Danish Minister of Foreign affairs “I did not apologize for the Muhammad Cartoons”

October 14, 2010

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lene Espersen says that claims in Egypt that she should have apologised for the media printing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, are a misunderstanding.

The English-language Egyptian Gazette has reported under the headline ‘Denmark apologises to Musims for cartoons’ that Espersen apologised for the cartoons during a visit to Cairo recently.

In response Lene Espersen says: “I fully refute having apologised… I am always very careful in explaining exactly what Denmark’s position is on this issue. So I can fully deny having apologised”.

Danish newspaper apologizes for offending Muslims with the printing of Muhammad cartoons

Politiken newspaper, one of 11 Danish newspapers that reprinted the Mohammed cartoons, has issued an apology to eight Muslim organizations for offending Muslims – allegedly to avoid a lawsuit. The settlement reached between the paper and the organizations does not, however, apologize for the printing of the cartoons, nor prevent the paper from reprinting them in the future. The eight organizations who reached the agreement with Politiken are based in Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Palestine. Together they represent 94,923 descendents of the Prophet Mohammed.

In August last year, the groups’ Saudi lawyer, Faisal Yamani, requested that Politiken and 10 other newspapers remove the images from their websites and issue apologies along with a promise that the images, or similar ones, will never be printed again. Politiken is the only one of the 11 newspapers who has agreed on a settlement. Yamani says that within the next weeks the eight Muslim organizations will announce what kind of legal actions they will now take against the ten newspapers who haven’t agreed on a settlement.

Jyllands-Posten newspaper initially published the drawings in 2005, but following the murder plot in 2008 against one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, 11 major Danish newspapers reprinted them as a symbol of solidarity. Politiken, which had initially been critical of the cartoons, chose to reprint Westergaard’s drawing and an editorial comment that said Jyllands-Posten deserved unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror. However, Politiken’s statement today said the decision to reprint the drawing of a man with a bomb in his turban was never intended as a “statement of editorial opinion or value, but merely as part of the newspaper’s news coverage”. The apology stated that it was “never Politiken’s intention to offend Muslims in Denmark or elsewhere. We apologize to anyone who was offended by our decision to reprint the cartoon drawing”.

Politiken’s editor-in-chief, Tøger Seidenfaden, says he is hoping the agreement will help improve relations between Denmark and the Muslim world and that “other acts of dialogue and reconciliation may follow”. But the move has been derided by other newspapers, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and leading politicians. Other newspapers which reprinted the cartoon, including Berlingske Tidende, Kristeligt Dagblad and the original publisher Jyllands-Posten, refused to enter into the same agreement with the organizations. Jyllands-Posten editor, Jørn Mikkelsen, called it a “sad day for Danish media, for freedom of speech and for Politiken”. In 2006 Jyllands-Posten apologized for upsetting some Muslims with the cartoons, but Mikkelsen believes that Politiken’s apology crosses the line as it was made as part of a deal. Meanwhile, Westergaard accused the Politiken of giving up on freedom of speech and said they had given into the fear of terror. However, professor in rhetoric at University of Copenhagen, Christian Kock says that Jyllands-Posten apology from 2006 and Politiken’s apology are more or less similar. None of them apologizes for printing the cartoons. They apologize for offending Muslims by doing it. The difference is that Politikens apology is part of a settlement with Muslim organizations.

Opposition leaders Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats and Villy Søvndal of the Socialist People’s Party called the move outrageous and said deals should not be done involving freedom of speech. Not all politicians are deriding Politiken. Leader of Danish Social-Liberal Party Margrethe Vestager thinks Politiken acts courageously by choosing dialogue rather than confrontation. Also the Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen praises Politiken for the apology. He doesn’t think the agreement is a threat against freedom of speech: “Politiken doesn’t apologize for printing the cartoons. They apologize for having offended some by doing it” Wahid Pedersen says.

Norwegian Aftenposten re-publishes the Danish cartoons

After a week of debate Aftenposten decided to re-publish the Danish cartoons Friday 8. The recent attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard brings the re-publication of the cartoons up tp date, says aftenpostens editor in chief Hilde Haugsgjerd. -We’ve all the time defended the right to publish the drawings, and we published a facsimile of them in the beginning of the conflict in 2005. When the conflict escalated and turned international in 2006 we refrained from publishing them.

Liberal Muslims support Danish cartoonist

The Liberal Muslim network LIM (Equality, Integration, Diversity) supports the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and challenges the Norwegian Islamic Council (Islamisk Råd) and the Muslim Student Organization (Muslimsk Studentersamfunn) to join them in a manifestation against religious violence and in support of the freedom of speech.

LIM representatives say conservative Muslims and organizations, such as the Islamic Council and MSO dominates Norwegian media and help create an image of Islam in Norway as traditionalist and lacking respect for democratic values.

