A leading Swedish newspaper on Saturday said the country would not apologise for the recent publication of a Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) cartoon, which has inflamed devout Muslims around the world.
Dagens Nyheter said in an editorial, Sweden “has a duty from now on to defend its principles and present an open dialogue”.
It said offended Muslims would not receive the apologies they were asking for.
Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published a blasphemous cartoon on August 18 to illustrate an editorial on self-censorship and freedom of expression and religion.
The Kabul Times, a religious Afghani newspaper, published on Saturday an article by religious leaders expressing their indignation at this “provocation”, according to Swedish press agency TT.
The publication of the cartoon has prompted angry reactions from Iran and Pakistan, which have both summoned Swedish diplomats to protest. The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference has also condemned the publication and urged the Swedish government to punish the artist and the publisher and demand an apology.
Svenska Dagbladet, another broadsheet, said Sweden was now in a situation “which could escalate and slip away from Swedish control”. Some observers did, however, note important differences with Denmark, where the publication of cartoons deemed offensive two years ago caused deadly riots in several countries.
Unlike its Danish neighbour, Sweden has a reputation for taking in refugees and immigrants, the paper said. Sweden is the primary destination in Europe for asylum-seeking Iraqis, who are the second-largest immigrant community there. On Friday, 200 Muslims protested in Oerebro, a town west of Stockholm where the Nerikes Allehanda is based.
Ulf Johanssen, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, spoke with the head of the demonstration, but refused to offer any excuses to the protesters. “I regret if many (people) felt offended, that wasn’t my objective,” Dagens Nyheter quoted him as saying.