Danish Prime Minister Refuses to Apologize over Prophet Cartoons

Four months ago the danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 satirical drawings of Prophet Muhammad; one showed Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Another portrayed him with a bushy gray beard and a sword, his eyes covered by a black rectangle.

The story has been escalating ever since. And for obvious reasons. In a statement Sunday, the newspaper said: “we at Jyllands-Posten feel regret because the issue has reached this level and we reiterate that we did not mean to insult anybody”.

At this point, the situation is more than critical. How did your Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, react? Basically just by – as usual – ignoring the whole situation (one reason being, I presume, that the governments power is more or less completely determined by the xenophobic right-wing Danish People’s Party, which I’ve talked about here and here). According to Reuters:

Denmark’s Prime Minister said on Sunday his government could not act against satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed after Libya closed its embassy in Copenhagen amid growing Muslim anger over the dispute.

The newspaper Jyllands-Posten had not intended to insult Muslims when it published the drawings, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, referring to an editorial on the paper’s Web site in Danish and Arabic.

And furthermore,

Since Jyllands-Posten published the drawings in September, the Danish government has repeatedly defended the right of free speech.
“The government can in no way could influence the media. And the Danish government and the Danish nation as such can not be held responsible for what is published in independent media,” Fogh Rasmussen said.

What is the situation like now? Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Denmark and there is a widespread boycott of Danish products in the Middle East. On Sunday, Libya closed its embassy in Denmark in protest at the drawings. Also on Sunday, in a demonstration on the West Bank, members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened Danes (and other Scandinavians) in the area and told them to leave immediately. And even former US president Bill Clinton described the cartoons as “appalling” during an economic conference in the Qatari capital Doha.

It is often claimed that the Danish government has broad public support for its stance on the cartoons. A recent opinion poll showed that 79 percent of Danes think Fogh Rasmussen should not issue an apology and 62 percent say the newspaper should not apologize. You should know that such an opinion poll is not worth a dime. The uncertainty is most likely +/- 20 percent; people have been asked about something which they for most part haven’t ever thought about; and phrasing the question in a slightly different manner would have given a completely different outcome.

All this could damage Denmark’s reputation for several years – as if it hasn’t been largely damaged already.

More related news at Google News.

6 Responses to Danish Prime Minister Refuses to Apologize over Prophet Cartoons

  1. NoNonsense says:

    Oh, give me a break!

    Months ago, a Danish newspaper published a few humorous caricatures featuring Muhammed, part of a series also featuring caricatures of (among others) Jesus and the leader of the Danish People’s Party, all in the style and spirit familiar to anyone who’s ever looked at the political satire in Newsweek etc. Are Christians up in arms about it? Is the Danish People’s Party? Of course not!

    Nor were muslims when it happened.

    But NOW for some reason they suddenly are. Kind of casts the Bushism “he gassed his own people” (used to motivate war on Saddam a couple of decades after the fact) in a new light, doesn’t it? Hey, we can all be a bit slow now and then. It OBVIOUSLY has nothing to do with Hamas winning the Palestine elections. Of course not.

    Rational onlookers have a hard time deciding what’s worse. Is it the obvious incivility of people who react violently to perfectly harmless political satire which their opponents are constantly subject to?

    Is the obvious dishonesty of those claiming to take offense at something which they know perfectly well is perfectly harmless political satire which their opponents are constantly subject to?

    Is it the stupidity of asking for the prime minister, who had absolutely nothing to do with it, to apologize for perfectly harmless political satire of a kind which he is himself constantly subject to?

    Is it the clulessness of asking for the prime minister to act against freedom of expression because unscrupled, loudmouthed bigots demand that he do so?

    Is it the spineless cowardice of all those who say we should appease the fanatics for fear of terror attacks?

    Or is it just the sillyness of claiming that most people haven’t thought about something which has been in the headlines for days?

    Idiocy and dishonesty all round.

  2. Kasper Olsen says:

    @: NoNonsense

    There is a large amount of stupidity on both sides. But the question is not about the Prime Minister acting against freedom of expression (this is fundamental to our society and not for discussion, I think). And the question should not, I think, be about politics (I don’t like mixing up religion with politics even though that might be impossible in principle). The question is about respecting other peoples beliefs.

  3. NoNonsense says:

    Right; muslims quite obviously don’t respect the belief of the Danish people in freedom of expression.

  4. invcit says:

    What do you mean respect other people’s beliefs? Why should we respect followers of a religion which believe that all non-believers will end up in hell? That, if anything, is offensive. I see little difference between following such religions and being a Stalinist around the time when people were executed or sent to Siberia for not believing in that. The only difference is that we’re lucky that it all happens in a supposed after-life. But really – respect that? I don’t think so. Then there is of course the supreme silliness of the whole worldview. I am sick and tired ot religion getting special treatment, legally and epistemologically. Of course it should be tolerated. But it should definitely not be respected.

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