Friday, February 03, 2006
Danish newspaper apologizes for Mohammed cartoon
Copenhagen (dpa) - The chief editor of a Danish newspaper that published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed deemed offensive by Muslims issued an apology late Monday.
"In our opinion, the 12 drawings were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims, for which we apologize," Carsten Juste said in a statement on the Jyllands-Posten's web site.
The statement was also sent to the Jordanian news agency Petra.
The publication last September has recently triggered a wave of protests in the Arab region and by diplomats based in the Danish capital Copenhagen, and Danish goods have been boycotted.
Juste said "Jyllands-Posten is a strong proponent of democracy and freedom of religion. The newspaper respects the right of any human being to practise his or her religion."
The editor-in-chief said the decision to publish the caricatures was "part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark."
Danish Imams Propose to End Cartoon Dispute
The Danish imams, who protested the publication of 12 Muhammad cartoons [see them all below] in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September, have announced that they want to end the dispute. For four months the imams and their radical Muslim organizations have unsuccesfully demanded government censorship. However, despite immense pressure (also from international organizations such as the UN and the EU) the Danish government refused to call the newspaper to account.
Last week a couple of Norwegian papers decided to publish the cartoons in support of the Danish paper while in Denmark moderate Muslims, encouraged by the government’s refusal to be intimidated by the radicals, have distanced themselves from the imams. The latter announced on Friday that they no longer demand apologies from Jyllands-Posten for the publication. Instead they said they just want two things: a guarantee from the Danish authorities that Muslims can freely practice their religion without being “provoked and discriminated.” And a declaration from Jyllands-Posten that the cartoons were not published with the intention of mocking the Muslim faith. “We want Jyllands-Posten to show respect for the Muslims. This can happen with an apology, but it can also happen in some other way. We will leave it to Jyllands-Posten to come up with some ideas,” said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman of the Muslim organizations. “We want respect for Muhammad restored and we want him to be described as the man he really was in history, and that he gets the respect he deserves,” Akkari stressed that Muslim organizations are still deeply opposed to the publication of the cartoons.
The Muslim organizations and Jyllands-Posten met last week to discuss the matter. “It was a good and constructive meeting. We agreed that we need to find a solution,” said Carsten Juste, editor of Jyllands-Posten. Juste stressed that the meeting was one step in a reconciliation process which the Muslim organizations and the newspaper began in December.
Some sceptics wonder whether the demands of the imams have changed fundamentally. They still insist that Jyllands-Posten admit that publishing the cartoons was wrong and make amends for it. The sceptics argue that the paper should not settle for a compromise on freedom of expression by justifying itself. Others wonder why the radical Muslims appear to be softening their demand and seem so eager to make a deal. Perhaps the decision of Norwegian papers such as Magazinet to support Jyllands-Posten by publishing the cartoons has made the radicals reconsider. Perhaps they fear a domino effect. Some Swedish papers are considering publishing the cartoons as well. If the Swedish government subsequently follows the position of the Danish and Norwegian governments, refusing to interfere and limit freedom of expression, the position of the radical Danish Muslims, who are looking for international support, will only weaken.
According to a poll taken this week among 1,047 people in Denmark 57% of the Danes support Jyllands-Posten’s decision to publish the cartoons, while 31% disagrees. Young people and men are more likely to support the decision. Almost two out of every three males and 61% of people aged between 18 and 25 years of age did so.
Meanwhile an international organization of Muslim intellectuals has threatened to mobilize “millions of Muslims all over the World” to boycott Danish and Norwegian products unless the Danish and Norwegian government condemn the publication of the cartoons, which is called an “attack on the Muslims of the World and on the Prophet.” In Saudi Arabia people are receiving e-mails and sms messages urging them to boycott Danish products “until Denmark offers an official apology.” The Organization of the Islamic Conference protested last week’s publication of the cartoons in the Norwegian paper Magazinet. The Iranian embassy in Oslo said that freedom of expression cannot justify publishing the cartoons. However, Finn Jarle Sæle, the editor of the Norwegian Christian newspaper Norge I DAG, announced that his paper is also considering publishing the cartoons. He called upon other Norwegian editors to do the same. Sæle says that so far many of them have only written editorials supporting freedom of expression but have not dared to publish the cartoons themselves.
Asked if wider publication will not lead to unnecessary confrontations between Christians and Muslims Sæle said the intention was not to provoke just for the sake of provoking, but rather to confront radical Islam in Norway. Perhaps it is necessary to provoke in order to do that, he said. Sæle wants the Norwegian imams to publicly oppose the death threats that have been sent to Magazinet’s editor Vebjørn Selbekk. According to Sæle these threats are not just directed against Magazinet. They affect the entire Norwegian media, not just one editor who dared to stand up for freedom of expression.
