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Wikileaks: Syria incited Mahammad cartoon rage

Ever wonder why the now infamous Mohammad cartoons printed in the Danish newspaper in September 2005 didn’t turn into the bloody riots until February 2006? The latest Wikileaks dump of 400,000 documents from US diplomatic cables contains information that the Syrian government (abbreviated as “SARG” in the documents) issued a “strongly worded directive” to imams to condemn the cartoons in their Friday sermons (February 4, 2006). The directive did not contain limits on or “ceilings on the type of language to be used.”

Here’s a sample.

1. (C) Summary: An influential Sunni sheikh provided details February 6 that seem to confirm SARG involvement in escalating the situation that led to the violent rioting in Damascus two days earlier, including communications between the PMs office and the Grand Mufti. He also noted that SARG authorities now seem intent on identifying a few scapegoats to be blamed for the incidents. The Danish Ambassador confirmed to us separately that the Minster of the Awqaaf had inflamed the situation the day before the rioting, with his remarks at Friday prayers in a mosque. End Summary.

2. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx one of the most influential Sunni religious figures in Damascus, provided PolChief February 6 with his assessment of SARG involvement in the run-up to the violent February 4 demonstrations (and its reaction in their aftermath). He noted that PM Naji al-Otri several days before the demonstrations instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus, without setting any ceilings on the type of language to be used. Hasson complied with the order. (Note: Several Muslim contacts have confirmed that sermons based on these instructions were delivered, criticizing the publishing of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and condemning the actions of the Danish, Norwegian, and French governments. An Egyptian diplomat reported that the sermon he heard was critical but not inciteful.)

You can read more of the related cables at Aftenposten.no.

Community Comments

#1 Mike Peterson
January/4/2011
@ 4:43 am

Like much in the Wikileaks releases, this doesn’t tell us much that is really new. We already knew that the gap between publication and reaction was because the cartoons were lumped in with other anti-Muslim hate images at a conference in Cairo at which the overall topic was raised.

One more piece of the puzzle for historians, but nothing very useful for the average reader. I kind of doubt that sermons in Syrian mosques did much to touch off riots in Pakistan or demonstrations in Berlin.

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