Daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten is facing accusations that it deliberately provoked and insulted Muslims by publishing twelve cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed.
The newspaper urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet, after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. The author claimed that illustrators feared that extremist Muslims would find it sacrilegious to break the Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed.
Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper’s call, and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper one week ago.
Daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad said one Muslim, at least, had taken offence.
‘This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims,’ Imam Raed Hlayhel wrote in a statement. ‘Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world. We demand an apology!’
Jyllands-Posten described the cartoons as a defence for ‘secular democracy and right to expression’.
Hlayhel, however, said the newspaper had abused democracy with the single intention of humiliating Muslims.
Lars Refn, one of the cartoonists who participated in the newspaper’s call to arms, said he actually agreed with Hlayhel. Therefore, his cartoon did not feature the prophet Mohammed, but a normal Danish schoolboy Mohammed, who had written a Persian text on his schoolroom’s blackboard.
‘On the blackboard it says in Persian with Arabic letters that ‘Jyllands-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs’,’ Refn said. ‘Of course we shouldn’t let ourselves be censored by a few extremist Muslims, but Jyllands-Posten’s only goal is to vent the fires as soon as they get the opportunity. There’s nothing constructive in that.’
Flemming Rose, cultural editor at the newspaper, denied that the purpose had been to provoke Muslim. It was simply a reaction to the rising number of situations where artists and writers censured themselves out of fear of radical Islamists, he said.
‘Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment in a secular society,’ he added. ‘In a democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a laughingstock.’
It is not the first time Hlayhel has created headlines in Denmark. One year ago, he became the target of criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, when he said in a sermon during Friday prayer, that Danish women’s behaviour and dress invited rape.