A statement attributed to Osama bin Laden condemned the European Union for allowing the publication of cartoons considered insulting Islam's prophet Muhammad Wednesday.
In the five-minute audio message entitled "The Response Is What You See, Not What You Hear," the voice accused the Europeans of violating "the etiquettes of dispute and fighting".
Mocking Islam's founder is considered a more serious offense than the killing of women and children, the voice said, concluding his message: if there are no checks on the Europeans' freedom to speak, "then there will be no checks on his freedom to act."
The identity of the speaker could not be independently determined. However, a radical Islamist Web site reported earlier Wednesday that a statement from bin Laden was coming shortly. The notice appeared on Al-Ekhlaas, known for carrying statements and videos from al Qaeda and its allies.
Bin Laden's last public statement was an audio message issued in December when he urged Europeans to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Some Muslims believe that it is forbidden by the Quran to show an image of the prophet at all, and others are offended that the cartoon by artist Kurt Westergaard appear to depict Mohammed as a terrorist.
(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2008)