Growing Islamic Anger Over Mohammed Cartoons
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
January 03, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - For the government of one small European nation, the new year begins with a deepening crisis: growing anger in the Islamic world over a newspaper's decision to publish cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed.
The Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten last fall published 12 caricatures of Mohammed, causing an uproar that continues to build more than three months later.
Muslims consider any images of the prophet who founded Islam in the seventh century to be blasphemous.
The published cartoons showed "Mohammed" in various settings. One depicts him wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with its fuse lit, while another has him with eyes blacked out and carrying a large, curved knife, flanked by two women in top-to-toe burqas.
In another, the prophet is shown telling a line of suicide bombers seeking entry to paradise: "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins."
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), representing 57 Muslim states and territories, issued a memorandum on January 1 accusing the Danish government of "indifference" after Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen declined to intervene in the dispute.
Rasmussen called it a matter of freedom of speech, echoing the reasoning of the newspaper at the center of the row. Jyllands-Posten had said it wanted to test the limits of free speech at a time it was under threat because of the influence of radical Islam.
The OIC dismissed the free speech argument, saying in its statement this week that the publication of the cartoons "was meant to disturb and infuriate Muslims, and could not be considered as an innocent behavior falling within the scope of freedom of expression in which everyone believes."
Claiming that the publication "has offended hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world," the organization announced that the governments and cultural organizations in all OIC member states had been asked to boycott a forthcoming cultural project on the Middle East, partly funded by the Danish government.
Last week, foreign ministers of the Arab League mandated the 22-nation bloc's secretary-general, Amr Moussa, to take up the issue directly with the Danish government.
In a declaration, they voiced "surprise and indignation over the Danish government's reaction, which was disappointing, despite the political, economic, and cultural bonds with the Muslim world."
Not only did Rasmussen refuse to take up the matter with the newspaper, he also declined to meet with a delegation of ambassadors from 11 Muslim nations who wanted to discuss the "tone" of the debate over Islam in Denmark.
"As prime minister I have no tool whatsoever to take actions against the media, and I don't want that kind of tool," he said at the time.
The growing pressure - the U.N. and European Union have also waded in, while a group of former Danish ambassadors said the premier was wrong to refuse to meet with the Muslim envoys - appears to have left the government cold.
"Now it is important to stand our ground and say that we have a separation of powers in Denmark and something called freedom of expression," the Copenhagen Post quoted the ruling party's foreign affairs spokesman Troels Lund as saying in response to the Arab League complaints.
Denmark's Ritzau news agency noted that while other Muslim groups had previously criticized the government over the cartoon issue, "the declaration from the Arabic League is seen as the most serious response so far."
An Egypt-based Muslim interfaith group is planning a conference for Danish journalists next March on what it calls "the ignorant and inflammatory portrayal of Islam in the media."
Fadel Soliman of the Bridges Foundation told Islam Online that the Mohammed issue showed the need for such a briefing.
"The cartoons are becoming worse, as if someone is trying to provoke the Muslim community and youth to do something crazy."
The newspaper first asked caricaturists to submit ideas after three artists turned down a request by a Danish children's author to illustrate a new book on Mohammed. The artists had refused, fearing that doing so would put them in danger.
The reaction from Muslims, both in Denmark and elsewhere, was swift. Protest demonstrations in November drew thousands of Muslims, who account for three percent of the country's 5.4 million people.
Jyllands-Posten reported receiving death threats and several of the cartoonists went into hiding.
As far away as Pakistan, local media carried reports saying Islamists were offering rewards to anyone who killed the cartoonists. The reports prompted the Danish government to amend a travel warning, advising citizens planning visits to Pakistan.
The Morocco-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says its 51 member states will boycott Denmark because of "the aggressive campaign waged against Islam and its Prophet."
After being approached by the OIC, U.N. high commissioner for human rights Louise Arbour told the Islamic bloc in a letter that she had asked U.N. experts in religious and race issues to investigate.
"I understand your concerns and would like to emphasize that I regret any statement or act that could express a lack of respect for the religion of others," Arbour said.
Franco Frattini, the vice president of the European Union's executive Commission, told the Jyllands-Posten in the run-up to Christmas that while he "fully" respected freedom of speech, the cartoons were adding to "growing Islamophobia" in Europe.
The daily's editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, said after Frattini's criticism that the situation had become "absurd."
Earlier, Juste said: "If we apologize, we go against the freedom of speech that generations before us have struggled to win."