Friedrich's state secretary, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, has telephoned the North Rhine-Westphalia government several times in recent days to discuss the problem. The state's interior minister, Ralf Jager, said: "The so-called cartoon contest is deliberately aimed at provoking Muslims." He said he had instructed police to prevent demonstrators from protesting in the immediate proximity of mosques.
Fears That Salafists Will Heighten Tensions
Security authorities are particularly concerned because radical Salafist groups, which have been courting publicity recently by distributing free copies of the Koran in inner cities across Germany, may have an interest in fueling confrontations in response to Pro NRW's activities.
Pro NRW showed cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday at demonstrations in the cities of Essen and Gelsenkirchen. Some 100 protestors attended the demonstrations, and they were out-numbered by hundreds of counter-demonstrators, reports said. There was no violence.
"All democrats agree xenophobic incitement has no place here," said Jager.
Police had monitored both demonstrations to check whether the cartoons on display were in breach of the German constitution. That would be the case if they insulted a religious community in a way that posed a threat to public peace; but a police spokeswoman said no laws had been broken.
The police had stopped the demonstrators from getting near mosques, and the Pro NRW demonstrators were also banned from displaying reprints of the original Danish cartoons that had led to worldwide protests.
Pro NRW issued a statement on Sunday saying it would take legal action against the ban on showing Muhammad cartoons.
"We won't accept this blatant breach of freedom of speech and artistic expression," Jorg Uckermann, the deputy Pro NRW chairman, said in a statement.
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