updated 2/10/2006 11:03:26 AM ET 2006-02-10T16:03:26

Guests: Vincent Cannistraro, Martha Coakley, Jonna Spilbor, William Fallon, Clint Van Zandt, Imam Ahmed Abu Laban, Mamoun Fandy, Raghida Dergham

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, police arrest Neil Entwistle in London, charged him with murder, accused of killing his wife and daughter in Massachusetts. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  The prosecutor says the young father used his father-in-law‘s guns.  The motive, financial trouble.  They say he probably planned on killing himself too but didn‘t follow through.  The lead prosecutor, District Attorney Martha Coakley, is with us. 

And another live TV first, the Muslim leader helped create an international uproar.  He brought cartoons from a Danish newspaper and some that weren‘t even printed to Islamic leaders.  The imam is with us.  Does he support the violent response?

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up, new video of American hostage Jill Carroll has just been released.  The freelance reporter was kidnapped in Baghdad January 7.  Her translator killed.  This is the third tape of Carroll that her kidnappers have released.  They call themselves The Revenge Brigades. 

Now, the kidnappers had threatened to kill Carroll unless the U.S. and the Iraqi interior ministry agreed to release all Iraqi women in their custody.  In the tape Carroll says in English that she has written a letter confirming that she was being held by what she had called the Mujahedeen in Iraq and appealed for help in meeting their demands. 

With me now is Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism chief in the Reagan administration.  Thanks very much for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

Look, again...



ABRAMS:  ... this is as good news as one can receive in this sort of situation, right? 

CANNISTRARO:  Well, I think it is very good news because the last videotape of her appeared with her sobbing and close to hysterics.  So I think what this tape shows is that she‘s composed.  She is pretty much alert.  She seems intense, but she is nowhere near the level of hysteria that she appeared to be in, in the last tape.  So I think...

ABRAMS:  Right.

CANNISTRARO:  ... she‘s gotten some good news. 

ABRAMS:  But it also means that they did not follow through on their threat to kill her unless the demands were met by a particular time. 

CANNISTRARO:  I think there is some reason for the Mujahedeen that are holding her to believe that some of their demands are being met.  And I think that probably goes a long way to explain why we see this tape now, which she seems composed and good shape.  I think some of their demands such as the release of female prisoners are actually being met. 

The U.S. is not doing it directly so they can disclaim any intention of giving in to terrorist demands, but the Iraqi government is releasing some females, so that goes some way to explain why she has not been executed. 

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t the reality that in many of these cases, they don‘t want to execute the person because it doesn‘t achieve any of their goals.  I mean...

CANNISTRARO:  I think that‘s very clear with this particular group.  They want publicity.  They want dramatic impact, but they are playing this out.  That‘s why we see another tape and not a dead body. 

ABRAMS:  What about the fact that it‘s in English this time? 

CANNISTRARO:  Well I think it‘s meant—it‘s directly aimed at the American audience.  That‘s why it‘s in English.  It‘s not at the Arab audience now.  It‘s directed at the U.S. and the U.S. audience, so the U.S.  has basically said that it would not give in to any of the demands, which include the release of female prisoners in Iraq. 

But, as I said, the Iraqi government seems to have released some of them.  And so I think what the hostage holders are saying, OK, we know you say you‘re not going to release anyone, but in fact you are.  And go ahead and release them all. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  We shall see.  We are certainly hoping and praying for the best. 


ABRAMS:  Vincent Cannistraro, thanks a lot for coming on the program.


ABRAMS:  We appreciate it.

Moving on, they got him.  Person of interest Neil Entwistle is now under arrest accused of murdering his wife and 9-month-old baby in what prosecutors say was initially planned as a murder/suicide.  The bodies of Rachel and Lillian Entwistle discovered in their suburban Boston home on January 22, about a day and a half after the husband and father, Neil Entwistle, scrounged up enough money to by a one-way plane ticket and board a flight to London where he has been staying with family and friends every since.

He was taken in to custody shortly before 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time today in a London subway station without incident.  He later appeared in court where he said he will not voluntarily return to the United States. 

Joining me now again is the Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. 

Thanks again for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  So it sounds like the forensic evidence is what finally enabled you to arrest Entwistle, right? 

COAKLEY:  It was the last piece in terms of the decision, but there was a lot of investigation around motive and other information that we had.  And of course, as you know, in Massachusetts we are limited in what we can say, so I have said we really just have some forensic link relative to the gun that we believe was used and we haven‘t said further than that.  But we believe that we had probable cause to ask not only for our arrest warrant, but to go to Scotland Yard and get one there also. 

ABRAMS:  But you also did say that you believe that the weapon that was used was his father-in-law‘s weapon taken from the home and then returned, correct?

COAKLEY:  Yes.  Oh, yes we do. 

