Free to draw
Chancellor Angela Merkel used her keynote speech at an awards ceremony Wednesday evening honoring controversial Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard to defend freedom of speech. She also took the opportunity to condemn a planned event to burn copies of the Koran as "abhorrent."
Merkel threw her weight behind Westergaard, whose drawings of the Prophet Muhammad concealing a bomb in a turban earned him death threats after they were published in 2005.
"It is about whether or not he can publish his cartoons, yes or no," said Merkel. "Whether they are necessary or helpful or tasteful or not doesn't matter. Is he allowed to do it? Yes, he is."
"Europe is a place where a cartoonist can draw cartoons. That is not to contradict that Europe is also a place of freedom of belief and religion. The respect for belief and religion is a highly valued good," she said at the ceremony.
Merkel made the comments at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in Potsdam, where she presented Westergaard with the organization's press award.
According to its website, the 6th annual M100 event brings together the "100 top editors and opinion-makers" from across Europe.
Merkel also condemned a planned Koran-burning event on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
"It is plainly disrespectful - even abhorrent. It's simply wrong," Merkel said.
Pastor Terry Jones, leader of a congregation of just 50 people at the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, proclaimed Saturday "International Burn a Koran Day."
Author: Richard Connor (dpa/AFP/AP/Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson