Muhammad cartoons: Jordan condemns publication

Jordan condemned on Monday the publication in Sweden of a cartoon of Islam's prophet, warning it could undermine inter-faith dialogue and co-existence. But a senior Jordanian journalist tells The Local that while many Jordanians are angry, the government there is keen not to step up the rhetoric.

Government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh criticized the cartoon on Monday in response to a question from a reporter.

“The publication of this cartoon, which seeks to attack the character of the Prophet Muhammad, is unacceptable, rejected and condemned,” he told a press conference in Amman.

“Such cartoons do not serve inter-faith dialogue and co-existence, in which Jordan believes,” he added.

The Örebro-based newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published a cartoon on August 18th showing Mohammed’s head on the body of a dog to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of expression and religion.

Mahmoud el Abed, Managing Editor of the Jordan Times, told The Local that the government in Jordan was keen to keep its rhetoric on the issue as moderate as possible.

“The government sees it as its duty to protect Islam, but it doesn’t want to jeopardize its diplomacy,” he said.

Unlike Pakistan and Iran, which made formal protests to Sweden, Jordan is not making any diplomatic representation on the issue.

“Even ordinary people can see the difference between the [Swedish] government and an independent press,” said Mahmoud el Abed, but added that public anger at the cartoons would add to pressure on moderates.

“Any little thing in this region could trigger a crisis or even a catastrophe. For moderates, it’s already hard enough to persuade unemployed young people to calm down. Cartoonists who don’t see the bigger picture help recruit people to extremism.”

He added:

“How would Swedes feel if Jesus were depicted in such an degrading manner? Then imagine that the reaction in a country such as Egypt, Jordan or Syria, where there is a much tougher economic and political situation.”

“My own reaction, and that of many educated, middle-class people, is anger, as it’s such a trivial thing that may cause harm.”

The cartoon was published less than two years after cartoons deemed offensive to the prophet printed in Denmark’s biggest daily sparked anger across the Islamic world, culminating in deadly protests in several countries in early 2006.

Iran and Pakistan both summoned Swedish diplomats to protest against the caricature, which was also condemned by the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference.