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Japan calls for calm in Prophet cartoon furor

Japan called for calm in the Muslim world amid widespread anger over cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammed.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 09:13 IST

Japan called for calm in the Muslim world on Tuesday amid widespread anger over cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammed, saying that violence was not the way to vent legitimate distress.

"Japan fully understands the distress felt by the Muslims at the publication of the caricatures," foreign ministry press secretary Yoshinori Katori said in a statement.

"However, violence and vandalism are not acceptable for any reason. We urge all parties concerned to reduce tension and to refrain from any action or statement that might aggravate the situation," he said.

He stressed the importance of mutual understanding and respect "between people of different creeds and cultural traditions."

The cartoons originally published in Denmark portraying Mohammed as a terrorist have set off violent protests in Muslim nations, where any depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemy.

No major newspapers have published the caricatures in Japan, which has a miniscule Muslim population but close political and commercial ties with many Islamic nations.

Japanese television has shown people reading the cartoons, which have been reproduced in European newspapers.

The Asahi Shimbun, an influential liberal daily, said the row must be controlled before it turns into a "clash of civilizations."

"Freedom of expression should be treasured but we must be considerate about such things as religion, which people latch onto for their spiritual base," it said in an editorial.

"To protect our liberty, we must use moderation," it said.

Japan enjoys a vibrant, free press but mainstream publications are sensitive about the imperial family, which commands deep respect among many Japanese.

In 2001, the Japanese government lodged a protest with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper when it ran a cartoon suggesting Crown Prince Naruhito was impotent as he had been childless eight years into marriage.

He and Crown Princess Masako had a child, Princess Aiko, later that year.

First Published: Feb 07, 2006 09:13 IST