An editor of a Danish newspaper that published the controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons said today that he expects the debate about self-censorship in the media and artists’ fear of offending Islam to continue for years.
The Jyllands-Posten daily in 2005 published 12 drawings, one of them showing Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse. Another portrayed him with a bushy grey beard, holding a sword.
The cartoons, which were reprinted in a range of Western media, triggered international protests across the Muslim world and attacks on Danish embassies in January 2006.
Jyllands-Posten, Page 3 of culture section, Sept., 2005.
The cartoons can be viewed here.
Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the newspaper, one of Denmark’s biggest, had asked Danish cartoonists to draw Muhammad. He reiterated that the decision to print the drawings was meant as a challenge to a perceived self-censorship, not to insult Muslims.
“The drawings have started a very important debate that will last for many, many years,” Rose told a news conference. “In the coming years, this will become a bigger discussion.”
Rose said he “felt provoked when I heard institutions, media and people in western Europe were putting reins on themselves because they were afraid of offending Islam”.
He gave several examples, from art removed from exhibitions to stand-up comedians saying they didn’t want to poke fun at Islam.
In 2004, Danish writer Kaare Bluitgen complained that he could not find an illustrator for his children’s book about Muhammad for fear of retaliation for depicting the prophet.
“It reminded me of what I had seen in the Soviet Union where I saw a society where people were intimidated by the system,” said Rose, a correspondent in Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s.
He reiterated that he regretted if the cartoons had offended Muslims and apologised to them but stood by the paper’s decision to print them, saying it was within Danish law.
Muslims around the world were offended because Islam forbids the depiction of any prophet from the Koran, the holy book of Islam.