The Danish Foreign ministry has warned Danish citizens not to travel to Pakistan. The Pakistani religious party Jamaat-e-Islami and its youth branch have offered a bounty for anyone who murders the Danish illustators who drew cartoons of Muhammad for the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Last September the newspaper asked twelve cartoonists to draw the pictures to test whether there was freedom of expression in Denmark after a Danish author had complained that no-one was willing to illustrate his Muhammad book. Muslims regard it as blasphemy to depict the Prophet.
As a consequence the offices of Jyllands-Posten have to be protected by security guards after receiving bomb threats, and some cartoonists went into hiding after receiving death threats. Muslims and Muslim organizations, both in Denmark and abroad (including Pakistan), protested the publication of the pictures. In October ambassadors from eleven Muslim countries sent a letter to the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, demanding that he see to it that Jyllands-Posten apologize for the publication.
Rasmussen refused to discuss the matter since Denmark recognizes freedom of expression and freedom of the press. He said that those who felt offended by the pictures could take their case to the courts. The ambassadors did not settle for this argument and had a meeting with some Danish politicians in order to put pressure on Rasmussen. After the meeting it was announced that the Organisation of the Islamic Conference would take the matter into its hands. The organisation, representing 56 member states, subsequently sent a letter of protest to the Danish government.
The bounty now offered by the Jamaat-e-Islami for the murder of the cartoonists is 50,000 Danish crowns (6,725 euros). However, the party wrongly thinks that only one person drew all 12 pictures. The Danish ambassador in Pakistan, Bent Wigotski, said the Pakistani party had also demanded that all Danish diplomats should be expelled from Pakistan. Wigotski, however, stressed that there are no plans to evacuate the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, despite receiving hundreds of angry protest letters from Muslims.
Wigotski admitted that the situation was nevertheless serious. “They might want to get to the Danish illustrators, but if they cannot reach them, they could make do with a scapegoat,” he said. The embassy has warned that the scapegoat could be anybody and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel advisory for Pakistan warning Danes not to visit the country. The ambassador of Pakistan in Denmark, Javed Qureshi, who was one of the 11 ambassadors who signed the letter to Rasmussen, denounced the death threats. “No Pakistani government would ever support such a thing, I’m sure that the current government will take action in the case. I can’t imagine that a bounty like that doesn’t violate Pakistani legislation,” he said.