ABRAMS:  And it seems that was the key forensic evidence.  But there was also a lot of suspicious behavior and we‘ve been talking about that on this program again and again as to when he bought this plane ticket, when she was killed, why he wasn‘t answering questions, et cetera.  So it‘s not just a forensic case.

COAKLEY:  No, of course not.  And there are lots of facets to it, but we know now or at least we‘ve released now that we believe that they were killed Friday morning and that he was on that plane Saturday morning at 8:15 at a British Airways.

ABRAMS:  What you can tell us about his financial problems?

COAKLEY:  What we‘ve uncovered is that he had some debt in England.  That he owed money either on credit cards or in other forms.  That he moved here in August and we believe somewhat at her urging.  She wanted to move back here where her parents were, her siblings. 

And it appeared that he had some difficulty both generating income because of some of the work he was doing on eBay or other Internet businesses.  We do know that he didn‘t have employment.  He may have been self-employed, but it wasn‘t being successful, and he had some interviews with other businesses.  So our sense is that he both owed money and may have seen himself in a situation where he was not going to be able to generate income for this new house, which was a lease, and a new baby obviously.

ABRAMS:  So he‘s having financial problems and the motive would be kill off your wife and daughter to save money? 

COAKLEY:  No.  I think that it was more a state of mind.  That he found himself—and again this is all speculation on our part.  We‘re trying to find out why this happened.  We believe in these allegations that we at least have accused a perpetrator.  As you know, he‘s innocent until he‘ll be proven guilty. 

But part of this unraveling of the story is to find out why, what was going on in his head, if he did this to cause him to do it.  But someone who has financial difficulties and as we said may have thought there‘s no way out of this or at least I don‘t see a way out of it, even though other people might have, thought that he might have killed his wife, his child.  And we believe there‘s some inferences to be drawn that he might—plan to kill himself but he did not do that. 

ABRAMS:  I was going to ask you about that.  Can you give us any sense of why you believe that? 

COAKLEY:  I can‘t at the moment.  We do have some information, but I‘m really not at liberty at least today to release that information. 

ABRAMS:  He is saying that he is going to fight extradition to the United States.  Is that going to be a problem? 

COAKLEY:  Well it will mean it will take longer.  That‘s his right.  Of course, it‘s not surprising that he says that.  If he waived he could be back relatively soon.  There is a process.  The British have a process as we do. 

But the fighting of it will really just delay things in the sense that he doesn‘t have a lot of opportunity to go behind our papers.  We have to prove he‘s the right person.  That we have charged him.  But he doesn‘t really have an opportunity to contest this on the merits, at least as I understand the process.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about a report that had come out as the investigation was ongoing from “The Sun” in England.  And it said Neil Entwistle phoned the family of his murdered wife and said I can‘t remember how I got to England.  Is it true Rachel and Lillian are dead?  Is that an accurate report? 

COAKLEY:  I believe that‘s totally inaccurate.  It is not consistent with our investigation or the information that we‘ve received from her family that he ever said anything like that. 

ABRAMS:  Did he say anything to the family that you know of? 

COAKLEY:  What I‘ve said is that on Monday, recall that we discovered the bodies on Sunday night.  On the following Monday, he did reach out to the family and spoke with them by phone.  But again, because of limitations I cannot discus what he said.

ABRAMS:  Did the parents play any role—his parents—play any role in getting him back to the U.K. as far as you know? 

COAKLEY:  Not that we‘re aware of.  He appears to have made that decision and used a credit card to buy that one-way flight to the U.K., so we don‘t believe that his parents were involved. 

ABRAMS:  Do you have any sense how much advanced planning may have gone in to this? 

COAKLEY:  Well one of the reasons that we‘re looking at the theory of a murder suicide is it doesn‘t appear to have been a lot.  The—you know if you had planned it out you might think you would do it better, for instance, but we know that or we believe at any rate that if he did this Friday morning, that he then most likely returned the gun to Carver after that where her parents lived and then spent the afternoon trying to figure out what he was going to do and to buy this plane ticket.  So it does not appear to be a lot of planning in the, you know, sort of leaving to go back to the U.K. piece of this.

ABRAMS:  And so he‘s literally scrounging for money, calling friends, et cetera, trying to get cash to get a one-way ticket?

COAKLEY:  Well to some extent that appears to be the case.  He seems to have been tapped out on resources. 

ABRAMS:  The timing of this, some were saying why wasn‘t he arrested earlier.  Some saying how did it go so quickly, et cetera.  Just characterize, if you can, the investigation. 

COAKLEY:  From the beginning obviously we knew we had an unusual situation on our hands.  But in any case we‘re—we always look at family, friends, people who might have had access.  You know you start that circle because very few people are actually killed randomly.  We did the investigations. 

