PARIS, France (AP) — A French newspaper on Wednesday republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that caused uproar in the Muslim world when they were printed in a Danish daily, saying that religious dogma has no place in a secular society.
The drawings, first printed September 30 in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and reprinted in a Norwegian magazine last month, sparked boycotts and demonstrations against Denmark throughout the Muslim world.
Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry.
The front page of the daily France Soir on Wednesday carried the headline “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God” and a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud. Inside, the paper reran the drawings.
Germany’s Welt daily also printed one of the drawings on its front page on Wednesday, arguing that a “right to blasphemy” was anchored in democratic freedoms.
“The appearance of the 12 drawings in the Danish press provoked emotions in the Muslim world because the representation of Allah and his prophet is forbidden. But because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society, France Soir is publishing the incriminating caricatures,” France Soir said.
The Danish daily published the cartoons after asking artists to depict Islam’s prophet to challenge what it perceived was a tendency of self-censorship among artists dealing with issues related to Islam. The depictions include incendiary images such as Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse.
Jyllands-Posten, Page 3 of culture section, Sept., 2005.
The cartoons can be viewed here.
The Jyllands-Posten apologized on Monday, saying it regretted offending Muslims. It said it had not broken Danish law by printing the cartoons, however its editor said Wednesday that he would not have printed them had he foreseen the consequences.
“Had we known that it would lead to boycotts and Danish lives being endangered as we have seen, then the answer is ‘no’,” the newspaper’s editor, Carsten Juste told The Associated Press.
France’s Muslim community, Western Europe’s largest with an estimated 5 million people, was muted in its reaction to the drawings when they appeared in the Danish newspaper, and French Muslim leaders had no immediate reaction to the publication in France Soir.
French government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope struck a neutral tone on the issue — reiterating France’s commitment to freedom of expression and secularism while also urging respect of all faiths.
“It’s a country that is attached to the principle of secularism, and this freedom clearly should be exercised in a spirit of tolerance and respect for the beliefs of everyone,” he said after a government meeting.
France Soir, founded in 1944 and now owned by an Egyptian magnate, has been struggling to stay afloat and bring in readers in recent years.
French theologian Sohaib Bencheikh spoke out against the pictures in a column in France Soir accompanying them Wednesday.
“One must find the borders between freedom of expression and freedom to protect the sacred,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, the West has lost its sense of the sacred.”
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