After months of silently observing, the leadership of the European Commission has weighed in on the Danish debate over daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s decision to publish caricatures of Muslim prophet Mohammed.
The Commission’s vice-chairman, Franco Frattini, called the newspaper’s decision to publish the twelve cartoons as ‘thoughtless and inappropriate’ in a time when animosity towards Islam is on the rise.
‘Honestly, these kinds of drawings can add to the growing Islamophobia in Europe,’ Frattini said. ‘I fully respect the freedom of speech, but, excuse me, one should avoid making any statement like this, which only arouses and incites to the growing radicalisation,’ Frattini said to Jyllands-Posten on Thursday.
Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in September as a way to test the limits of free speech in the face of growing fears that radical Islamists could limit freedom of expression.
Many Muslims were offended by the newspaper’s failure to respect the Islamic taboo on creating images of Mohammed.
In addition, some of the cartoons portrayed the prophet as a terrorist, and one drawing in particular—one showing Mohammed with a bomb on his head—was especially damaging, according to Frattini.
‘I am a Catholic myself, and if anyone had created a drawing of a holy Christian symbol with a bomb and a message about death, I would personally take it as an insult,’ he said.
Carsten Juste, Jyllands-Posten’s editor-in-chief, rejected Frattini’s criticism.
‘This thing has become so absurd that it wouldn’t surprise me if the next step would be to take action against Jyllands-Posten,’ said Juste, referring to the junior government partner, the Conservatives, declaring that they partially agreed with a group of former ambassadors and ministers’ public criticism of the decision.