Norway: Imam disappointed by Dagbladet meeting

Norway: Imam disappointed by Dagbladet meeting

See here for more on this story:
* Oslo: 1000 taxi drivers protest Muhammed cartoon
* Oslo: Taxi drivers continue Muhammed-cartoon protest


Imam Malana-hafiz Mehboob-ur-Rehman is disappointed after meeting with Dagbladet's editor Lars Helle and fears reactions from Muslim extremists.

The imam had hopped Helle would apologize for Dagbladet printing a Muhammed caricature last week.

"I was very glad when Dagbladet wanted to have this meeting, but am very disappointed because Dagbladet want to stand their ground," Mehboob-ur-Rehman told VG Nett via his translator.

Conservative Party politician on the Oslo council Aamir Sheikh, who is himself a Muslim, was the one who took the initiative for the hour long meeting between Malana-hafiz Mehboob ur-Rehman, who is the imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre - one of Norway's biggest mosques, and Dagbladet's acting editor Lars Helle.

The goal was to find a solution to the conflict which arose after Dagbladet printed a Muhammed cartoon as an illustration to an article last weke.  Friday night, 1,000 taxi drivers parked their cars in protest against the printing of the cartoons.  Also on Monday morning many taxi drivers protested.

Now the imam fears that the reactions will become harsher than when the cartoons were printed for the first time [in Norway] in 2006.  In an improvised press conference after the meeting, imam  Mehboob ur-Rehman said he can't take responsibility for what comes next in response to the Muhammed cartoon in Dagbladet Feb. 3rd.

"This time we fear that there can be bigger problems than when the cartoons of Muhammed were printed in 2006.  Then it was the communities and the Islamic council who demanded an apology.  Now it's not organizations, mosques and communities, but individuals and then the situation can get out of control," said Mehboob-ur-Rehman.

In response Lars Helle told Nettavisen: I think we all have a responsibility to keep reactions to a normal level.

The imam says he will continue to work on the issue.

"We will go in dialog since this meeting was without results, and see what happens," he says.

Aamir Sheikh says the meeting proceeded calmly and on topic and that both parties shook hands before and after the meeting.  But he's also concerned about what will happen next.

The organizer of the meeting, Sheikh, also fears more reactions, but doesn't know what will happen.

"I feel that the situation has somehow deteriorated.  If there would have been agreement in this meeting, it could have stopped extremists from showing anger.  Because people couldn't agree we have less control over who does what," Sheik told Nettavisen.  "Anything can happen," he told VG Nett.

He says he had hoped both parties would give and take in order to reach a compromise. Desipte the disappointment, Aamir Sheik says he would probably take the initiative again for a new meeting.  He calls on Foreign Affairs Minister Jonas Gahr Støre  to intervene.

Sheikh says that the parties expressed understanding for each other's point of view and opinions.  Imam Mehboob ur-Rehman said that it wasn't Dagbladet's coverage which was the problem, but the use of the image.   

"We could not agree on what was important for the imam," Lars Helle said after the meeting.

He says he doesn't regret that the newspaper printed the cartoons.

"I don't regret it, they can think what they want, but I think Dagbladet should have the right to illustrate the new in it's own way," he said.

Helle thinks Dagbladet's printing of the cartoons are different than what had happened in the past.

"I think this case is a little different than the others, since this was an illustration to a news item," he said after the meeting.

Sources: VG, Nettavisen (Norwegian)

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