We started looking at some of the Internet information, getting background, looking at motive, talking to folks and trying to figure out you know what did happen.  I think the investigators, by the way, from our office in Hopkinton did an incredible job.  They had a lot of cooperation from the English authorities. 

And we put the case together piece by piece.  I think it went smoothly.  I don‘t think we had my missteps.  Regardless of what people say, I think the well-being check in the house was—is a red herring.  It‘s not going to be a problem at trial.  And I think it went very well and I think our ability after we got some information on Tuesday to seek an arrest warrant in Massachusetts and then get this as quickly and get him in custody without incident was really quite remarkable.

ABRAMS:  You were really just waiting for those results to come back, right?

COAKLEY:  We were waiting to—we were waiting for some information, which could have turned out differently otherwise, but when we got the information we did, we believe that we had enough to seek a warrant on probable cause. 

ABRAMS:  Martha Coakley, as always thanks for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it.

COAKLEY:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, our legal panel weighs in.  And we‘ll hear from Rachel Entwistle‘s family now that her husband has been charged. 

And another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive, we talk live to the Islamic leader whose actions helped lead to the violent protests in much of the Muslim world.  He brought the cartoons that appeared in a Danish paper and some that didn‘t to other Muslim leaders in the Middle East.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.



COAKLEY:  Sometime Friday morning, Neil Entwistle shot Rachel Entwistle in the head and then proceeded to shoot baby Lillian who was lying on the bed next to her mother.  We believe possibly that this was intended to be a murder/suicide. 


ABRAMS:  Whatever his intentions, Neil Entwistle is now charged with murdering his wife and baby daughter as they lay in that bed.  Neil Entwistle arrested earlier today in a London subway station.  He had left to go to his homeland shortly after allegedly killing his 27-year-old wife Rachel and daughter Lillian on January the 20th

Prosecutors now saying financial troubles may have motivated the killings, but they also believe it was initially going to be a murder/suicide.  Short time ago Rachel and Lillian‘s family reacted to the news. 


JOE FLAHERTY, FAMILY FRIEND AND SPOKESMAN:  The family is deeply saddened at the arrest of Neil Entwistle for the murders of Rachel and Lillian Rose.  Rachel and Lilly loved Neil very much.  Neil was a trusted husband and father and it is incomprehensible how that love and trust betrayed—was betrayed in the ultimate act of violence. 

We are heartbroken at the loss to understand how this happened, but as our pastor, Father MacKenzie, reminded us just eight days ago, God didn‘t do this.  There is evil among us.  We have always been confident that the case would be solved and those responsible would be brought to justice.


ABRAMS:  Joining me now is former FBI profiler, MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt.  You can of course read Clint‘s column, “A Profiler Perspective” on our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com.  Former Massachusetts‘ prosecutor Bill Fallon and criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.

All right, Jonna, so he‘s fighting extradition.  He‘s saying you know you‘re going to have to come get me effectively out of England.  Is that really going to buy him anything here?

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No, this is the one step I totally disagree with.  He really has no business fighting extradition.  All that‘s going to do is prolong the agony.  Procedurally, it‘s not going to help him. 

The only way fighting extradition really helps a person is if authorities have the wrong person.  In other words, if he‘s not Neil Entwistle, then it makes sense to fight extradition.  But he is Neil Entwistle, so he might as well just give it up.  Come on home and fight it.

ABRAMS:  Bill, is this one of those cases where you might have said, you know what, I don‘t even need to go in to motive.  The motive sounds a little weird, right?  I mean the fact that he‘s basically broke and he can‘t afford to pay for his wife and his daughter and so he kills them. 

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:   You know Dan, I think Martha said it earlier in her press conference, which was before, you got part of it here.  It‘s really—she believes—at least they‘re going under the assumption that it‘s really a desperate act.  We don‘t know why people commit these domestic violence cases. 

It does seem they‘re taking us away from the double life of the Scott Peterson type homicides and that they‘re saying that this might have been a happy family.  It might have been somebody that things were going fine with.  In fact, if you heard a little more of the press conference they don‘t even think that the wife, now deceased wife, in fact knew anything about his problem. 

So I think he lived a life of quiet desperation that in fact exploded. 

I don‘t think a jury is going to care about what is the theory...


FALLON:  For once I agree with Jonna.  He should get home.  The only reason he‘s probably staying there is he knows he‘s never going to be going back to England.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, this is what—you mentioned Martha Coakley and the press conference early today.  Here‘s what she said.


COAKLEY:  He did not have visible means of support.  He did not have a job.  We were aware that he had had some job interviews about the time of this incident, so at least at this time we are under the belief that he had no money and really had no assets.  And because his business was failing may not have had any possibility or at least any apparent ability to provide income for himself and his family.


