested in bringing this money back to the United States. Each country has used the cartoons scandal to solve its own problems. Both Iran and Syria have problems in relations with the world community. In Lebanon, society is split into pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian groups.

As is known, ‘the Iran dossier’ is being widely discussed now, and it is in the interests of Iran to see to it that this issue is absent from the agenda, on one hand, and that it becomes the center of the Islamic world, on the other. Besides, the UN Security Council will soon consider the situation around Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri.

At the same time it is noteworthy that in Saudi Arabia, where radical Islamic organizations are principal players, there are no disturbances of such a scale as in these three countries.

‘The cartoon’ scandal is profitable to the USA who condemned the publication of the cartoons thus looking concerned for the image of the Moslems in the eyes of the public. But I do not understand why to set the Danish and Norwegian embassies on the fire, whereas the Islamic world should focus precisely on the United States as the country that has as much as occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, not just drew some cartoons or spoke bad of Islam.

I believe it will continue, since there are forces interested in keeping up this conflict. The only way out is to express protest, if any, only in a peaceful way.

- Why did protesters in Lebanon deliver their main blow on Christians?

- It was not aimed at Christians. Those who organized this action did know that the Danish embassy is located in a Christian quarter and, naturally, some sought to cause Christians to quarrel with Moslems. Thank God, it failed, otherwise a civil war would break out. Thank God, Christians did nothing in response.

- Do you think the head of a state should apologize for an action of an independent newspaper?

- That there is freedom of speech in Europe is a fact for me, just as it is a fact that governments in European countries cannot interfere in the work of the mass media. I do not understand why many demand an apology from Denmark which does not bear any responsibility for the policy of a particular periodical. So, the way in which the Islamic world has reacted to the publication is a way toward silencing the press and journalists, and it is very dangerous.

I would like to add however that, on one hand, I am for the freedom of expression, but on the other, I cannot approve of involving religious symbols, the more so that it is the Prophet Muhammad who is in point.

- What do you think of Russia’s decision to invite the Hamas leaders to Moscow?

- It is a very important, and I would say, historic statement of the Russian president, especially when made against the background of Bush’s administration’s accusations of Hamas as a terrorist organization. To my mind, the Russian initiative relieves the tension that has been created by the USA. At the same time, Russia has shown to the United State in an indirect way that there should be no double standards with regard to the elections in the Palestinian territories. I suppose Russia will play a considerable role after the failure of the USA in the Middle East. The success of the Russian leadership’s initiative will depend in many ways on whether they will be able to come to a compromise with Israel.