Shakil Rehman from LIM is also critical of the Vice President of the Norwegian Parliament, Akhtar Choudhry, for calling the publication of Westergaards cartoons wrong. It’s not wrong, Rehman says, it’s just a manifestation of an opinion. Muslim leaders opposing the publications live in another time and age, he continues, Muhammad opposed portraits of him because he didn’t want his followers to idolize him, but to paint his portrait to depict his humanity is in compliance with his teachings.

Sudanese government accuses Danish director of making Islamophobic movie

The Danish director Susanne Bier is now shooting a new movie in Kenya, titled Hævnen (The Revenge). The movie primarily takes place in Denmark and depicts a young boy’s problematic relationship with his father, who works in a refugee camp as a doctor.

Part of the story touches on the war in Sudan’s Darfur region. The movie tracks refugees from camps in Sudan to their new lives in a small Denmark town.

Bier says the movie has nothing to do with Islam.

But the Sudanese government has released a statement saying Bier’s movie aims to represent “non-existing conditions in Darfur”, and that the movie is being made in the same spirit as the Islamophobic Dutch film Fitna, as well as the Danish Muhammad-cartoons.

Danish PhD-fellow and expert in Sudanese Affairs, Anders Hastrup, stresses that the Sudanese government takes every opportunity to re-describe the conflict in Darfur as a conflict between the Islamic and Western world. Hastrup says: “The Sudanese government is very vigilant and everything Danish is already demonized because of the Muhammad-cartoons so when a Danish director is making a movie about something related to Sudan the Sudanese government blows it up and tries to foster distrust to everything Western among the Sudanese population”.

The Danish minister of Foreign Affairs has answered the Sudanese government by saying there is freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression in Denmark. He underlines that no other Muslim country has provided a critique of Bier’s movie.

To publish or not to publish…opposing opinions concerning caricatures

In Norway the debate on the so called Muhammad cartoons is back on the agenda as a result of the January 1 attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary general of the Norwegian Press Association, is critical of the general decision among Norwegian newspapers not to publish the caricatures. Not to publish the “harmless drawings is not to show respect of Muslim belief, but to bow down in fear of Islamist terror;” Kokkvold says. “The freedom of speech and religion is of such fundamental significance to our way of life that it is of utmost importance to draw the line,” he continues.

Akhtar Chaudhry, vice president of the Norwegian Parliament, says the attack on Westergaard is repelling, and an unacceptable attack on the freedom of speech. Even so, Chaudhry believes it is wrong to publish the caricatures in Norwegian newspapers and asks everyone to keep their calm and reconsider their responsibility not to arouse feelings that might contribute to tensions between different groups in society.

Swedish artist receives threat from Somalia

The Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who in the autumn of 2007 published a drawing of Muhammad as a “roundabout dog”, received a threat over the phone January 4. The caller, who was later tracked to Somalia, spoke in broken Swedish and said that after Kurt Westergaard Vilks was next. Lars Vilks says he gets many threats, but this time chose to notify the police because of the assault on the Danish cartoonist.

Incoming NATO chief pledges to confront religious prejudice, but defends prior position over Muhammad cartoons

The incoming head of NATO Fogh Rasmussen called for a balance between free speech and respect for religious feelings, after a dispute over his support for the right to caricature the prophet Muhammad. Rasmussen, who received objections from Turkey about his suitability for NATO’s top job, said he plans to pay close attention to religious sensibilities and sensitivities when he takes over the post of secretary-general in August.

“I would never myself depict any religious figure, including the Prophet Muhammad, in a way that could hurt other people’s feelings, […] I respect Islam as one of the world’s major religions,” the former Danish prime minister said at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

Rasmussen tried to distance himself from the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, but resisted calls to apologize for them, citing freedom of speech, and that his government could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmark’s free press.

The row over his appointment was brought to resolve after US President Barack Obama guaranteed that Turkish commands would be present at the alliance’s command, and that one of Rasmussen’s deputies would be a Turk.

Bin Laden Threatens Europe Over Mohammed Cartoons

In his most recent audio recording, Osama bin Laden warned Europe of a reckoning for publishing controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. In the message, which was addressed to intelligent ones, bin Laden said that the publishing of the insulting drawings was a greater crime than Western forces targeting Muslim villages, and killing women and children. The five-minute audio message titled May Our Mothers Be Bereaved of Us If We Fail to Help Our Prophet was posted to As-Sahab, a media arm of Al Qaeda. The messages coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. Bin Laden specifically mentioned Pope Benedict XVI in the message, saying that he played a significant role in the publication of the Muhammad cartoons, which he considered part of a new crusade against Muslims.

Denmark: Muslim Woman with Hijab To Run For Parliament

Twenty-five year-old Asmaa Abdol-Hamid announced her candidacy for the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, Folketing. Abdol-Hamid first became a national celebrity last year as a activist who fought in vain before the courts against the publication of the Muhammad cartoons. Turbulence surrounds her candidacy. The Right is outraged and the Left is skeptical about her place in their coalition.