Flag traders see profits hotting up

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The Independent Online

Shopkeepers in the Middle East are making a tidy profit out of the row about the cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed - by buying flags for protesters to burn.

Abu Dayya, a shopkeeper in Gaza, 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 told Reuters. "But this time I was offended by the assault on the Prophet Mohamed."

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 continental Europe and the Middle East, though not yet in the UK.

While normally hard to come by in isolated Gaza, Danish and Norwegian flags are now appearing at daily protests, increasingly replacing Israel's Star of David. Angry Muslims set the flags ablaze or tear them to pieces.

At a protest last week 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."

"I knew there would be a demand for the flags because of the angry reaction of people over the offence to the Prophet Mohamed," said Mr Dayya, whose PLO flag shop also sells souvenirs and presents.

His Danish and Norwegian flags are priced at $11 (£6), which he acknowledged might dampen sales. Many protesters, preferring to save money, make their own from scraps of fabric, he said. Other shopkeepers are selling flags, though stocks are low.

Mr 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.

Mr Dayya said that last year the Palestinian Authority ordered 60,000 flags ahead of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Workers at one factory stitched 3,000 pennants a day.