Stating they were taking a defiant stand in defense of freedom of speech, newspapers in Denmark have reprinted one of the notorious satirical cartoons of Muhammed that caused a storm of violent protest in the Muslim world over two years ago.
The decision to reprint, taken on Wednesday by 15 Danish newspapers and one in Sweden, came in response to news that Danish police had arrested three Muslim men suspected of plotting to murder Kurt Westergaard, who drew one of the cartoons. The papers thereupon reprinted that very cartoon, which depicts Muhammed with a bomb in his turban.
One of the newspapers, Berlingske Tidende of Denmark, explained in an editorial, "We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech we as a newspaper will always defend."
Cartoons Led to Violence in 2005
The Muhammed cartoons controversy began in September 2005, when twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Muhammed in a less than flattering manner, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Danish Muslims responded by holding local protests, but when newspapers in more than 50 other countries reprinted some of the cartoons, the protests spread across the Muslim world - featuring death threats, burning embassies, and over 100 deaths. Some of the most violent protests were held in Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza.
Following the reprinting of one of the cartoons, it now appears that Muslim violence might begin anew. Some 50 Islamic student protesters in Karachi, Pakistan burned a Danish flag on Thursday in a show of anger at the newspapers' decision to reprint. "We will not shy from sacrificing our lives to protect the sanctity of our Prophet," one Muslim participant said. The Muslims also took the opportunity to chant slogans against U.S. President George W. Bush.
In Iran, government officials summoned the Danish ambassador to Tehran in protest over the reprinting of cartoons of Muhammed by leading Danish newspapers, Iranian state TV reported on Thursday.
Calling on U.S. Papers
The California-based Ayn Rand Institute saluted the latest publication, and called on American newspapers to follow suit. "Now it is the turn of American newspapers and media outlets to show their solidarity with that ideal, and reprint all 12 of the original cartoons," said Elan Journo, a resident fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.
"Newspapers in Denmark grasp that nothing should be allowed to override freedom of speech," Journo said, noting that few US newspapers did the same. "Their refusal to bow down in the face of murder plots should be a wake-up call to editors in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' Few U.S. newspapers - and none of the leading ones - dared to stick their necks out, let alone raise their heads, during the cartoons crisis two years ago. U.S. media outlets, who claim to cherish freedom of speech, should realize the need to uphold it as a principle without exceptions."