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Associated Press – February 27, 2008
KHARTOUM, Sudan – President Omar al-Bashir vowed on Wednesday to ban Danes from Sudan and called on the Muslim world to boycott Denmark as tens of thousands of Sudanese chanted slogans denouncing the country at a government-backed protest against the printing of a cartoon satirizing the Prophet Muhammad.
The rally in downtown Khartoum outside al-Bashir’s palace was the biggest protest yet in the Muslim world after Danish papers published the cartoon, seen by many Muslims as insulting to their religion’s most revered figure. The demonstration raised fears that protests in the Muslim world over the cartoon – so far small and scattered – could increase.
“We urge all Muslims around the world to boycott Danish commodities, goods, companies, institutions, organizations and personalities,” al-Bashir told the crowd.
“Down, down, Denmark!” shouted the protesters. Al-Bashir vowed that “not a single Danish foot will from now on desecrate the land of Sudan.”
It was not clear whether al-Bashir would carry out his rhetoric and expel over two dozen Danes who work in Sudan, mostly in aid organizations and as peacekeepers in southern Sudan and Darfur. A day earlier, Khartoum began enforcing a boycott on Danish products. The Danish Charge d’Affaires in Khartoum, Karin Soerensen, said her mission had not been notified of any order for Danes to leave and would not comment whether there were any plans for to evacuate them.
Al-Bashir’s Islamic government has frequently used perceived insults to Muhammad to drum up popular anger at home to rally support for the regime and to rally opposition to international pressure for international peacekeepers in Sudan. He has barred peacekeepers from Sweden and Norway from joining a U.N.-African force in the war-torn region of Darfur because papers in those countries ran similar cartoons in the past.
If Sudan moves to try to expell Danes from the peacekeeping force in the south – or the Darfur force, known as UNIMID – it would further strain ties with the U.N., where some officials have complained that Khartoum has been trying to hamper UNIMID.
Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for UNAMID, which includes a few Danes, said the U.N. had not “at this stage received any official notification” about an expulsion of Danish subjects from Sudan.
Anxious to avoid a tit-for-tat exchange that increase tensions, the Danish government did not respond to al-Bashir’s calls for a Muslim boycott of Denmark.
But Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller suggested the Sudanese anger was politically motivated, saying “that is the line they (the Sudanese government) have opted for.” He said a boycott could affect Sudan’s hopes of joining the World Trade Organization.
Speaking to Danish public television, Moeller warned that protests around the region “can become worse.”
Seventeen Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban on Feb. 13 in a gesture of solidarity after police in the Scandinavian country said they uncovered a plot to kill the cartoon’s artist.
Sudan was one of the nations where large protests were held against Denmark in 2006 when the cartoon and 11 others depicting Muhammad and Islam were first published. In riots that followed around the Muslim world, dozens of people were killed and several Danish embassies were attacked, while Danish goods were boycotted.
But unlike the 2006 violence, Khartoum’s rally Wednesday passed peacefully, ending after several hours. The rally failed to reach the 1 million participants called for by the organizers, the Popular Front for the Defense of Faith and Religion, which backs al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress party.
Hundreds of buses and trucks brought in protesters from far-flung areas around the capital to downtown Khartoum. The protesters carried banners reading: “We love you our dear Prophet,” “Shame on the enemy of Islam.” Protesters shouted, “We will protect our Prophet, we will not be intimidated by America!”
Protests elsewhere in recent weeks over the reprinting of the cartoon elsewhere have been smaller. In Pakistan, hundreds set fire to Danish flags and demanded the Danish ambassador’s expulsion. Palestinians protested in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the militant Islamic Hamas.
Some media and Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Egypt have called for boycotts of Danish goods similar to ones that occurred in 2006. Yemen’s parliament on Wednesday called for a boycott and ordered the halt of activities of the Yemeni-Danish Friendship Society, a small, recently formed non-governmental organization.
Some Danish companies were hit hard by a boycott of Danish goods in Muslim countries in 2006. Denmark-based Arla Foods, Europe’s second largest dairy company, said the boycott cost the company about US$72 million (euro54 million).
Arla said Wednesday that it, again, was seeing a slump in orders from the Middle East, forcing it to lower production at a cheese factory in northern Denmark and dismiss up to 10 employees.
Danish exports to Sudan are minimal, consisting mainly of dairy products. In 2006, they amounted to US$23 million, (euro15.5 million). But Sudan is one of the largest recipients of Danish aid – US$26 million (euro17.5 million) in 2006 and a US$100 million (euro67 million) humanitarian and reconstruction package is planned through 2009.
Khartoum governor, Abdul Halim al-Mutaafi, told the local Al Riyadiah radio station from the rally that Danes were no longer wanted. “We don’t want them to come to our land nor will we like to go to their land.”

Associated Press Writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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