Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Danish Boycott Crisis Grows

According to this BBC report, the Danish paper in question has now apologized for offending Muslims, while defending its right to free speech. Here's the text of the apology (ht lgf):
Honourable Citizens of The Muslim World

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten is a strong proponent of democracy and freedom of religion. The newspaper respects the right of any human being to practise his or her religion. Serious misunderstandings in respect of some drawings of the Prophet Mohammed have led to much anger and, lately, also boycott of Danish goods in Muslim countries.

Please allow me to correct these misunderstandings.

On 30 September last year, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten published 12 different cartoonists' idea of what the Prophet Mohammed might have looked like. The initiative was taken as part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark.

In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.

Since then a number of offensive drawings have circulated in The Middle East which have never been published in Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten and which we would never have published, had they been offered to us. We would have refused to publish them on the grounds that they violated our ethical code.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten attaches importance to upholding the highest ethical standards based upon the respect of our fundamental values. It is so much more deplorable, therefore, that these drawings were presented as if they had anything to do with Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

Maybe because of culturally based misunderstandings, the initiative to publish the 12 drawings has been interpreted as a campaign against Muslims in Denmark and the rest of the world.

I must categorically dismiss such an interpretation. Because of the very fact that we are strong proponents of the freedom of religion and because we respect the right of any human being to practise his or her religion, offending anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unthinkable to us.

That this happened was, consequently, unintentional.

As a result of the debate that has been going on about the drawings, we have met with representatives of Danish Muslims, and these meetings were held in a positive and constructive spirit. We have also sought in other ways to initiate a fruitful dialogue with Danish Muslims.

It is the wish of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten that various ethnic groups should live in peace and harmony with each other and that the debates and disagreements which will always exist in a dynamic society should do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

For that reason, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has published many articles describing the positive aspects of integration, for example in a special supplement entitled The Contributors. It portrayed a number of Muslims who have had success in Denmark. The supplement was rewarded by the EU Commission.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten takes exception to symbolic acts suited to demonise specific nationalities, religions and ethnic groups.

Sincerely yours
Carsten Juste
My own two cents is, why such sensitivity to hurt feelings over a Danish newspaper cartoon--but none to sermons in mosques, fatwas against Americans and Jews, and articles and cartoons in the Islamist press making all sorts of offensive statements? Is this a one-way or a two-way street? Does Denmark, or the US, or Israel, now have a right to demand that Saudi Arabia muzzle its imams, and censor Arab media? If so, when will this sensitivity begin to show itself?

Or, is the Danish case really more about an imposition of submission and craven kow-towing to Islam? In which case, it is not only a violation of freedom of speech, it is also a violation freedom of religion--the right to live free from Islamic law.

UPDATE: Here are the cartoons in question, from Samizdata.net:(ht AndrewSullivan.com)