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Iraqi Churches Bombed: Link with Danish Cartoons?

Iraqi Churches Bombed: Link with Danish Cartoons?

IRAQ 02 February 2006 - A spate of car bombs exploded outside churches in Iraq on Sunday 29th January in what appears to have been a coordinated attack. The explosions occurred within a half hour period, apparently chosen to coincide with the time at which Christians would be going to church.

Two churches in the northern city of Kirkuk and at least two others in the capital Baghdad were targeted. At least three people, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed and an estimated 16-20 people injured.

The bombings were condemned by some Muslim political leaders including Ali al-Adeeb (Shi’a) and Naweer al-Ani (Sunni).


Many Christians in Iraq are connecting this week’s church bombings with the growing furore across the Muslim world caused by the publication of some cartoons caricaturing The Muslim Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper on 30th September 2005.

These cartoons have been republished recently by newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.


On the 1st February, a Kuwaiti newspaper reporting on the Danish cartoons stated that Islamic cleric Sheikh Nazem Mesbah had issued a fatwa calling for the killing of people who insulted The Muslim Prophet Muhammad in this way. Other Islamic clerics rejected this fatwa citing the need to comply with the realities of the modern era.


03 February 2006 - Gunmen from Islamic Jihad and Fatah announced their intention yesterday of attacking churches in Gaza in protest against the cartoons of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad published in Denmark last September. But the newly elected armed Islamist group Hamas publicly rejected the targeting of churches over this issue, even offering to provide military protection for one church building.

A growing movement of Muslim protest around the world since the cartoons appeared has gained strength this week as the cartoons were republished in six other European countries and Jordan. Amidst economic boycotts, demonstrations outside embassies, burning of the Danish flag and calls for a “Day of Anger”, Christian minorities in Muslim countries have begun to be targeted. The threats to Palestinian church buildings follow attacks on Iraqi Christian students and bombs outside Iraqi churches on Sunday 29 January 2006.

These attacks were seen as retaliation for the Danish cartoons, not least because of recent explicit fatwas in Iraq to expel Christians “from streets, schools and institutions” because of events in Denmark.


On the 02 February 2006 King Abdullah of Jordan addressed the National Prayer Breakfast Leadership Luncheon in Washington. The king is generally considered a voice of moderation in the Muslim world. He condemned the recent bombing of the Iraqi churches, but went on to criticise the publication of caricatures of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

“Why should the hurting of Muslim feelings be equated with the injury and destruction of non-Muslim persons and property?” asks Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund. “This gross injustice has gone unremarked. Christian minorities in Muslim countries strive continually to demonstrate that they are loyal citizens of their homelands, yet over and over again they are punished for the deeds of people they do not know in “Christian” countries far away”.

Barnabas Fund works to support Christian communities around the world where they are facing poverty and persecution.


UNITED KINGDOM 09 February 2006 - Three hundred Islamic religious scholars in the UK are calling for changes in the law to stop publication of any images of Muhammad the prophet of Islam. They want amendments to the Race Relations Act to give Muslims the same protection as Sikhs and Jews. They also want the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to tighten their self-regulatory code of practice to prevent the publication of pictures of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The scholars gathered 08 February 2006 for an emergency meeting under the auspices of the Muslim Action Committee (MAC) at an Islamic Centre in Small Heath, Birmingham. Chairman, Shaikh Faiz Saddiqi, commented that it was the largest meeting of its kind which he remembered in 25 years living in the UK.

These calls come in the wake of international Muslim outrage about the publication of caricatures of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad in Danish and other European newspapers.


Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, comments:

“There are two very alarming aspects of the MAC’s demands. Firstly, we all have to accept the possibility of being offended, as part of the package of free speech. Why should there be different rules for Muslims compared with followers of other faiths? If we pass laws or even simply create a new PCC code of practice specifically to protect The Muslim Prophet Muhammad, I fear it could prove to be the thin end of the wedge. From self-imposed censorship we could soon move to more serious situations. In Pakistan there has been a mandatory death sentence since 1991 for “defiling the name” of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The irony is that in earlier centuries there were many Muslim pictures of The Muslim Prophet Muhammad, some of which can be seen in museums both in the West and in the Muslim world.

“Secondly, I believe that the cartoons furore is being used as a pretext for another legal battle. It was only in the last 2 weeks that the House of Commons unexpectedly voted to pass the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in a form which does not provide the protection for Muslims which the government had intended. If the MAC are now calling for changes in the Race Relations Act, this seems to me an attempt to get themselves the privileged legal position the government had promised them by another method.

“I am totally opposed to attacks on Muslims or anyone else. We must protect people, but not ideas. I am therefore strongly opposed to any changes to existing legislation which already protects the whole population. I urge all readers to work to stop these changes from being implemented and to ensure that the level playing field is not tilted.”

Julian Dobbs the New Zealand Director of the Barnabas Fund is currently in Syria with Iraqi Christian refugees and will be available on Friday 17 February 2006 for interviews.


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