OSLO - Yemeni activist and Nobel Prize winner Tawakul Karman has defended Islam against smear campaigns that followed the rise of Islamist parties in latest Arab Spring elections, saying that Islam is no threat to democracy.
"All the religions, they respect democracy," Karman, 32, who will jointly receive the Nobel award on Saturday, December 10, with two Liberians, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, told Reuters.
They respect human rights, they respect all the values that all of us carry.
Karman's comments followed fierce attacks on Islamists as being against democracy after they emerged as big winners from this year's 'Arab Spring' elections.
With first elections after the Arab Spring uprisings performed in Tunisia, moderate Ennahda party was the biggest winner with 41% of seats.
Following the suit of its counterpart in Tunisia, the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) won parliamentary elections to form the new government.
In Egypt's first stage of elections, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom & Justice Party and the Salafi Al-Nour party were the main winners, securing the biggest bloc of seats.
Karman noted that the problem was not with religions themselves, but with the intolerant interpretation made by some of their followers.
"The only problem is the misunderstanding from the people who act -- Islam, Christian, Jewish or any other religion -- (as if to say) 'this is THE religion'."
Dubbed the "Mother of the Revolution", Karman said she hoped that the ongoing uprising in Yemen would change the image of her country abroad as a terrorist haven.
"Before the revolution, Yemen's reputation was so bad ... 99 percent they talk about terrorism and (Osama) bin Laden, Karman told Reuters.
But ... after the revolution, you will see the real Yemen, which is peace, dreams and achievement," she said.
Karman has played a key part in protests in Yemen that led President Ali Abdullah Saleh to agree last month to step down.
Last October, Yemen's Karman was awarded Nobel Peace award for the year 2011 along with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her compatriot Leymah Gbowee on Friday.
The star of Karman rose in Yemen after the peace activist was detained briefly during early days of revolution.
She became a key figure among the youth activists since they began camping out in 'Change Square' in central Sanaa in February demanding the end of Saleh's three-decade family rule.
She has often been the voice of the street activists on Arabic television, giving them on the ground reports of the situation at the square outside Sanaa University, where dozens of activists have been shot dead by government forces.
The three Nobel laureates will receive the prize in Oslo on the 115th anniversary of the death of benefactor Alfred Nobel, and will share an award worth $1.5 million.