Fact File On Reaction To Danish

Fact File on Reaction to Danish Caricatures

It is being alleged in some quarters that the controversy over the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad is somehow artificial or whipped up months later by the Saudis. This is not true. The controversy began in Denmark itself among the 180,000 Danish Muslims. It was taken up by the ambassadors of Muslim states in Copenhagen. Then the Egyptian foreign minister began making a big deal of it, as did Islamist parties in Turkey and Pakistan. The crisis has unfolded along precisely the sort of networks one would have expected, and become intertwined with all the post-colonial crises of the region, from the foreign military occupation of Iraq to the new instability in Syria and Lebanon.

Below is a press record on the controversy, drawn from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a translation service of the CIA that is later released under various commercial auspices, including BBC World Monitoring and World News Connection.

The Caricatures were published on 30 September in Copenhagen.

They provoked a protest of 5,000 Muslims there soon thereafter.

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“FBIS Analysis Oct 05: Danish Media Back Publication of Cartoons of Mohammad
For assistance with multimedia elements, contact FBIS at 1-800-205-8615 Correction: correcting formatting
Denmark — FBIS Analysis
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

. . . The media reported on 16 September that a Danish author was unable to find an illustrator for her book on the Prophet Muhammad, since Islam forbids pictorial representations of the prophet and illustrators were afraid of a Muslim backlash.

The conservative daily then asked 40 cartoonists to provide such pictures and it subsequently published all 12 cartoons received in response, some of which depicted the prophet in an unflattering manner. Various Muslim organizations and clerics condemned the daily for this and on 20 October several embassies of Arab and other Muslim states protested to Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen. Meanwhile, an Islamic group called “Holy Brigades in Northern Europe” threatened both and Denmark in general with terrorist retaliation. Both the editor and cultural editor of the newspaper explained their reasons for publishing the cartoons and refused to accept that they had done anything inappropriate.

– cited editor Carsten Juste saying the publication was a “journalistic project” about self-censorship. Expressing surprise at the Muslim reaction, he denied intending to offend anyone’s religious beliefs. The English-language independent daily cited Juste as saying satire and caricature were accepted in Denmark and there should be no “barriers” against such expression. Danish Radio’s website quoted him as saying he “could never dream of retracting the pictures” (15, 12, 10 October).

– cited Jyllands-Posten cultural editor as describing the publication as a reaction to artists and writers censoring their work out of fear of “radical Islamists.” She said religious beliefs could not demand special treatment in a secular society (6 October). Other Danish newspapers backed right to publish, but some suggested the cartoons were provocative. One editorial pointed to the possible danger created and urged calm on all sides.

– Backing the publication of the cartoons, an editorial in the center-right daily described the fear of criticizing Islam as “really destructive” to society, warning “freedom of speech dies from self-censorship.” Another editorial called freedom of speech the “fundamental core of Danish democracy” (4, 22 October). . .

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Danish Prime Minister Backs Press’s Right To Caricature Prophet Muhammad
“Danish PM Touts Freedom of Expression in Muhammad Cartoons Row” — AFP headline
AFP (North European Service)

Friday, October 21, 2005 T18:26:26Z

COPENHAGEN, Oct 21 (AFP) — Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday ( 21 October) told Muslim diplomats in the country he would not intervene in a row over newspaper caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, citing freedom of expression.
Ambassadors from Arab countries and Pakistan, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia wrote a letter to Rasmussen earlier this week, saying they were offended by the 12 cartoons published in Denmark’s largest circulation daily on September 30 and demanding an apology from the paper.

Images of the prophet are considered blasphemous under Islam.

Rasmussen said in a written reply, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, that he would not intervene in the affairs but said the diplomats were free to undertake legal proceedings.

“The freedom of expression is the very foundation of the Danish democracy . . . (and) the Danish government has no means of influencing the press,” he said.

“However, Danish legislation prohibits acts or expressions of a blasphemous or discriminatory nature. The offended party may bring such acts or expressions to court, and it is for the courts to decide in individual cases,” he wrote.

Last week, as many as 5,000 Muslims demonstrated in Copenhagen against the newspaper and the drawings, which depicted Muhammad in different settings. In one of the drawings, he appeared with a turban shaped like a bomb strapped to his head.

