Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Former Danish diplomats play the role of cowards

EU: Freedom of expression and the press takes on a different meaning in Denmark.

The Danish cartoons found insulting to the Prophet Mohammed caused Denmark's 22 former ambassadors to react strongly. In a joint declaration they issued the ambassadors said: "What was done is a violation of Islamic tradition. We are extremely perturbed," harsh retorts against Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen followed: "Using freedom against the beliefs of a minority should not be our stance." Recent events in Denmark have been found outrageous by the world; particularly the cartoons including insult to the Prophet Mohammed published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten on September 30. The cartoons caused a strong reaction in the Muslim world, in Turkish public opinion as well as from many international institutions. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, rejecting the demand for talks made by 12 Muslim countries' ambassadors in Copenhagen including Turkey's, supported the cartoons publication on grounds of "freedom of press and expression". The Council of Europe, concerned about the developments, warned the Danish government last week against publications provoking enmity and an interesting protest rose from inside Denmark. Twenty-two former Danish ambassadors issued a joint declaration in the country's bestselling newspaper the Politiken. Rasmussen and the newspaper Jyllands Posten were severely criticized in the declaration, underlining that freedom of expression cannot be used in a way to offend Muslims. The retired ambassadors openly expressed their concerns about the recent developments against Muslims in Denmark, also reacted against the Prime Minister's refusal for the talks requested by the ambassadors of 12 Muslim countries: "Emotional injuries can be best treated by communication. We are concerned by the fact that the Prime Minister and the newspaper Jyllands Posten said there is nothing to treat and rejected the demand for talks." The declaration was also signed by Hans Henrik Bruun, who served as ambassador to Ankara in 1987. Another ambassador, Ole Bierring, spoke to Zaman and said Rasmussen disgraced Denmark in front of other countries. Herluf Hansen said "Freedom is fine but this has been exaggerated. If Muslims were replaced by Jews in this incident, many people would see this as a problem. Gentlemanliness has no price." Following the newspaper’s publication of the cartoons, the ambassadors to Copenhagen of 12 Muslim countries including Turkey, had asked the Dutch Prime Minister that the newspaper that offended Muslims to apologize to them. Rasmussen had said "The press is free in Denmark, nobody may interfere. If there has been an insulting publication, then the issue must be dealt by the courts," and also rejected the ambassadors' demand of an appointment. Though Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a visit to Copenhagen on November 15 condemned the issue by saying "My sacred values come before the freedom of expression," Rasmussen did not concede his position.
The Council of Europe warned the Copenhagen administration last week about the publishing of the cartoons containing the Prophet Mohammed, and reprimanded the Danish press about defending the act under the freedom of press. The Council underscored xenophobic publications in the Netherlands are escalating and urged the government to take action.
I seriously doubt if Jews were used in the cartoons they would be much of a fuss by these ambasses since they would only brush off Israel's concerns instead of having to deal with Turkey and the Muslim world who they view as important trade partners. Honestly they are scared of some Islamic terrorist coming along and blowing them up. More from Brussels Journal.
Instead of supporting their government, 22 prominent Danish former career diplomats criticised Prime Minister Rasmussen this week. In an open letter to the national daily Politiken the former diplomats write: “It would have suited democracy in Denmark if the prime minister had met the request for a meeting that was put forth by eleven foreign ambassadors from Muslim countries.” According to the former diplomats Denmark is witnessing “a sharpening of tone, which can only be regarded as persecution of the minority that consists of Muslim citizens.” Their criticism, however, did not impress Rasmussen. The letter by the former ambassadors was “very misguided and sad,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman Troels Lund Poulsen said yesterday. “They are willing to compromise freedom of expression by taking a moral stand. The Muslim ambassadors wanted a dialogue with Rasmussen in order to stop the drawings. It doesn’t serve any purpose to enter into a dialogue with people who want to stop the democratic process. Rasmussen did the only right thing,” Poulsen said. Meanwhile, Carsten Juste, Jyllands-Posten’s editor, has welcomed efforts to end the cartoon controversy. Moderate Muslim groups in Denmark proposed to stop demanding apologies from JP and organise a “celebration” to show the moderate side of Islam. Juste welcomed the idea. “I consider it a chance at reconciliation,” he said. “While it’s important to protect freedom of speech, there is also a need among Danes to gain more knowledge of Islam and Mohammed.”
Bravo to Rasmussen for understanding what is really at stake here.

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