Shopkeeper Stocks Up On Danish Flags For Burning
When entrepreneur Ahmed Abu Dayya first heard that Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad were being reprinted across Europe, he knew exactly what his customers in Gaza would want: flags to burn. Abu Dayya ordered 100 hard-to-find Danish and Norwegian flags for his Gaza City shop and has been doing a swift trade. "I do not take political stands. It is all business," he said in an interview. "But this time I was offended by the assault on the Prophet Mohammad." A wave of anger has swept the Muslim world over the publication of the cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. First printed in Denmark, the cartoons have appeared in newspapers across Europe, as well as in the United States.While normally hard to come by in isolated Gaza, Danish and Norwegian flags are now popping up at daily protests, increasingly replacing Israel's Star of David. It's not clear how many merchants apart from Abu Dayya are offering the flags, but they appear to be readily available. Angry Muslims set the flags ablaze or tear them to pieces. At a protest on Monday outside European Union offices in Gaza, dozens of Palestinian students chanted: "Down with Denmark. Down with Norway. With our blood and with our souls, we will sacrifice for our Prophet." In Beirut and Damascus, mobs set Danish and Norwegian embassies on fire. "I knew there would be a demand for the flags because of the angry reaction of people over the offence to Prophet Mohammad," said Abu Dayya, whose PLO Flag Shop also sells souvenirs and presents. He sells his Danish and Norwegian flags for $11 a piece -- a price he acknowledged might be dampening sales. Many protesters prefer to save money and make the flags themselves from scraps of fabric, he said.Abu Dayya sources some of his flags from suppliers in Taiwan, but he buys Israeli flags from a merchant in Israel, even though he sells them to be burnt at anti-Israeli rallies. Flag-making has been a growth business for Abu Dayya for years, thanks to orders by Palestinian militant groups for national flags and banners bearing the symbols of armed factions. Last year, he said the Palestinian Authority ordered 60,000 flags ahead of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Workers at one factory stitched some 3,000 pennants a day. While the flag merchant said the Danish cartoons upset him, he urged fellow Gazans not to punish Danish citizens collectively, citing their humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.