Special Correspondent

"Caricatures a sacrilege in the name of freedom of expression"

CHENNAI: Speakers at a rally to condemn the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammed and the demolition of the holy shrine at Samarra in Iraq appealed to the people in general and the Muslims in particular to register their protest in a peaceful and dignified manner, steering clear of all conspiracies to divide them.

A large number of Muslims, including several women, took part in the procession from the Munroe statue to the Wallajahi Mosque at Triplicane.

Addressing the rally, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu , cautioned the people against attempts at pitting one group against another within the same religion or pitting one caste or ethnic group against another. India, where 140 million-strong Muslim population lived, was an example for a peaceful, coherent and harmonious nation.

Referring to the military action against Iraq, he said the United States and some other major powers had been committing atrocities in that country. Iraq itself was turning to be a quagmire for these major powers, thanks to the resistance and struggles put up by the Iraqis. He also criticised attempts to subjugate Iran under the pretext of targeting its nuclear programmes.

Mr. Ram dubbed the caricaturing of the Prophet by European newspapers a sacrilege committed in the name of freedom of expression. This only betrayed the "Islamophobia" that was on the rise in some parts of the world, though Islam had made great contributions to human civilisation in different fields, including art, science and literature. No freedom was absolute even in European countries, he said.

Different sections of the people in the country should express solidarity with those who resisted bigotry and hatred. Such unity would also frustrate attempts by forces of fundamentalism, communalism and terrorism to take advantage of such situations.

Correct understanding

Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali, Prince of Arcot, appealed to all Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, to spread a correct understanding of the message of Islam throughout the world to keep the mischievous elements at bay.

He urged the Muslims to register their protests peacefully and decently.

He asked the traders to boycott goods from those countries that indulged in caricaturing the Prophet. Nawab Abdul Ali expressed his grief over the destruction of the Sammara mosque.

The rally was addressed among others by chairman of the Tamil Nadu Shia Muslim Convention N.A. Mirza, Chief Khazi of State Government Mufti Salahuddin Mohammed Ayub, Chief Shia Khazi Moulana G.M. Mehdi Khan and secretary of the convention Kumail Hyder Khan and vice-chairman of the convention Mir Zahid Hussain.

A resolution adopted at the rally condemned the caricaturing of the Prophet and demolition of the mosque.

It urged the Indian Government "to lodge our protest with the Government of Iraq for not adequately protecting the holy shrine." It called for strengthening security in the region.