Iran Demands Apology Over German Cartoon
Luke Harding in Berlin, Declan Walsh in Islamabad and Robert Tait in Tehran, The Guardian:
A German newspaper yesterday published a cartoon depicting the Iranian football team dressed as suicide bombers, opening up a new front in the row over caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.
Iran immediately demanded an apology from Der Tagesspiegel, which showed four Iranian players at this summer's World Cup in Germany with explosives attached to their chests. A caption read: "Why the German army should definitely be used during the football World Cup." The general secretary of Iran's sports press association yesterday described the latest caricature as a "black joke". The Iranian embassy in Berlin called for an apology, saying the cartoon was "an immoral act". READ MORE
The row came amid violent protests in Pakistan and Iran over the original Danish cartoons which left two people dead and at least a dozen injured. Protesters ransacked western businesses and stormed a diplomatic quarter in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. About 1,000 students broke through checkpoints to reach the diplomatic enclave. Police used teargas to repel the crowd just before it reached the British high commission.
Police fired teargas and made baton charges in Lahore where thousands of demonstrators ransacked McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets, and destroyed the offices of a Norwegian telecoms company. Businesses closed and the city was paralysed as rioters damaged at least 200 cars and a large portrait of the president, General Pervez Musharraf, who some denounced as a traitor.
A security guard shot and killed two protesters who tried to force their way into a bank in Lahore, the interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, said.
In Iran scores of protesters hurled petrol bombs and stones at the British and German embassies in Tehran. The official IRNA news agency announced that Danish pastries had been renamed Roses of the Prophet Muhammad.
Yesterday's row over the football cartoon comes at a time when relations between Germany and Iran have sunk to a new low. Iran has already compared Germany's Christian Democrat leader, Angela Merkel, to Hitler after she hinted that her government may be prepared to support military action against Iran.
Malte Lehming, comment editor at Der Tagesspiegel, said yesterday the caricature was meant for "a German audience". Asked whether it had been unwise to print it, he told the Guardian: "The problem is where do you draw the line? Cartoons have to be satirical and mean. We are very sorry if we have hurt the feelings of any Iranians. But we have not apologised."
The cartoonist, Klaus Stuttmann, received three death threats and is in hiding, the paper said. It reprinted the cartoon next to an editorial, which said it had not intended to question the "integrity" of Iran's football team.
Iran's bestselling newspaper, Hamshahri, yesterday defended its competition for cartoons about the Holocaust, saying it was a test of the free speech allegedly espoused by western countries. The contest is a serious exercise in debate, said Mohammadreza Zaeri, publisher of Hamshahri. "We do not want to make fun of anyone with this competition, we just want to raise a question to find an answer which is very important for us."