Death threats lead newspaper to hire security guards

A series of cartoons printed in daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten featuring the prophet Mohammed have angered Muslims. A number of death threats have been sent in to the newspaper, leading editors to hire security guards to protect staff members

Security guards greeted visitors to daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten on Wednesday, after the newspaper received death threats in connection with its cartoon series that featured depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

The newspaper, which urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed, has been accused of deliberately provoking and insulting Muslims by publishing the cartoons.

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Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper’s call and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper last month.

Muslim spokesmen demanded that Jyllands-Posten retract the cartoons and apologise.

‘We have taken a few necessary measures in the situation, as some people seem to have taken offence and are sending threats of various kinds,’ the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, told national broadcaster DR.

The same day as the newspaper published the cartoons, it received a telephone call threatening ‘one of the twelve illustrators’, as the caller said. Shortly afterwards, police arrested a 17-year-old, who admitted to phoning in the threat.

Since then, journalists and editors alike have received threats by email and the telephone. The newspaper told its staff to remain alert, but then decided to hire security guards to protect its Copenhagen office.

‘Up until now, we have only had receptionists in the lobby. But we don’t feel that they should sit down there by themselves, so we posted a guard there as well,’ Juste said.

Muslim organisations, like the Islamic Religious Community, have demanded an apology, but Juste rejected the idea. He said the cartoons had been a journalistic project to find out how many cartoonists refrained from drawing the prophet out of fear.

‘We live in a democracy,’ he said. ‘That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures. Religion shouldn’t set any barriers on that sort of expression. This doesn’t mean that we wish to insult any Muslims.’

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog), Denmark
Oct. 13, 2005

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