Responding to an increasing number of violent attacks in many parts of the world over cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, the Secretary-General of the United Nations joined today with senior officials from the Islamic world and Europe in calling for calm and dialogue among communities of different faiths.
In a joint statement, Kofi Annan, along with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union’s (EU) senior representative for foreign and security policy, said there should be a “spirit of friendship and mutual respect” not only between countries but also between believers of different religions.
“We are deeply alarmed at the repercussions of the publication in Denmark several months ago of insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed and their subsequent republication by some other European newspapers and at the violent acts that have occurred in reaction to them,” said the statement, which was endorsed by Mr. Annan and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the OIC and Javier Solana of the EU.
“We fully uphold the right of free speech. But we understand the deep hurt and widespread indignation felt in the Muslim World. We believe freedom of the press entails responsibility and discretion, and should respect the beliefs and tenets of all religions.”
The three signatories to the statement went on to say that the “anguish of the Muslim World” was shared by all individuals and communities who recognize the sensitivity of deeply held religious belief, but called for an immediate end to the violence.
“In particular, we strongly condemn the deplorable attacks on diplomatic missions that have occurred in Damascus, Beirut and elsewhere. Aggression against life and property can only damage the image of a peaceful Islam. We call on the authorities of all countries to protect all diplomatic premises and foreign citizens against unlawful attack.”
Today’s joint statement on the cartoons is the latest move by the Secretary-General to try and defuse the explosive situation that has led to protests and concerns in many parts of the world.
In a separate news release, also issued today, the United Nations mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urged “all parties to avoid acts and statements that might further inflame the current situation.”
“Respect for Afghanistan’s pluralistic culture, values and history, based on Islam, is a fundamental principle of the work of the international community in Afghanistan,” UNAMA added.