Malaysia's Anwar calls Prophet cartoons religious ignorance of Dark Ages

Malaysia's ex-deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday accused Western newspapers that published the Prophet Muhammad cartoons of manifesting what he called the religious ignorance of the Dark Ages.

But Anwar, currently a lecturer on inter-religious understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, urged Muslims to seek a "dignified" way to protest the cartoons, saying violence wouldn't resolve the dispute.

The publication of the cartoons was "offensive to any Muslim and can only come out of prejudice and ignorance," Anwar, who was Malaysia's deputy prime minister between 1993 and 1998, told reporters during a visit to his family home in Kuala Lumpur.

"Such acts clearly constitute a regression into the cultural prejudices of the Dark Ages," Anwar said. "Not only are Muslims angry, but a great number of people of other faiths are also outraged by such callous hypocrisy."

Many Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous. Newspapers publishing the pictures, however, have asserted their news value or the right to freedom of expression.

Anwar said the images, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, before being reprinted by others, mostly in Europe, shouldn't lead to "a pretext to incite hatred."

"Despite our justified anger, Muslims should and could have responded ... with greater wisdom and a much more dignified way," Anwar said. "We must remain committed to protecting and defending the sanctity of life and property," reports the AP.

I.L.