Many newspapers republish image in protest against alleged plot to kill cartoonist.
|Violent protests across the Muslim world saw the burning of Danish and Swedish flags and the attacks in Syria [EPA]|
Newly-leaked US government cables are showing that Syria supported the attacks on the Scandinavian embassies in its capital four years ago.
The attacks on the embassies of Denmark and Norway in early 2006 came amid violent protests over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
A cable from the US embassy in Damascus said Naji Otri, the Syrian prime minister, “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”.
The document was obtained by WikiLeaks and published on Monday in English by Aftenposten, a Norwegian daily.
The US cable said the information was provided to US officials in Syria by “one of the most influential Sunni religious figures in Damascus”, whose name is erased in the document.
The religious figure told US officials the Syrian government had “allowed the rioting to continue for an extended period” and reacted with serious threats of force to stop it when it felt that “the message had been delivered”.
“This is what you will have if we allow true democracy and allow Islamists to rule”, was Damascus’ message to the West in doing so, the unnamed religious official told the US embassy.
The cable said the Syrian government at the same time wanted to show it was “protecting the dignity of Islam” and “allowing Muslims freedom on the streets of Damascus they are not allowed on the streets of Cairo, Amman or Tunis”.
The embassies of Norway and Denmark – which housed the Swedish and Chilean missions – in Damascus were set on fire on February 4, 2006, by protesters voicing their anger at the publication of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by a Danish daily.
The Danish government recalled its envoy to Damascus to protest the lack of protection given by Syrian officials.
Aftenposten, which published the cable on its website, said last week it had gained access to all of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks is slowly releasing the cables on its own website and has made them available ahead of time to The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.
Aftenposten said it would publish articles on the cables independently of the whistleblowing website’s strategy.