Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Denmark cartoon update.

EU: Everyone is saying sorry for offending, but thankfully still not backing down from freedom of speech, press and expression yet. But we did get the predictable bomb threat.

On Monday, Carsten Juste, the editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the 12 drawings, apologized for the "fact that the cartoons undeniably offended many Muslims." Despite that statement, the offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and in the northern town of Aarhus, were evacuated after a bomb threat today, Agence France-Presse reported. "At approximately three minutes past 5, an English-speaking person gave a message that there would be a bomb attack at the Jyllands-Posten offices 10 minutes after," a Copenhagen police spokesman, Flemming Munch, told the agency. The Norwegian publication Magazinet also said today that it "regretted if the drawings offended Muslims." But the Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, told a Norwegian news agency, "we will not apologize because in a country like Norway, which guarantees the freedom of expression, we cannot apologize for what the newspapers print." "But I am sorry that this may have hurt many Muslims," he added. In Copenhagen, Prime Minister Rasmussen sought a similar balance, saying: "I want to emphasize that in Denmark we attach fundamental importance to the freedom of expression, which is a vital and indispensable part of a democratic society." "This being said, I would like to stress as my personal opinion that I deeply respect the religious feelings of other people," Mr. Rasmussen added. "Consequently, I would never myself have chosen to depict religious symbols in this way." Though his comments fell short of the official apology sought by governments and Islamic groups abroad, some Islamic leaders in Denmark said the actions by the Danish newspaper and the prime minister were enough. "We will in clear terms thank the prime minister and Jyllands-Posten for what they have done," Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Islamic Religious Community in Denmark, told Reuters.
Flemming Rose puts it more clearly.
THE Danish editor who brought the fury of the Muslim world on his country by printing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad defiantly declared yesterday: “We do not apologise for printing the cartoons. It was our right to do so.” As protests continued for a second day in Gaza with shouts of “Death to Denmark”, Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the centre-right daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, sat in his book-lined office declaring his surprise at the reaction. He said that he had to stand his ground because, as in the Salman Rushdie affair, freedom of speech was being threatened. “There is a lot at stake. It would be very naive to think this is only about Jyllands-Posten and 12 cartoons and apologising or not apologising. “This is about standing for fundamental values that have been the (foundation) for the development of Western democracies over several hundred years, and we are now in a situation where those values are being challenged,” he said. “I think some of the Muslims who have reacted very strongly to these cartoons are being driven by totalitarian and authoritarian impulses, and the nature of these impulses is that if you give in once they will just put forward new requirements.”

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