Gül's latest remarks concerning the ongoing cartoon crisis came on Wednesday at Parliament when he gathered with members of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission.
The drawings, which include a portrayal of Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban and one showing him as a knife-wielding nomad flanked by two women shrouded in black, were first published in the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in late September; however, they sparked harsh reactions after being reprinted in other European dailies in defense of free speech.
Gül commented that globalization carried many risks as well as advantages for people. The 12 caricatures of Mohammed have sparked violent protests in Muslim countries, against Denmark especially, but also against other European countries where the cartoons have since been reprinted. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, have both claimed that extremist elements were continuing to foment anger over the cartoons to serve their own causes.
'Prudence could be key in preventing a crisis':
Yet the crisis could have been prevented where it first started, in Europe, if the concerned politicians had acted prudently, like some of the politicians and intellectuals in the rest of the bloc. What those prudent politicians and intellectuals did was to say, "Yes, we have freedom of press, but this doesn't mean we have the right to insult others' faiths," Gül said, and added that reactions in those countries faded without turning into violence because of such prudence, without elaborating on the names of countries or politicians
"I wish strong, prudent statements had been released in a timely manner in the places where the incident first started. … The point at which we find ourselves today comes after a very dangerous ascent, this is, so to say, the ascent that some wished for," Gül said.
Nevertheless, the minister also warned that reactions in Muslim countries should remain legitimate without using violence. "Likewise, disrespect against our missions and flag is unacceptable; any disrespect to any other countries' missions and flags is unacceptable and very wrong."
Turkey focuses on legal precautions:
Stemming from ongoing reactions, there are currently many risks around the world and precautions that need to be taken in order to minimize these risks, Gül said. Turkey is focusing on this point, is currently working on legal precautions and is in contact with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), he added.
Most recently, the Turkish head of the OIC requested that Muslims be given the same legal safeguards that Jews have against offense.
"We want to be assured that ... there will be no double standards," OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ýhsanoðlu told reporters on Tuesday, referring to an OIC campaign to have European Union countries legislate to prevent newspapers from publishing artists' impressions of the Prophet Mohammed.
Seeking a way out of the crisis, as other international bodies are doing, the EU decided to debate the concept of the Alliance of Civilizations during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers next month in Salzburg. As the representative of the first and only mainly Muslim country seeking EU membership, Foreign Minister Gül will give the opening speech at the meeting in Salzburg at the invitation of EU term president Austria.
Referring to the EU's efforts at calming the crisis down, Gül said he had brought up the issue with his Austrian counterpart. "What we told them during these consultations is the fact that Islamophobia has unfortunately started to replace anti-Semitism in the Western world. There are legal safeguards against this, but they are not adequate," Gül said.
"Universal values are respect for human rights, believing in democracy, freedom of religion and respect for everybody's identity. Turkey is doing its best within this framework."
Danish media confused about EU invitation:
Despite Ankara's enthusiasm at being invited to make an opening speech on the Alliance of Civilizations during an EU meeting, the Danish media's coverage of the invitation on Wednesday was mixed. Danish daily Information said it was a big chance for Turkey as for the first time it has found an opportunity to contribute to an internal EU crisis.
"We have difficulty in understanding the EU's proposal," another Danish daily, Berlingske Tidende, was quoted as saying by NTV.
Turkish Daily News