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Saudi daily prints cartoons

Riyadh, Feb. 21 (Reuters): Saudi Arabia has suspended a youth daily that carried cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammad that have sparked violent protests around the world, journalists from the newspaper said today.

The ministry of information indefinitely stopped the daily Shams from publication from yesterday after it reprinted late last month several of 12 cartoons first published by a Danish newspaper last September, they said.

To justify printing the cartoons ' a bold move in Saudi Arabia, the conservative birthplace of Islam ' the newspaper also published opinions from influential clerics saying information which is offensive to Muslims can still be printed if it helps acquaint them with an issue.

Shams, a low-circulation tabloid, is owned by a Saudi royal.

“The paper is for the youth and its editors are young, so they didn’t realise how dangerous this is,” said Suleiman al-Bathi, Saudi spokesman for US-based Muslim lobby group International Committee for the Support of the Final Prophet.

“They wanted to do something similar to what Yemeni and Jordanian papers did. But just the idea of republishing it is not a good one from a Muslim perspective.”

Two papers in Yemen have been shut down for republishing the cartoons, and the editor of one has been arrested. A Jordanian editor has also been arrested for reprinting them. An Egyptian newspaper reprinted some of the cartoons last year.

The global uproar over the cartoons came after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Denmark last month following pressure from clerics and a boycott of Danish goods in the kingdom.

Saudi preachers have kept the issue alive with angry sermons, but there have been no public protests, which are frowned upon by authorities in the conservative kingdom. “In the Gulf region the reaction is still controlled,” Bathi said.

Bounties denounced

The secretary-general of the world’s largest Muslim grouping today denounced calls to kill European cartoonists who lampooned the Prophet , saying violence would not help the Muslims’ cause.

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