FOLLOWING the publication of caricatures of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, the chairman of the Slovak Bishops' Conference, František Tondra, denounced all similar manifestations of what he termed "intolerance and insults".
"Freedom of speech is not an absolute value. In its name it is not permitted to touch symbols and expressions that are held most sacred by many people on our planet," Tondra told the SITA news agency.
"If we want to request tolerance from others, we ourselves should be able to show tolerance," the bishop said. He added, however, that protests against such acts "should never lead to violence, which, alas, we are now witnessing".
Several large Danish newspapers first published cartoons featuring Mohammed last September; the drawings were picked up by other periodicals in recent weeks. The images, which Muslims have denounced as blasphemous, have elicited violent protests from Muslims across the world. Ten people have died in Afghanistan in protests against the cartoons; violence, much of it directed against Danish and European foreign missions, has also been seen in Lebanon, Syria, Indonesia, Pakistan and Gaza. In response, other European newspapers have been running the cartoons, with a French paper recently carrying a new caricature titled "Muhammad stressed out by the fundamentalists", and showing the prophet with his head in his hands saying: "It's hard to be loved by fools."
In Slovakia, the SME daily published the cartoons as well. The Danish Embassy in Bratislava has been under increased protection since the escalation of violence that caused Danish embassy staffs in some Muslim countries to be recalled.
According to SME, Muslims in Slovakia are not preparing violent attacks. The head of the Islamic Foundation in Slovakia, Mohamad Safwan Hasna, said that although he disagreed with the publishing of the cartoons, he also condemned the attacks on Danish people.
- Martina Jurinová