The editors of have stood by their cartoons and rejected the demand for an apology.
“We live in a democracy where satire and caricature are generally accepted, and religion should not set limits on that,” chief editor Carsten Juste said on Thursday.
Islam is the second religion in Denmark after the Evangelical-Lutheran state church, with some 180,000 members or three percent of the population.
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The issue became quickly internationalized, with the embassies of Muslim countries demanding a retraction. by mid-October. PM Fogh-Rasmussen continues to refuse to entertain the complaints. Indeed, he went on the offensive, threatening Danish Muslims with heightened penalites for harassing persons who wrote on religion.

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Danish Prime Minister To Seek Harsher Penalties for Threats to Freedom of Speech
Excerpt from report by Line Prasz: “Harsher Penalties Will Protect Freedom of Speech”
Politiken (Internet Version-WWW)
Tuesday, October 25, 2005 T18:36:27Z

There should be harsher penalties for those who threaten and harass people who exercise their legal rights to make statements about topics such as religion. That is what Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Liberal Party) said in the wake of the trouble over the drawings of the prophet Muhammad.

The government wants to institute harsher penalties for crimes and threats against people who exercise their legal rights to make statements about topics such as religion.

That is what Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference.

“We want to protect freedom of speech in Denmark. We have seen examples of how people have been assaulted and threatened if they expressed themselves, and that is unacceptable,” said Fogh Rasmussen.

The specific details of the bill are still uncertain.

Newspaper illustrators threatened with their lives

The bill comes in the wake of the case involving a group of newspaper illustrators who were threatened with their lives after they drew pictures of the prophet Muhammad in.

“It is unacceptable that legal statements can lead to violence and threats,” said the prime minister.

Since the drawings were made public on 30 September, ‘s name has appeared on at least two web sites that glorify violence, which also have pictures of terrorist targets in Denmark with a message stating that “you will soon regret all of this.” . . .

(Description of Source: Copenhagen Politiken (Internet Version-WWW) in Danish — nationwide centrist daily)

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Then the Danish Muslims tried to invoke Danish law, as Rasmussen initially suggested they do if they thought they had a case.

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Danish Muslim Groups Make Complaint to Police Over Mohamed Cartoons
Ritzau Bureau report: “Jyllands-Posten Reported for Racial Discrimination”
Politiken (Internet Version-WWW)
Tuesday, November 1, 2005 T00:57:57Z
Journal Code: 771 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
Document Type: FBIS Translated Text
Word Count: 159

Eleven Muslim organizations in Denmark have reported [Jyllands-Posten] to the police for blasphemy and racial discrimination.

The complaint was made to the police in Odense on Thursday ( 27 October) after the paper published 12 cartoons of the prophet Mohamed on 30 September. According to Islam, pictorial representations of Mohamed are not permitted.

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, the 23-year-old spokesperson for the organizations that made the complaint, told Ritzau Bureau that the complaint to the police is based on the context in which the drawings were published.

“We have based our action on the article that the drawings were published alongside, and the intention of the article. We believe that it was the newspaper’s intention to mock and ridicule,” Asmaa Abdol-Hamid says.

She refers to the fact that the newspaper’s arts editor wrote that Muslims in Denmark must be prepared for insult, mockery, and ridicule.

(Description of Source: Copenhagen Politiken (Internet Version-WWW) in Danish — nationwide centrist daily)

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We have this from Turkey on Nov. 5:

“In a 650-word article entitled “Everything Fine so far But …” on page 17, Zaman columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan comments on Denmark’s reaction to criticisms from some 11 countries including Turkey of a Danish daily’s publication of “inappropriate” cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad. Alkan argues that while Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen is right “on paper” in citing freedom of the press as justification for Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the said cartoons because the freedom of religious conviction as described in the EU acquis includes the liberty to practice “sarcasm” as well as the liberty to exercise religious faith, “the problem is not how Rasmussen and those who are of the same opinion as Rasmussen are acting but how we should act in the face of this situation. Such disagreements, which appear to be negligible now, will bring Turkey to a dramatic crossroads at one point in a negotiation process that is projected to last 10-12 years.” (Istanbul Zaman (Ankara Edition) in Turkish — moderate pro-Islamic daily supportive of Nurcu Sect leader Fethullah Gulen — Root URL: http://www.zaman.com/ http://www.zaman.com)”

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Then other nations besides Pakistan, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia got involved, including Egypt. Egypt’s government was cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood in the lead-up to the Egyptian elections, so this was a freebie for the secular Mubarak regime. They could pose as defenders of Islam abroad with no domestic cost.

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Says Danish Paper’s Cartoons of Prophet ‘Disgraceful’
MENA
Monday, November 14, 2005 T18:39:38Z
Journal Code: 659 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
Document Type: FBIS Transcribed Text
Word Count: 203

CAIRO, Nov 14 (MENA) – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit rejected anti-Islam approaches in Denmark, branding them as a scandal.

