Independent Media Centre Ireland

The image of God : Europe's media : Islamic Sensibilities

category international | arts and media | other press author Thursday February 02, 2006 10:46author by iosafauthor address barcelona

"the freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the Occidental tradition"

This story began (for some) on the 30th of Sept. 2005 when a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons depicting Muhummad PBUH the prophet of Islam.

For others this story began on the 14th of February 1989 when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini then supreme leader of Iran issued a "fatwa" calling for the execution of Salman Rushdie on Tehran radio.

& for yet others more, this story began with the Quran and that no visual images or depictions of God exist because such artistic depictions may lead to idolatry and are thus disdained. A similar position in Christian theology is termed iconoclasm. Moreover, most Muslims believe that God is incorporeal, making any two- or three- dimensional depictions impossible. This prohibition is extended to the prophets of God. (peace be upon them).
doesn't look like that.
doesn't look like that.

a timeline :

30 Sept: Danish paper Jyllands-Posten publishes cartoons
20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors in Denmark complain to Danish PM
10 Jan: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons
26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador
29 Jan: Libya says it will close its embassy in Denmark
30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office
31 Jan: Danish paper Jyllands-Posten apologises as the Arab states bitterly complain
The offices of Jyllands-Posten were evacuated on Tuesday 31 January because of a bomb threat.

This is the letter being circulated by Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten

Honourable Fellow Citizens of the Muslim World

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten is a strong proponent of democracy and freedom of religion. The newspaper respects the right of any human being to practise his or her religion. Serious misunderstandings in respect of some drawings of the Prophet Mohammed have led to much anger and, lately, also boycott of Danish goods in Muslim countries.

Please allow me to correct these misunderstandings.
On 30 September last year, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten published 12 different cartoonists' idea of what the Prophet Mohammed might have looked like. The initiative was taken as part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark.

In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.

Since then a number of offensive drawings have circulated in The Middle East which have never been published in Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten and which we would never have published, had they been offered to us. We would have refused to publish them on the grounds that they violated our ethical code.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten attaches importance to upholding the highest ethical standards based upon the respect of our fundamental values. It is so much more deplorable, therefore, that these drawings were presented as if they had anything to do with Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

Maybe because of culturally based misunderstandings, the initiative to publish the 12 drawings has been interpreted as a campaign against Muslims in Denmark and the rest of the world.

I must categorically dismiss such an interpretation. Because of the very fact that we are strong proponents of the freedom of religion and because we respect the right of any human being to practise his or her religion, offending anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unthinkable to us.

That this happened was, consequently, unintentional.

As a result of the debate that has been going on about the drawings, we have met with representatives of Danish Muslims, and these meetings were held in a positive and constructive spirit. We have also sought in other ways to initiate a fruitful dialogue with Danish Muslims.

It is the wish of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten that various ethnic groups should live in peace and harmony with each other and that the debates and disagreements which will always exist in a dynamic society should do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

For that reason, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has published many articles describing the positive aspects of integration, for example in a special supplement entitled The Contributors. It portrayed a number of Muslims who have had success in Denmark. The supplement was rewarded by the EU Commission.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten takes exception to symbolic acts suited to demonise specific nationalities, religions and ethnic groups.

Sincerely yours

Carsten Juste
The Danish government said : "The Danish government cannot apologise on behalf of a Danish newspaper... Independent media are not edited by the government".

Then :

1 Feb: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint cartoons

This morning it is reported that the owner of French daily newspaper "Le Soir" Raymond Lakah has dismissed the editor of "le Soir" Jacques Lefranc for republishing and being instrumental in the re-syndication of those cartoons. Lakah has said "he "decided to remove Jacques Lefranc as managing director of the publication as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual". "We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication."
But the staff of Le Soir disagree and publish a full page advert in defence of the freedoms of creative and artistic expression, and the freedom of the press.

Now :

There are no ambassadors from Syria and Saudi Arabia to Denmark, and Libya 29 January: Libya says it will close its embassy in Denmark
the Danish-Swedish dairy giant Arla Foods
says its sales in the Middle East have plummeted to zero because of a boycott of Danish products and "The company has annual sales of $480m there. We have taken 40 years to build up a very big business in the Middle East, and we've seen it come to a complete stop in five days " said Astrid Gade Niels an Arla spokeswoman continuing "Our sales in the Middle East have come to a complete stop - in all countries in the region," "We have found ourselves in the middle of a game that we have no part in." "We have taken 40 years to build up a very big business in the Middle East, and we've seen it come to a complete stop in five days."

As out on the streets of Gaza the democrats of tomorrow burnt Danish flags.
And three days ago the EU offices in Gaza were occupied by masked gun men.

Indymedia Ireland is a media collective. We are independent volunteer citizen journalists producing and distributing the authentic voices of the people. Indymedia Ireland is an open news project where anyone can post their own news, comment, videos or photos about Ireland or related matters.