The public prosecutor in the Danish town of Viborg has dismissed charges by 11 Muslim organizations in Denmark against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for its publication of 12 cartoons depicting Muhammad (see them here) last September. Islam prohibits depictions of the Muslim prophet. The charges were brought forward in October. The public prosecutor said the publishing of the cartoons did not violate laws on religious or racial discrimination or on blasphemy. Legal experts say this was to be expected. However, the Muslim organizations are disappointed and are considering appealing to the State Prosecutor and even to the European Court of Human Rights.
Meanwhile some imams, Muslim intellectuals and representatives of Muslim organizations in Denmark have visited a number of Muslim countries to “explain” the matter to local political and religious leaders and media. Their “explanations” were biased and inaccurate. The Danish-Egyptian Dialog Center in Cairo says that after meeting with the Muslim representatives from Denmark the Egyptian press has claimed that Danish newspapers are waging a campaign against Islam, that Copenhagen plans to introduce a state censored version of the Koran, that a Danish film is underway „to show how horrible Islam is“, and that the matter involves 120 cartoons – not 12.
In an editorial on January 1 Jyllands Posten called this “absurd diplomacy” and wondered why the Danish imams were spreading such hatred towards Denmark. Their loyalty is obviously not to Denmark but to Islam. These visits have also caused controversy among Muslims in Denmark. Hadi Kahn, chairman of the Organization of Pakistani Students in Denmark (OPSA), stressed that the group travelling to the Muslim countries does not represent all Muslims in Denmark.
A number of Danish professors said that it may damage the cause of Muslims in Denmark to continue trying to raise international criticism on Denmark instead of using the Danish legal system. The purpose of these visits has been to increase international pressure on the Danish government, but the whole issue has already become a major international dispute involving the United Nations, the European Council, the European Union, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and the Arab League.
Most recently the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) called upon its 51 member states to boycott Denmark unless the Danish government apologizes for the cartoons. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that he has no power over what the media publishes since Denmark recognizes freedom of expression and freedom of the press. In his New Year’s Speech Rasmussen once again stressed the importance of protecting freedom of expression, but also the importance of demonstrating mutual respect and understanding for others. The speech is usually only translated into English, but was now for the first time translated into Arabic because there was much interest from Arab countries. This was seen as a positive step towards easing the tensions.
Last Thursday, Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller phoned Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, in an attempt to ease tensions. The two men agreed that this situation needed to end. Moussa also accepted the Danish position that there should be a mutual respect between religions and that politicians should not interfere in what the media decide to publish.
Jihad Against Danish Paper, 22 October 2005
Cartoon Case Escalates into International Crisis, 27 October 2005
Out of the Iranian Frying Pan into the Danish Fire, 29 October 2005
Pigs Do Not Fly, 17 November 2005
Dispatch from the Eurabian Front, 9 December 2005
Europe Criticises Copenhagen over Cartoons, 21 December 2005
Cartoon Case: EU and UN Call Denmark to Account, 28 December 2005