Indonesian Muslims storm Danish embassy building

Hardline Indonesian Muslims stormed into an office block housing the Danish embassy on Friday protesting cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark, as others demanded death for the cartoonist.

About 100 members of the Front of the Defenders of Islam (FPI) massed outside the building, chanting: “Let’s go jihad! We’re ready for jihad!”. One of their banners said: “Let’s slaughter the Danish ambassador!”

The group, mostly wearing their trademark white uniforms with skullcaps, broke through security guards to enter the building’s lobby, where they smashed lamps and threw eggs, but were quickly ejected by police and their own leaders.

Several then pelted the embassy’s external coat of arms with eggs.

Maksuni, the leader of the protestors, said ambassador Niels Andersen met with three representatives of the group and promised to issue an apology to the media in Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic country.

“The ambassador has agreed to apologise in the local electronic and print media in one or two days, after they have prepared a draft and they will translate it,” he said.

“If they don’t apologise as they promised we will kick them out of the country, and we will ask the government to withdraw its ambassador from Denmark,” he added.

The group dispersed peacefully.

Indonesian Vice-President Yusuf Kalla told reporters he had protested to the Danish envoy.

“Of course as Muslims we object to it and I have conveyed that message to the Danish ambassador,” he said, adding however that the Danish government could not be held responsible for the cartoons because Denmark had a free press.

Danish daily Jyllands-Posten originally published 12 cartoons, some of which depicted the prophet as a terrorist, last September, touching off protests and a boycott of Danish products in most Arab nations.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, while apologising if Muslims were offended, has refused to apologise for their publication, saying that would constitute meddling in press freedom.

A string of newspapers in various European countries have also reprinted the sketches in the name of freedom of expression.

The Islamic Community Forum, an umbrella for several dozen Indonesian religious groups, in a statement called on the Danish government “to apologise to Muslims around the world and sentence to death the creator of the caricatures and anyone who conspires with him”.

Rachmat Kurnia, leader of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a Forum member, told a congregation of about 100 Muslims after Friday prayers that there was “a big agenda among enemies of Islam to discredit Islam. We cannot just keep quiet”.

Dozens of FPI protesters also massed outside the Indonesian tabloid Rakyat Merdeka, which reportedly published several of the cartoons on its website earlier this week.

In Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, a group of about 300 Muslims rallied outside the Danish representative office.
They later moved to the US consulate, accusing the Bush administration of a campaign to stigmatise Islam.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Yuri Thamrin told a press briefing earlier in the day that the publication of the cartoons was “about insensitivity and perhaps it also represents so-called Islamophobia”.

He said that “as a democracy, Indonesia is fully aware of the importance of freedom of expression, but having acknowledged the sanctity of this concept, we also believe that this should not be used to justify slander, defamation to sacred religious symbols”.

To Muslims the cartoons are blasphemous as Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. - AFP

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