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Jyllands-Posten: The story behind the drawings

Personal comment: This article is brought in its entirety as it is absolutely essential reading for anybody who wants to get the context and the story behind the pictures right.

The article is from Jyllands-Posten and can also be read here.

The story behind the Jyllands-Posten drawings of the prophet Mohammed began in late September 2005.

Journalists working for Jyllands-Posten became aware of several instances of writers and artists in Denmark and abroad practising self-censorship for fear of offending prominent Muslims.

Danish author Kaare Bluitken wrote a primarily educational children's book about the prophet Mohammed, but ran into problems trying to find an illustrator. Certain interpretations of Islam find it inappropriate or directly forbid pictures of the prophet. Eventually, an illustrator did agree to work on the book, but only under the cloak of anonymity.

Jyllands-Posten published several articles addressing this state of affairs. The newspaper took a position that it is untenable for non-Muslims to be bound by Muslim scripture.

In order to find out exactly how widespread self-censorship is, the newspaper asked a number of Danish illustrators to submit their own personal interpretations of how the prophet might appear.

Twelve illustrators submitted drawings, which the newspaper published on 30 September 2005 as a contribution to the debate about self-censorship amongst journalists, authors, and artists.

The newspaper's editorial staff was well aware that the drawings would anger certain groups and individuals, but the Danish press has a tradition of depicting political and religious authorities in satirical editorial cartoons.

If the newspaper had chosen instead to refrain from publishing drawings of Muslim religious symbols, this in itself could have been interpreted as an expression of discrimination against Muslims.

The newspaper's editorial staff underestimated the emotions that practicing Muslims foster for their prophet, and the newspaper has subsequently apologised for the offence it unwittingly caused.

However, the newspaper has not apologised for publication of the drawings, and it does not intend to do so. Editorial - often satirical - cartoons addressing all sorts of different subjects are a natural part of any newspaper. All Danes, including political and religious authorities, must be able to tolerate appearing in caricature. This is not an expression of a lack of respect. Just the opposite. It is an expression of respect in line with Danish tradition. Moreover, the drawings are not in conflict with either Danish law or the ethics of the Danish press.

Limited protests occurred immediately after the publication of the drawings, and threats were made against the illustrators. The threats were immediately reported to the police, and individuals making them were arrested.

On 19 October 2005, eleven ambassadors from Muslim countries request a meeting with the Danish prime minister, to urge government action against Jyllands-Posten.

The prime minister refused to hold such a meeting on the grounds that the Danish media is governed only by the courts, not the government. At this point, the prime minister also stated that in Denmark freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and mutual respect are also held in high esteem.

In November and December, a delegation of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East to gather support for a protest against the drawings. In addition to the Jyllands-Posten drawings, the imams brought with them highly offensive drawings that had never appeared in Jyllands-Posten and which had nothing to do with the newspaper.

While the imams were travelling through the Middle East, an impression that the general Muslim population in Denmark is subject to insult and discrimination began to ferment. A rumour that there were plans to disgrace the Koran also began to spread.

These claims were completely groundless, but nevertheless served to stir up the ire of Muslim populations around the globe against Denmark and Jyllands-Posten

At the end of January, a boycott of Danish goods in the Middle East began. The burning of Danish flags and attacks against embassies followed.

Jyllands-Posten has posted a message to citizens of the Muslim world on its website. (Link)

Several editorial pieces and columns have been written about the situation, including one from 12 October, in which Jyllands-Posten expresses its regret for the unintended offence caused by the drawings.

Jyllands-Posten's editor-in-chief has explained the newspaper's point of view and the deliberations that led to the publication of the drawings, in two major interviews.

Read Carsten Juste's interview with John Hansen.
Read Carsten Juste's interview with Pierre Collignon.
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skrevet af: Blogger Lizze
8:57 PM

Thx for blogging about this - very good & useful. I used it in my latest blog post.    

skrevet af: Blogger Den Kutteklædte Hævner
11:39 PM

Thanks for liking and linking to my blog :)    

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