ABRAMS:  Clint, it sounds to me like the investigation went something like this.  All right, where is the husband?  He‘s in England. 


ABRAMS:  All right, he‘s not talking to us.  All right, he bought a one-way ticket.  OK.  That‘s a little suspicious.  OK.  Took the only family car to the airport, would theoretically leave the family stranded, et cetera.  OK.  Not enough.  But when they got that result back that said...


ABRAMS:  ... it was the father-in-law‘s weapon...


ABRAMS:  ... that fired the death shots, that‘s when they said we got him.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, well as you know, Dan, in these type of investigations, we all many times come up with our favorite suspect, most of the time it is the significant other.  But there‘s a big different in the supposition that we have on the outside and the investigators.  They can have the same supposition.

They can have the same drive to solve it, but they have to come up with some type of linking physical evidence, in this case put the gun from the father-in-law‘s collection in Neil‘s hand and put the bullet from that gun into his wife‘s head.  If they can do that, juries like to hear what the motive was, but if you‘ve got that smoking gun, I think that‘ll...

ABRAMS:  Clint, let‘s assume for a moment though—because we don‘t

know and Martha Coakley is being real careful about talking about specifics

but let‘s assume for a moment they don‘t have a fingerprint, but they can show that the same weapon that came from the father-in-law‘s house...


ABRAMS:  ... was the weapon that killed them and was then put back into the house. 


ABRAMS:  How important do you think it becomes? 

VAN ZANDT:  Oh I think it‘s still important to put that weapon—I mean this shows what happens, Dan, when you get a desperate person who is not a professional killer—this guy is not a hit man.  This is somebody whose whole world came tumbling down on him like happens to a lot of people in this country, but this guy chose to cash out all of his psychological assets—in this case his wife and daughter by committing this horrific crime. 

So it‘s going to be up to the investigators to say he lived in the parents‘ house for six months.  He knew of the guns.  He had access to the guns and this was the gun that was used.  Nobody else could have taken that weapon but Neil.  And Dan, he put the gun back.  What a dumb thing and what a great thing for the prosecution to have that gun.


FALLON:  But Dan that‘s what they‘re alleging here.  Remember, he‘s not on film doing that.  And I‘m going to suggest even further, even if they didn‘t have the gun, if he threw the gun in the bay, I still think it would have led to him and they would have gotten him. 

ABRAMS:  Oh yes...


ABRAMS:  Yes, if it had been missing, you mean? 

FALLON:  Right.  I mean...


FALLON:  ... this makes it just that much stronger. 


FALLON:  And again, I think actually Martha made him sound actually a little more sympathetic.  I mean it‘s a horrific act.  I think she‘s trying to say maybe he wasn‘t a monster beforehand.  The family is saying this is evil.  He was a loving, trusted person.  We have no reason to believe a double life.  We may never know.  He should get here.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Jonna, there‘s no death penalty in Massachusetts, so what do you do in terms of trying to offer up something?  Do you try and deal in a case like this?

SPILBOR:   Try and deal?  How about the fact that this isn‘t a slam-dunk at all.  How about the fact that we have a weak speculative motive?  How about the fact that the alleged murder weapon is inside the stepfather‘s house?  I‘m willing to bet, Dan that the forensic evidence that the prosecutor was waiting for was lie detector results from the stepfather.  We...

FALLON:  Absolutely not, Jonna.

SPILBOR:   We haven‘t connected Neil Entwistle with the gun.  Are we to believe --  listen, if he killed his wife and kid on Friday, then what did he do?  He waited around all day, snuck into the father‘s house, put the gun back, then hopped a plane for England.  That does not add up. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.


FALLON:  Oh Jonna for God‘s sakes...


FALLON:  ... who would have done this?


ABRAMS:  Wait.  What about that doesn‘t add up?  I don‘t understand. 

What part of that is so...

SPILBOR:   That he sneaks after...

ABRAMS:  Right.

SPILBOR:   ... he leaves his dead—two dead bodies...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.

SPILBOR:   ... in his house for a day.

ABRAMS:  Right.

SPILBOR:   He sneaks into the in-law‘s house. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SPILBOR:   Now they were already worried that their daughter was missing, so did he sneak in and...

FALLON:  They were worried.  It was Friday, Jonna...

SPILBOR:   ... put it in surreptitiously. 

FALLON:  It was Friday.

SPILBOR:   Wait a minute.  Wait a minute. 

FALLON:  They were working. 

SPILBOR:   Did the mother see him... 

FALLON:  They had no idea she was missing.

SPILBOR:   ... and say hey where is my daughter?  No, I don‘t know where your daughter is, but let me just return your gun before I hop the plane to England.

FALLON:  No, wait...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait...

FALLON:  The evidence here, Dan, is nobody knew where they were on Friday. 

Nobody knew they were murdered on Friday...


