Saturday, January 28, 2006

Danish paper getting heat from trade group to grovel.

Media: Unlike the cowardly government of Norway who cracked like an egg shell, Denmark's government still believes in freedom of expression and the press. Danish trade group looking after its dollars now wants the paper to grovel.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Denmark's main industry organization, fearing a loss of business in the Muslim world, sought to distance itself Friday from a newspaper that published contentious drawings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The Confederation of Danish Industries urged Jyllands-Posten to explain its decision to publish the cartoons on Sept. 30 last year. "Time has come for Jyllands-Posten to use its freedom of speech to explain how it views the fact that the paper's Muhammad drawings have offended large groups of people," the group's head, Hans Skov Christensen, wrote in a letter to the daily. The caricatures have sparked a wave of denunciations across the Islamic world and from Muslim leaders in Denmark. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry. In Iraq on Friday, thousands of people condemned the caricatures during weekly prayer services and demanded legal action be taken against the newspaper. Skov Christensen said Danish companies faced repercussions this week from customers in the Middle East, including product boycotts, dropped orders, and canceled business meetings. The confederation claims the Middle East accounts for annual sales of at least $816 million for Danish companies. Danish-based Arla Foods, Europe's largest dairy group, said it had noted sales dropping in Saudi Arabia because of protests over the drawings. "We are sorry if Muslims have been offended in their faith. It was not the intention," Carsten Juste, Jyllands-Posten's editor in chief, told The Associated Press. "What we did, we did within the constitution, the Danish penal code and international conventions." The paper says it invited illustrators to depict the prophet to challenge what it perceived was a tendency of self-censorship among artists dealing with issues related to Islam. One drawing showed Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb; another portrayed him with a bushy gray beard and holding a sword; and a third pictured a middle-aged prophet standing in the desert with a walking stick in front of a donkey. Denmark's government has repeatedly rejected calls to intervene in the matter, saying the government has no say over media.

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