Lutheran, Jewish leaders condemn deploring prophet cartoons

Danish religious leaders, immigrant groups and private citizens on Thursday condemned the Prophet Muhammad cartoons as well as the violence they triggered. Denmark's chief rabbi and a Lutheran bishop issued a joint statement calling on the West and the Muslim world to settle the conflict and "rebuild a sense of trust across national borders and religions."

Authorities feared processions in Muslim countries by Shiites marking the Ashoura holiday would spill into violence against its diplomats and soldiers, but there were no reports of attacks against Danes. The Foreign Ministry said it temporarily closed its diplomatic mission in Beirut, which was burned by protesters Sunday, and all staff had left Lebanon.

In Iraq, the Danish military said its troops stationed in Basra would keep a low profile during Ashoura ceremonies, which they feared could turn into protests against Denmark. In Copenhagen, some 1,000 people marched peacefully in pouring rain Thursday to mark Ashoura. No incidents were reported.

Opinion pages, blogs and TV talk shows in Denmark were inundated with lively debate over the drawings first published by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September. The country's main Somali immigrant organization urged members to stand up for their adopted country "because each one of us can do our personal effort to repair Denmark's image."

A group of Danish citizens posted a letter on the Internet addressed to Muslims worldwide, calling for tolerance between religions and for Jyllands-Posten to apologize again for the drawings. The paper apologized last week for offending Muslims but stood by its decision to print the cartoons, citing the freedom of speech.

The small Scandinavian country has been shocked to see its embassies attacked and flags burned in several countries as fury over the prophet drawings spreads across the Muslim world. The images, including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, have been reprinted by newspapers in many other Western countries. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the prophet.

Huseyin Arac, a Turkish-born member of the Danish Parliament, suggested giving Turkey a role as a mediator between Denmark and Muslim countries in the conflict. The prime minister's office said it welcomes all initiatives to resolve the conflict, but added that any attempts to involve foreign governments should be done through diplomatic channels.

Arac has not released the specifics of his plan, including whether he had approached officials in Turkey. "I am interested in helping to find a solution but I will not give details to the media before I have spoken to the prime minister," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

The government has rejected calls by Muslims at home and abroad to intervene, saying it has no influence over media. In their joint statement, Chief Rabbi Bunt Lexner, the head of Denmark's 7,000-strong Jewish community, and Karsten Nissen, one of Denmark's 12 Lutheran bishops, appealed for calm. "Threats and violence have never had a positive result," the statement said. "The only thing that can create mutual understanding and respect is dialogue", reports the AP.

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