FALLON:  Only the person who covered them up, which would have been a loving husband...


FALLON:  ... or a guilt-ridden husband.  He returned the gun.  Nobody saw it.  He had access to the gun. 


FALLON:  I‘m telling you this is the closest thing to a slam-dunk...


ABRAMS:  Jonna...

FALLON:  ... of all my prosecutions.

ABRAMS:  ... what if they found fingerprints on the gun?

SPILBOR:   OK, well Neil Entwistle lived in the house with the gun apparently before they had the money to put security down, to rent this nice new house...


SPILBOR:   ... so he could have handled the gun.  Listen, I‘m the defense attorney...

FALLON:  Jonna, the one-way ticket says it all.  A one-way ticket...

SPILBOR:   Well, no, no...

FALLON:  ... back to England with a baby, a 9-month-old and a wife...


FALLON:  ... and then no concern about coming back. 

SPILBOR:   If you‘re scared...

FALLON:  Bye-bye.

SPILBOR:   If you are scared because you know some goon is coming after you, you‘re going to buy a one-way ticket. 

ABRAMS:  Hey Clint, let me ask you...

FALLON:  And where is that from, Jonna?  Where is the scare from? 

ABRAMS:  Clint...


ABRAMS:  ... as you are waiting for the results to come back from important tests...


ABRAMS:  Is Clint still with us?  All right.  Bill Fallon, as you are waiting for important results to come back in a case like this and you know you‘ve got some evidence already, but you‘re waiting for the key evidence, it must be real hard to see the person who you know you are going to arrest if the right results come back walking around as a free man. 

FALLON:  You know Dan, I think that‘s sometimes harder for the family, but the family probably didn‘t want to believe it.  The prosecutors probably like the time that they could bide in this case because they really got to look at that.  Remember, we had Jonna talking about oh, what was on the Internet. 

I think there were like $3 little complaints.  There was no big complaint.  We‘ve all come up—we‘ve made up this whole story that there might have been people from the outside world.  The prosecution I‘ve said from the beginning probably enjoyed the fact that he was in England versus worrying about who is it out there...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

FALLON:  ... doing this because they couldn‘t get him.  And they—I‘m telling you they didn‘t just get probable cause.  They got enough evidence in their minds to prove this case...

ABRAMS:  Oh yes...

FALLON:  ... easily beyond a reasonable doubt. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Martha Coakley talking about the issue of the guns and the stepfather.


COAKLEY:  Mr. Matterazzo owned guns.  We were aware of that.  We know that the defendant was aware of that.  In fact, we know at least on one prior occasion he had used that handgun with his father-in-law. 


ABRAMS:  Jonna, what about that? 

SPILBOR:   You know what about it?  I still say if somebody is going to off two people that he knows and loves he‘s not going to put the gun back.  he‘s going to get rid of it.  It‘s going to, you know so that somebody can speculate...


ABRAMS:  This is in the handbook on how to kill your wife and kid that you don‘t put the gun back?

SPILBOR:   Oh...

ABRAMS:  Is that...

SPILBOR:   It‘s not in the handbook, you know, Dan, but I‘m just—logically it makes absolutely no sense.  And nor does...

ABRAMS:  Do murders often make sense to you?  Because I‘ve got to tell you most of the time when I see these cases, Jonna, and I look at them, they make no sense to me and it‘s not because they‘ve got the wrong guy.  It‘s because the murder is senseless.

SPILBOR:   Look, none of this case so far makes sense, Dan, and I‘m not buying the motive.  If this guy is financially strapped and depressed, then kill yourself.  You don‘t kill your family unless there‘s some insurance in it for you.

ABRAMS:  Yes...

FALLON:  And I think...

ABRAMS:  And O.J...


ABRAMS:  And O.J. never would have killed his wife and anyone else while his child was sleeping upstairs. 

FALLON:  You know, Dan, I think it‘s important to know here...

SPILBOR:   Good point.

FALLON:  ... that we may never know the motive. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

FALLON:  (INAUDIBLE) these crimes happen all the time. 

ABRAMS:  Clint Van Zandt, Bill Fallon, Jonna Spilbor, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

SPILBOR:   Thank you.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, more protests in the Muslim world over cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper and some that were never even printed.  Up next we talk to the Muslim leader from Denmark who brought the cartoons to other Muslim leaders in the Middle East.  So how does he feel about the violent response?

And the man President Bush used to call Brownie sends what seems like a threatening letter to the White House.  Michael Brown is starting to sound like a big tough guy. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search today continues in Missouri. 

Tommy Armstrong, 72, five-seven, 130, was convicted of touching a child for lustful purposes, the name of the crime, has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information, there‘s the number, 601-368-1740.

