Friday, January 27, 2006

Why aren't Muslims buying Danish cheese anymore?

Boycott of Danish Goods Over Blasphemous Cartoons
Javid Hasan & Abdul Hannan Faisal Tago
Arab News

RIYADH, 27 January 2006 — Abdullah Al-Othaim, executive president of Al-Othaim Holding Company, reaffirmed yesterday his company’s boycott of Danish products until that country’s largest daily apologizes for publishing 12 cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Al-Othaim said that just as Denmark has freedom of the press, Muslims have freedom to buy or not to buy. The company is comprised of five subsidiaries (Al-Othaim Supermarket, Al-Othaim Mall, Entertainment, Training Center and Al-Othaim Commercial Group) and owns around 60 branches across the Kingdom.
Al-Othaim’s decision, which he says includes a boycott of any supplier that includes Danish products, may help to impact SR1.3 billion worth of exports to Saudi Arabia.

The cartoons published by the private-run Jyllands-Posten daily have sparked an uproar in the Muslim world, since images of the Prophet are considered blasphemous.
Danish food giant Arla Foods said in Copenhagen yesterday it was being targeted by the Saudi boycott because of the publication of the offensive cartoons.
Arla Foods is Europe’s second-largest dairy company and the leading Danish exporter to Saudi Arabia, where it sells an estimated two billion kroner ($328 million) worth of products every year.
“More and more supermarkets are taking our products off their shelves and don’t want fresh supplies because consumers no longer want to buy our brand,” Arla Foods spokesman Louis Honore told AFP. “The situation is very serious.”
Arla Foods sales staff had been summoned by major Saudi customers who were threatening to stop buying Arla butter and cheeses unless the Danish government officially apologized for the cartoons, he said.

Officials in Muslim countries and various religious bodies have voiced their indignation over the cartoons.

In a statement yesterday, Dr. Saleh Al-Wohaibi, secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), called the newspaper’s actions part of “a culture of Islamophobia” and asked the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries to take a firm united stand against such indiscretions by forming a concerted action plan. The OIC and the Muslim World League (MWL) have both issued statements condemning the images.

Al-Wohaibi said WAMY rejects outright any justification behind “such uncivilized behavior in the name of freedom of expression.”
“(The WAMY) firmly believes that all prophets (peace be upon them) should be kept away from derogatory and slanderous attacks, because these were the chosen lot of the Almighty to guide humanity on the right path,” said Wohaibi. “Therefore, mocking at the prophets (peace be upon them) is highly degrading and subverts the call for human values and freedom of faith advocated by the United Nations Charter.”

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), he pointed out, is a role model for Muslims around the world and occupies a supreme position in the hearts and minds of every Muslim, who is ready to sacrifice his life and property for his cause. His love and affection for him far exceeds the love of his family members.

“In the light of the principles of our religion and human values, which respect beliefs of other religions and in an effort to soothe the sentiments of the aggrieved Muslim community, WAMY appeals to the governments of the Muslim countries to understand their obligations and responsibilities toward their citizens and launch a campaign to make sure that such inflammatory attacks on Islam and the Prophet do not recur in future,” said Wohaibi.
WAMY also sought an unconditional apology from the governments of Denmark and Norway for their failure to take action against those responsible for the blasphemous cartoons and called on them to commit themselves to the principle of respect for religions.
It also urged the international community and institutions to stand firmly against repetition of such outrageous incidents and punish the culprits who deliberately provoke over one billion Muslims as part of their hostile propaganda against Islam.

Al-Wohabi said: “We would also like to draw the attention of those scholars, thinkers and leaders of the world who are working for the cause of justice and world peace not to ignore such uncivilized behavior that only emboldens the critics of Islam to launch more vituperative attacks against this religion. Sowing such feelings of hatred will only undermine the efforts of some noble souls who are striving to bring nations together for a comprehensive world peace.”

Calls for the boycott have been distributed by phone text messages and in the media. The messages include a list of Danish products, including Lurpak, Nido and KDD.

“Boycotting Danish products is the simple act that we can do,” said consumer Abu Talal.
But Mohammad Al-Rashid had a different tune. “Both the newspaper and cartoonists are not representing the people of Denmark,” Rashid said, quoting a verse from the Qur’an: “You are not liable of a sin what others do.”

The Danish Embassy in the Kingdom reiterated its government’s stand that condemns any expression, action or indication that attempt to demonize groups of people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background.
Denmark’s state prosecutor Peter Broendt Joergensen said Saturday that the drawings were protected by his country’s freedom of speech laws. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has also said that the government has no say over media content.
The general reaction in Riyadh was that freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to act irresponsibly.

Typical of such comment came from a marketing executive Muneef Ali Mirza who said: “No newspaper or magazine in the Muslim world would ever think of publishing any damaging article against Jesus or Moses or any other prophet (peace be upon them), since all of them are highly respected in Islam. That’s the difference between the Islamic and the Western society.”

On Sept. 30, the daily ran an article about freedom of speech centering around the issue that artists were unwilling to illustrate the Prophet (pbuh) without remaining anonymous for fear of being attacked by extremists. The paper accompanied the article with a dozen depictions of the prophet by various Danish illustrators, including one showing the Prophet with a bomb in his head wrap and another that appeared to be criticizing the paper itself for its “PR stunt”.

The illustrations were reprinted by a Norwegian magazine on Jan. 10 alongside an article about the controversy and have appeared on at least one media blog.
“When someone offends the Prophet (pbuh), it is not only just a local problem but also affects Muslims worldwide,” Abdul Wahid Petersen, a leading imam in Denmark, was quoted as saying on Danish public radio.
— With input from agencies