Around 2,500 people have marched through the Norwegian capital of Oslo in protest at the printing of a contentious caricature of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed by a local newspaper. Placards were waved and chants in Arabic of “God is great” filled the air as demonstrators demanded a boycott of the daily Dagbladet.
Earlier this month, on the 3rd of February, Dagbladet published an image of a man seated at a computer terminal with a pig-like portrayal of Mohammed on the monitor. The image was accompanied by an article which covered allegations that the Facebook homepage of the Norwegian security police forces was being used to post offensive material about both Jews and Muslims.
Lars Helle, Dagbladet’s acting editor-in-chief, denied any regrets in printing the contentious image and welcomed reaction to the decision. “It was a test for Norwegian society — whether this would be a peaceful protest or not,” he stated, adding that no direct threats towards the newspaper itself had been made. In a possibly related incident, the Dagbladet website was hacked into and brought down for two hours by a Turkish operator.
Protesters have claimed that their actions were designed to show the media just how insulting such images are for Muslims. Under Islamic law any depiction of Mohammed is forbidden, regardless of how favourable, due to concerns that this could promote idolatry. “We have done nothing to anybody. We want to live here in peace. Norway is our home. Our children live here. Why should they (Norwegian media) hurt us like this?” said one of the protest organisers, 43-year-old school teacher Naradim Muhammad
The protest was peaceful, save for one instance of a firecracker being thrown into a café’s outdoor area with minor burn marks to a sofa. At the conclusion of the event, attendees were encouraged to return home or to pray at a local mosque. Police were on hand throughout, but maintained a low profile.