Be right back.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the Danish imam who helped spark an international uproar to those controversial cartoons joins us next.  First the headlines.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  The worldwide response to cartoons depicting the Islamic Prophet Muhammad continues.  While we saw a peaceful protest today in some countries, we‘ve seen a wave of violence around the world in response.  In the past two weeks demonstrators attacked embassies in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iran.  Angry riots in Afghanistan killed 11 people. 

Joining me now for his first live TV interview is the leader of the Islamic Society of Denmark, Imam Ahmed Abu Laban.  He was one of the religious leaders responsible for drawing attention to the cartoons in many Arab and Muslim countries.  In fact, he put together a delegation of imams and brought the cartoons and other documents to Egypt and Lebanon. 

He joins us from Copenhagen.  Mr. Imam, thank you very much for joining us.  We appreciate it.  Before I ask you about how all this started, how do you feel about the international response that you‘ve help create? 

IMAM AHMED ABU LABAN, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF DENMARK:  Well, it was not of our attention.  I just to speak briefly, when we reached the Middle East to have been to the top Sunni theologian, Director (INAUDIBLE), Professor (INAUDIBLE), we were not interested in any publicity.  We knew from the very beginning since we have become European citizens that we have to get the privilege of the democratic mechanisms in the proper way. 

Our point had been and still an intellectual one.  It has a religious background.  Therefore, when we reached what you can call it, it did lock in Denmark (INAUDIBLE) and understanding we were seeking the help of academics, some professors, theologians, and the only destination for us was Cairo as have been reached in similar occasions before. 

ABRAMS:  What was so particularly offensive about these cartoons?  We keep talking about the fact that depicting Muhammad in any way is a violation of the Muslim faith, et cetera.  And yet, here in this country, for example, there is a sculpture of Muhammad at our U.S. Supreme Court.  There are representations of Muhammad in various museums.  So is it the fact that Muhammad was depicted at all or is it the fact that he was depicted in a particular way? 

ABU LABAN:  It‘s both ways.  We are human beings.  It‘s like your camera and zoom.  You go from one stage to another.  So no doubt that the impact from the first look when you see this frowning face with black turban and the bomb inside it, in this particular time when everybody—most of the people (INAUDIBLE) Islam with terrorism, no Muslim has the stomach to accept the situation that the most noble man, he and his brothers, the prophets of God like Jesus Christ, Moses and their Father Abraham and before Noah and so on would be depicted in such miserable situation. 

ABRAMS:  But you say in this time and that means that you recognize that this is a time where there is a potential for violence, et cetera.  Shouldn‘t you have known bringing this dossier, in which it did not just include the 12 cartoons that were published in the Danish papers.  You also added other very inflammatory pictures, representations, depictions that have just been sent to you by hateful people. 

ABU LABAN:  Yes.  Well, should we put the blame on media once again in spite of all the advanced technology and (INAUDIBLE) space electronics that information does not people in the proper way.  We have done a professional work within our limited resources as independent charitable organizations.  We collect some money to send that delegation to meet the concerned people personally and to avoid any kind of segregation or spread of hatred and hate.

So we met the man personally.  We were not interested in publicity whatsoever.  Our issue is to be engaged in dialogue and discussion.  But as usual, media is so crazy to find the stories and to expose and to—what you call it—draw the attention of the masses.  So why should we take the blame instead of somebody else? 

ABRAMS:  So wait.  So ultimately—let‘s get one thing out of the way first—you condemn the violence, correct? 

ABU LABAN:  Indeed. 


ABU LABAN:  Yes.  We condemn very bluntly, we denounce and we reject and we put it very clear from our transparent and honest theological judgment that if somebody had been engaged in talk and dialogue, violence is irrelevant.  In my opinion, it is a sin to storm the embassies of Scandinavian countries who have contributed and still to the world peace giving money and aid not only to Palestinians, but other countries all over the world.  It‘s irrelevant to our issue and it is extremely counter productive.

ABRAMS:  So with that said, are you sorry about the way things have transpired? 

ABU LABAN:  Well, if I like to show my love to the prophet, if I stick

if I have stuck to the democratic mechanisms to contact the newspaper to reach the minister of culture, if I try to get the help of academics and theologians, if this could be the reason of regret, OK (INAUDIBLE). 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you one more question before we ask you to stay for just a moment.  There have been a lot of cartoons, depictions of Jews in many newspapers and publications in the Arab world.  Yet, we haven‘t seen this sort of response, et cetera.  Is a double standard being applied here? 

ABU LABAN:  Never.  Never.  A Muslim wouldn‘t be a Muslim.  It‘s blasphemy.  If a person pretend that he or she is a Muslim and they would discriminate amongst the prophets of God.  It‘s stated clear in the Koran.  Nobody should wait to be admitted to heaven if we exclude one of the prophets of God.  They have the same status.  They should be respected.  They are presented to us by the Lord as the ultimate teachers and guide and inspiration to every individual.

