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.
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.