The foreign minister said that Egypt had confronted this disgraceful act and will continue to confront such insults.

Abul-Gheit said he was keen, during the Future Forum foreign ministerial conference in Bahrain Sunday, on stressing the importance of dialogue among civilisations to avoid what had taken place in Denmark.

Twelve cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad in different settings appeared in Denmark’s largest circulation daily Jyllands-Posten on September 30.

The images have drawn criticism across the Muslim minority in Denmark, with religious leaders insisting they are an insult to the prophet and calling for an official apology.

On October 20, Muslim diplomats in Denmark protested against the newspaper caricatures in a letter to Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Egypt is leading a diplomatic movement to prevent repeating such a scandal, said Abul-Gheit, reiterating the importance of dialogue.

Egypt ambassador to Denmark Mona Omar, as well as Arab and Muslim ambassadors, had protested over the drawings, but the Danish government rejected the protest and considered them as part of freedom of expression.
(Description of Source: Cairo MENA in English — government news agency)

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By mid-November it hit Iraq. Al-Najaf al-Balagh, a Shiite newspaper, demanded that the Danish newspaper apologize.

“A 270-word front-page report says that Islamic organizations in Denmark have condemned a Danish newspaper for vilifying the Prophet Muhammad and urged the newspaper to apologize.”

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Egypt’s foreign minister kept the story going in November. This is important because Egypt is a big press center and very influential.

Then it was alleged that a member of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i Islami in Pakistan got into the action, offering a reward to whoever assassinated one of the cartoonists. The Jama’at, which is generally not this radical, denied the report, saying that it believed in a democratic society and so would never do such a thing.

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AFP: Denmark Envoy Warns of Pakistani Threat Over Mohammed Cartoons
” Denmark Warns of Pakistani Threat Over Mohammed Cartoons” – AFP headline
AFP
Friday, December 2, 2005 T14:01:45Z
Journal Code: 1001 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
Document Type: FBIS Transcribed Text
Word Count: 396

ISLAMABAD, Dec 2 (AFP) – Denmark said Friday it had issued a warning to travellers to Pakistan after fundamentalists reportedly offered a reward for the deaths of cartoonists who drew the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

Copenhagen altered its travel advisory for the Muslim country after an official from Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami religious party allegedly offered the 500,000-rupee (8,333-dollar) bounty, said Denmark’s ambassador to Islamabad, Bent Wigotski.

“We changed our travel advisory on November 17. It mentions the fact that cartoons were printed by a Danish newspaper in September and many Muslims consider them blasphemous and against Islam,” Wigotski told AFP.

“We mentioned that the cartoons have been mentioned in Pakistani papers and they have generated death threats against the cartoonists,” the envoy added. . . .

The Danish ambassador said the change in the travel advisory was based on a report published in Pakistan’s influential Urdu language newspaper Nawa-i-waqt on November 15.

The report said that a member of Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing named Shahid Pervez Gilani told a rally in Islamabad on November 14 that “anyone who kills the cartoonists will be given a reward of 500,000 rupees (8,333 dollars).”

The party’s secretary general Syed Munawar Hassan also addressed the rally, urging Pakistan to “lodge a protest with Denmark and expel its ambassador from the country over the publication of the insulting cartoon”.

A spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami denied offering any reward for the deaths of the cartoonists.

“This is absolutely foolish and baseless news. We do not believe in violence and we never had any such policy because we are a democratic party,” spokesman Shahid Shamsi told AFP.

“However, we are strongly against drawing sketches of our Holy Prophet,” Shamsi said.
Images of the prophet Mohammed are considered blasphemous under Islam.
Ambassadors of Muslim countries to Denmark protested against the cartoons in October in a letter to the Danish prime minister.

A previously unknown Islamic group called Glory Brigades in Northern Europe also threatened to carry out attacks in the Scandinavian country over the affair, media reported at the time.

(Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English — Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse)

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Anyway, the allegation that this thing was fanned by Saudi Arabia does not seem to be substantiated by the FBIS record, which shows Egypt’s secular foreign minister to have been among the main fanners of the flame. Minor members of youth wings of Islamist parties in places like Pakistan then got into the action. Nor is it true that things were quiet after the immediate publication of the cartoons. Nor is it true that the Danish prime minister or the Jyllands-Posten expressed any sympathy for the hurt feelings of Muslims early on. Indeed, they lectured them on being uncivilized for objecting.