CAIRO – A Berlin court has allowed a far-right group to display provocative caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during planned demonstrations outside mosques this weekend, sparking a wave of counter-demonstrations.
“The Campaign Against Racism is one of a handful which has registered to demonstrate along both routes on both days, in the same places as Pro-Deutschland,” police Michael Gassen told The Local on Friday, August 17.
“We are making it very clear that we want to talk with all groups concerned to reduce the risk of violence.”
The debates were first sparked after the administrative court in the German capital ruled that the group, Pro Deutschland, could brandish copies of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) first published in 2005 which sparked violent protests around the globe.
The court said it “rejected the urgent complaint filed by three Islamic mosque congregations to prevent the ‘citizens’ movement Pro Deutschland from showing so-called Mohammed caricatures in front of their premises during demonstrations on Saturday”.
It said the cartoons were protected as “artistic freedom” and could not legally be considered as abuse of a religious group.
“Simply showing the Mohammed cartoons does not qualify as a call to hatred or violence against a specific segment of the population,” the court said.
Getting the court’s permission, Pro-Deutschland plans to demonstrate this Saturday in front of three mosques in the capital city under the slogan, “Islam does not belong to Germany – stop Islamization.”
Around 70 participants are expected to drive between the mosques and hold rallies in front of them - as Muslims prepare to celebrate `Eid Al-Fitr on Sunday.
On Sunday, the group plans another tour around some of Berlin’s left-wing hot spots, in a further move which can only be interpreted as deliberate provocation.
Rejecting the provocative protests, at least half a dozen counter-demonstrations have been registered with the police for both days, Gassen said.
He added that police reinforcements would be brought in from other states including North Rhine-Westphalia and Bayern to avoid any violence.
Berlin police confirmed that they held talks with members of the Muslim community, urging them to avoid provocations.
“We have had conversations with members of Muslim communities and they have assured us that they are calling upon their people to not allow themselves to be provoked,” Gassen, the police spokesman said.
“We are happy that these discussions have taken place.”
Violence erupted last May in Bonn's suburb of Mehlem when supporters of anti-Islam German party "Pro-NRW" showed caricatures depicting a man said to be the prophet outside the Saudi Fahd Academy.
Hundreds of Salafi Muslims gathered in response to protest the rightist rally, which developed into clashes that left 29 policemen injured.
More than 100 Salafist protesters were briefly arrested to launch a flood of journalistic and political attention which suddenly focused on Salafists as an extremist Muslim group, demonizing the whole Muslim minority of four million, who lived peacefully for years in Germany.
In 2005, Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten daily published 12 cartoons, including one showing a man said to be the Prophet wearing a tomb-shaped turban.
Another caricature showed the Prophet as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by shrouded women.
The cartoons, considered blasphemous under Islam, were later reprinted by European newspapers on claims of freedom of expression, straining relations between the Muslim world and the West.
The cartoon crisis, however, has prompted Muslims worldwide to launch campaigns to highlight the merits of the Prophet.
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