ABRAMS:  Imam, if you could just wait with us for a minute.  We are going to take a quick commercial break and we‘re going to come back and continue our conversation in a moment.


ABRAMS:  More of my exclusive interview with the imam who has helped create that international uproar over those Danish cartoons in a moment.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back with the leader of the Islamic Society of Denmark, Imam Ahmed Abu Laban.  He was one of the religious leaders responsible for drawing attention to those Danish cartoons. 

Imam, let me follow up on a question that I asked you before and that was about some of the items that you included in this dossier that you brought to religious leaders in the Middle East that were not published in this Danish newspaper and were probably based on what I‘ve seen the most inflammatory, the most insulting because they were basically hate mail that you had received.

It seems to me now that a lot of the people protesting in the streets, some of the people are particularly angry, maybe particularly inflamed by those particular depictions, not by the ones that were actually published.  And so do you regret having included those additional ones that were never published anywhere and just came as hate mail? 

ABU LABAN:  I like to repeat again that we have done a professional job when we deal with each other.  Documentary is very important.  And you have to make a good job.  So this dossier had contained some articles from the concerned newspaper (INAUDIBLE) and the other newspapers some copies, photocopies of the letters we tried to communicate with different parties inside Denmark... 

ABRAMS:  But what do the letters...


ABRAMS:  ... what do the letters...


ABRAMS:  ... what do the letters have to do with this, though?  I mean what do—every one—every group in the world gets hate mail and it‘s awful.  What does that have to do with the broad issues you‘re concerned about? 

ABU LABAN:  It was done by good faith and sincere intention to tell people in the Middle East I mean this colors that we are living in an atmosphere of atheism and secularism...   

ABRAMS:  Because a few people sent hate mail? 

ABU LABAN:  ... and we appreciate that people do not...

ABRAMS:  Just because a few people sent hate mail?

ABU LABAN:  No, no, no.  We‘re—no, no, no.  No, no, we‘re trying to tell them that you will help if you come to the country to Denmark.  If you have access to the newspaper, if you could draw the attention of some thinkers and academics in Denmark because you have a respect for academic and religious status, if you could do that it would be of great help because the atmosphere is atheist.

And if somebody does not believe in God, so we shouldn‘t blame him if he does not believe in Jesus or Muhammad or he is not willing to show any respect because the point is not clear in his mind.  So that‘s why for good will and sincere intention those threatening letters with what have been available of these drawings have been including in our dossier. 

ABRAMS:  But you must have known.  Look, you are very smart, educated man.  You must have known that including those particularly offensive pictures that people would bring them all together and say, oh, there were these cartoons and there were these other things out there and they won‘t be thinking to themselves as they‘re yelling and screaming and burning things down, oh you know what else, those other ones were just sent by some crazy person. 

ABU LABAN:  Well, I will assure you.  Last Friday I‘ve been switching my television from one satellite station to another.  All imams on (INAUDIBLE) just focused on what we all agree upon.  This—what you call it—fearful features with the black turban and the bomb.  In one satellite station in USA three nights ago I have been watching the program where Mr. (INAUDIBLE) the culture editor was responsible and in the studio they were highlighting a face with a turban—black turban and a bomb. 

So up to that moment I don‘t know what was the turning point when this

what you call it—drawings, which they‘re very awful and inflammatory, as you mentioned, had reached the masses.  But the case is still there. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

ABU LABAN:  We have cartoons.  We have some sort of respect to the position of Prophet Muhammad.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And so Imam, we can count on you to be out there publicly if there are any hateful cartoons towards Jews or Christians in any Arab publications as well, correct? 

ABU LABAN:  We never accept that.  Me, myself when the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” have been displayed in some cinemas in Europe.  I was the first to protest.  But, you know, unfortunately secularism and atheism is gaining (INAUDIBLE) and more momentum in the European continent and that‘s why...

ABRAMS:  Right, but...


ABRAMS:  ... getting back to my question because this is my last question to you.  If we see—because you know that there are a lot of particularly hateful cartoons towards Jews in the Arab world.  We can count on you to be out there criticizing any of these very insulting and hateful cartoons towards Jews, right? 

ABU LABAN:  Your pint is irrelevant.  You are speaking about what you call it holy symbols.  We respect Moses.  He‘s a prophet to Jews and to us as well and we believe in him.  We shall never depict him.  His character will never played on any theater or any movie whatsoever...

ABRAMS:  But when you‘re talking about Jews in general...


ABRAMS:  But Jews in general, they‘re fair game? 

ABU LABAN:  Well we have seen in the United States cartoons about Arabs and oil sheiks and this and that.  We take it for the sense of humor.  You can depict me with two horns as a devil.  I will shake hands, smile. 

