Arab nations urged to seek UN ban on slandering religion

Arab and Islamic governments should pressure the United Nations to ban the slandering of religions, said more than 200 Arab politicians who renewed their criticism today of the contentious Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

The call, which was made at the end of a two-day conference at a Dead Sea resort in Jordan, comes amid outrage felt throughout the Islamic world over the publication in a Danish newspaper of a series of cartoons of Islam’s prophet.

“We urge Arab and Muslim governments to spare no effort to pressure the UN to issue a resolution banning the slandering of religions,” the politicians from 16 Arab countries representing the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union said in a statement.

Those who violate such a resolution should face legal action, added the statement.

Meanwhile, in Doha, Qatar, the furore over the cartoons was described as just a small part of an expanding divide between Islam and the West.

Attending a UN-sponsored conference aimed at healing the deepening rift, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and another 19 delegates agreed that key ways to bridge the chasm were reaching out to young people and providing more education.

Even then, they agreed it would take years of dialogue and practical measures before the rift can be healed.

Tutu said: “What has happened – and the aftermath – has been seen as a symptom of a more serious disease. Had relationships been different, one, the cartoons might not have happened, or if they had, they probably would have been handled differently.”

“What we face nowadays is not a clash of civilisations but a clash mostly caused by ignorance, arrogance, insensitivity and festering political differences that fuel hostilities,” Turkish minister of state Mehmet Aydin said.

On the same day in Karachi, Pakistan, more than 5,000 children aged from 8 to 12 years old demonstrated at a rally organised by Pakistan’s largest Islamic group. They chanted “hang those who insulted the prophet” and burned a coffin draped in American, Israeli and Danish flags.

The European Union on Monday said that although it regretted the cartoons were “considered offensive” by Muslims, it added that freedom of expression “is a fundamental right and an essential element of a democratic discourse.”

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