Saturday, March 18, 2006

Anti-cartoon conference opens in Iran

Deutsche Presse-Agentur:
A two-day conference titled 'Constructive Religious Dialogue - Framework for World Order' was opened Saturday in Isfahan, central Iran.

The conference, attended by more than 200 religious scholars from almost 40 countries, including Iran, was organized to reach an international condemnation on the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed deemed by Muslims worldwide as insulting.

'The main aim of the conference is to approve the necessity of an internationally acknowledged convention for respecting all religions and their prophets and sanctities,' conference chairman Mahmoud Mohammedi-Araqi said.

The cleric said that the attendance of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian scholars in the conference proved that not only Muslims were insulted by the cartoons but also the followers of other religions. READ MORE

'Avoiding further insults against religions and prophets will not only help a better understanding between different religions but also secure global peace,' said Mohammedi-Araqi, who is also head of the Organization for Islamic Culture and Communication.

The cartoons, initially published in January by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and carried last month by several Western newspapers, led to fury and violent demonstrations in several Islamic countries, including Iran.

Iran accused the United States and Israel of having initiated the cartoon issue to sow the seeds of discord between Muslims and Christians

'Denmark was intentionally chosen as there is a cross on the Danish national flag. This was a pre-planned conspiracy for starting a crusade and creating a conflict between Muslims and Christians,' Mohammedi-Araqi told IRNA state news agency.

Another issue to be raised in the conference was limits to the freedom of the press and expression in the West and why the same freedom was not respected when it came to the issue of the Holocaust.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused an international uproar after he called for the eradication of Israel from the Islamic world, the relocation of the Jewish state to another part of the world and when he doubted the real extent of the Holocaust.

'If some believe that Jews were burnt to death, then we have to look for those who allegedly did it,' Mohammedi-Araqi said in the conference.

'It was the West which created anti-Semitism, just like the anti- Islamism trend right now (in the West),' the cleric said.