We spend nice time together. 

We are not speaking about ethnic groups whatsoever.  It‘s the duty of lawmakers to put the limits of racism and discrimination and to hold people accountable when we see any offense. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

ABU LABAN:  My (INAUDIBLE) is absolutely different.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Imam, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.  We appreciate it. 

ABU LABAN:  Thanks a lot. 

ABRAMS:  With me now, Mamoun Fandy is a senior fellow at the (INAUDIBLE) Rice University‘s top Middle Eastern studies, Arab studies.  He‘s been at the National Defense University as well.  Thanks very much for sticking around. 


ABRAMS:  Just let me get your reaction to the comments that the imam was making.

FANDY:  I think the imam shied away about you know the—condemning the cartoons and the Arab press about depicting Jews and so on, and it‘s a bad sign.  And I think we should be condemning these cartoons that are racist and anti-Semitic and so on.  The problem here, Daniel, is that first of all even the Israelis themselves today because they know the meaning of what Muhammad is all about for Muslims, despite their 50-year deadly war with the Arab world never treaded that dangerous territory. 

They never depicted Muhammad in any Israeli newspaper.  They might depict Arabs...


FANDY:  Arabs might depict Jews, but despite that conflict because they know what it means.  The Danes or the Danish newspaper had no clue what Muhammad means for Muslims and that‘s the major problem.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Also with us is Raghida Dergham, “Al-Hayat”, a senior diplomatic correspondent.  But you know my problem with that, Raghida, and it‘s something you and I have talked about before, is the notion that the world, the free press, et cetera, has to be more sensitive to one religion than another because of particular sensitivities. 

RAGHIDA DERGHAM, “AL-HAYAT” SR. DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT:  I think the press, we have to be responsible.  Honestly, I think sometimes we somehow take it for granted and we do not realize that we step on some taboos we shouldn‘t provoke for no purpose.  What imam said that struck me and I hope that we hold him to his word on this, is calling the attacks on the embassies a sin. 

And that is important.  Let‘s hear that in sermons.  I think all imams should say that...


DERGHAM:  ... it‘s a sin to attack these embassies, Scandinavian embassies or otherwise.  He was clear in condemning the violence.  And in a way, he was credible and he was believable when he said that was not my intention. 


DERGHAM:  But on the other hand, he really is someone and he made it clear that his defense of religion against secularists...


DERGHAM:  ... was really something to notice. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Mamoun Fandy and Raghida Dergham, I apologize to both of you.  I wanted to spend more time with you, but I just—I let that interview with the imam go a little bit too long. 

DERGHAM:  Understandable...


ABRAMS:  So thank you both very much. 

FANDY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  And we‘ll be back in a moment. 


ABRAMS:  Time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Violent protests continue across the Middle East and Europe over those satire cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the debate continues here in the U.S. about whether the media should be airing or showing the cartoons. 

In Austin, Texas, Steve Moneh, “One may see fit to condemn the violence as well as the irresponsible provocation demonstrated by those newspapers.  For example, does anyone truly believe that a widely published caricature depicting Jesus Christ on a cross in a Rambo outfit firing machine guns at people will not certainly provoke violent protests around the world?”

No, I don‘t think it would provoke violence.  Outrage, yes.  Widespread violence?  No and you can‘t equate the actions of the newspapers to the violence.  I‘m not going to let people get away with that.

And in my “Closing Argument” last night I did a lighthearted piece on the new report that suggests low fat diets do not reduce the risk of getting cancer or heart disease and said the study does not change the need to eat well, but I decided to celebrate with some chocolate.  Some of you just thought that was horrible. 

Debbie Richardson in Phoenix, Arizona, “Your uneducated commentary is a perfect example of what dieticians and other medical practitioners who are battling the obesity epidemic are fighting every single day.”

Oh Debbie, lighten up.  Everything I said was accurate.  I also pointed out the need to continue eating well.  Take it up with the people who did the study even though I pointed out the possible pitfalls with that as well. 

Liz in San Diego, “Why do you eat chocolate in front of people who may be allergic to it, as I am?  You also ate it in front of thousands of diabetics.  Irresponsible!”

Finally, Samantha Tayler in Reno, Nevada, “Dan, why did you have to eat a piece of chocolate on TV?  Now I‘m craving chocolate and I‘ll blame you for the extra pound.”

(INAUDIBLE) who knew?  Your e-mails abramsreport—one word—

@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.  Be right back. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back and we‘re just about out of time.  I had done a whole “Closing Argument” on the former FEMA director sending what sounded like almost a threatening letter to President Bush about getting him a lawyer.  I‘m going to put it—post it on the Web site.  Maybe I‘ll do it tomorrow unless I think of something more interesting by then.

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  I‘ll see you tomorrow.




The Abrams Report each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET


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