Danish Newspapers Republish Mohammed Cartoon | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.02.2008
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Danish Newspapers Republish Mohammed Cartoon

Many Danish newspapers and a Swedish paper reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that prompted worldwide outrage among Muslims in 2005. The republication was to protest a plot to murder one of the cartoonists.

Pakistani religious students burn the Danish flag in Multan in Feb. 2006

The original publication enraged Muslims around the world, including in Pakistan in early 2006

Five major daily Danish newspapers, 10 smaller papers and a Swedish daily reprinted on Wednesday, Feb. 13, one of the 12 drawings of Mohammed that a Danish paper had published two years ago and which triggered global protests.

The drawing was a caricature of the Prophet, whose head was adorned with a turban that looked like a bomb with a lit fuse. In republishing the cartoon, editors vowed to defend freedom of expression.

The act was in response to news on Tuesday that police had foiled a murder plot against the cartoonist.

"We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend," wrote the Berlingske Tidende, which reprinted the cartoon in its Wednesday edition.

Police arrested a Danish citizen of Moroccan descent and two Tunisians on Tuesday, who were reportedly planning to murder 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist at the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, which originally published all 12 drawings in September 2005.

Mixed views among Muslims

Iraqi Shiite Muslims stomp on a painting of the Danish flag denouncing the country's publication of the cartoon two years ago

Other Muslims chose a less violent form of protest stomping on the Danish flag two years ago

But Wednesday's reprinting has prompted criticism among Muslims.

"We believe this is very foolish and does not help building the bridges we need," Imam Mostafa Chendid, a leading Danish Muslim cleric, told Reuters news service.

"It will make our young people feel more isolated," he said. "The printing of the cartoon is an insult to our intellectual capacity. We are not against freedom of speech, but we are opposed to continued discrimination of the Muslim minority in Denmark."

Chedid added that his group was considering holding a demonstration in front of the Danish parliament, but emphasized that it would be of a peaceful nature.

"No blood was ever shed in Denmark because of this, and no blood will be shed," Chedid said in an interview with the Associated Press. "We are trying to calm down people, but let's see what happens. Let's open a dialogue."

Following the 12 drawings' original publication in 2005, rioting continued in some Muslim countries through the beginning of 2006.

Three Danish embassies were attacked and at least 50 people were killed in protests in 2006 in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Since then, several young Muslims have been convicted in Denmark of planning bomb attacks partly connected to protests against the cartoons.

According to Reuters, Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service said Tuesday's arrests near Aarhus in the western part of the country were made after lengthy surveillance. The aim was to prevent a murder, which police said was in the early stages of planning.

Cartoonist still in hiding

Danish police close off the street in the North West area of Copenhagen

The cartoonist and his wife have been under heavy police protection for months

Danish media reported that the man of Moroccan descent had been released but faced preliminary charges. The two Tunisians are to face deportation later this week.

One editorialist in the Danish paper Politiken commented that the murder plot was an attack on Denmark's democratic culture.

"Regardless of whether Jyllands-Posten at the time used freedom of speech unwisely and with damaging consequences, the paper deserves unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror," the editorialist wrote, as cited by Reuters.

"Freedom of expression gives you the right to think, to speak and to draw what you like ... no matter how many terrorist plots there are," an editorial in the Berlingske Tidende paper noted, as cited by the AFP news agency.

Generally, the Danish press has condemned the alleged murder plot against cartoonist Westergaard, who has lived in hiding for the past three months.

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