Danish Ambassadors: Insult to Religion not Freedom
Turks.US - The Danish cartoons found insulting to the Prophet Mohammed caused Denmark's 22 former ambassadors to react strongly.
In a joint declaration they issued the ambassadors said: "What was done
is a violation of Islamic tradition. We are extremely perturbed," harsh
retorts against Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen followed: "Using
freedom against the beliefs of a minority should not be our stance."
events in Denmark have been found outrageous by the world; particularly
the cartoons including insult to the Prophet Mohammed published in the
Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten on September 30. The cartoons caused a
strong reaction in the Muslim world, in Turkish public opinion as well
as from many international institutions.
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, rejecting the demand for talks
made by 12 Muslim countries' ambassadors in Copenhagen including
Turkey's, supported the cartoons publication on grounds of "freedom of
press and expression".
The Council of Europe, concerned about the developments, warned the
Danish government last week against publications provoking enmity and
an interesting protest rose from inside Denmark.
Twenty-two former Danish ambassadors issued a joint declaration in the country's bestselling newspaper the Politiken.
Rasmussen and the newspaper Jyllands Posten were severely criticized in
the declaration, underlining that freedom of expression cannot be used
in a way to offend Muslims.
The retired ambassadors openly expressed their concerns about the
recent developments against Muslims in Denmark, also reacted against
the Prime Minister's refusal for the talks requested by the ambassadors
of 12 Muslim countries: "Emotional injuries can be best treated by
communication. We are concerned by the fact that the Prime Minister and
the newspaper Jyllands Posten said there is nothing to treat and
rejected the demand for talks."
The declaration was also signed by Hans Henrik Bruun, who served as
ambassador to Ankara in 1987. Another ambassador, Ole Bierring, spoke
to Zaman and said Rasmussen disgraced Denmark in front of other
countries. Herluf Hansen said "Freedom is fine but this has been
exaggerated. If Muslims were replaced by Jews in this incident, many
people would see this as a problem. Gentlemanliness has no price."
Following the newspaper’s publication of the cartoons, the ambassadors
to Copenhagen of 12 Muslim countries including Turkey, had asked the
Dutch Prime Minister that the newspaper that offended Muslims to
apologize to them. Rasmussen had said "The press is free in Denmark,
nobody may interfere. If there has been an insulting publication, then
the issue must be dealt by the courts," and also rejected the
ambassadors' demand of an appointment. Though Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a visit to Copenhagen on November 15 condemned
the issue by saying "My sacred values come before the freedom of
expression," Rasmussen did not concede his position.
It would be different in the case of Jews
Ole Bierring, one of the ambassadors who signed the communiqué, told
Zaman they wanted the public to know about their own opinions.
"We shared our anxieties about the issue that is currently high on the
national agenda. As people who represented Denmark abroad for many
years, we are worried that Denmark might fall out of favor in the eyes
of other countries."
Herluf Hansen, a retired ambassador, defends freedom of speech, and
says: "It is also important to avoid falling into the trap. The issue
has reached the point were it is impossible for anyone to argue. Those
caricatures reminded me of the 1930s. If it were Jews instead of
Muslims, many people would argue that this is a huge problem.
Gentlemanliness is not something we can depend on money to assess. I
cannot see a reason why Denmark Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen
should not say 'yes' to the 12 ambassadors."
Former Danish Foreign Ministers Mogens Lykketoft and Uffe Ellemann Jensen also supported the retired ambassador's statements.
Lykketoft, the foreign affairs spokesman for the Social Democratic
Party, said he finds it difficult to interpret the attitude of
Rasmussen: "I cannot make sense of the fact that a request for an
audience is turned down in a situation where a newspaper's ugly
portrayal of the prophet Mohammed has already created some problems.
Also, I cannot make out why both the prime minister and the newspaper
company insist on defending their faults." Jensen's view of the
publication of those caricatures rested upon "the freedom of speech
that is not mature yet."
The Council of Europe warned the Copenhagen administration last week
about the publishing of the cartoons containing the Prophet Mohammed,
and reprimanded the Danish press about defending the act under the
freedom of press. The Council underscored xenophobic publications in
the Netherlands are escalating and urged the government to take action.
A decision of recommendation taken at the Council's Ministers Committee
asks the Copenhagen administration to intervene in the publications
perpetrating xenophobia. In the decision, the Committee expressed its
view that the Danish integration policy about foreigners feeds enmity
against those with ethnic backgrounds; however, the decision was
rejected by the parties in the Danish government. The Ministers
Committee will re-evaluate if the recommendation decision is applied
during a meeting in May 2006.
How did the cartoon scandal start?
A cartoonist specializing in children's books announced that he would
not dare to draw sketches of the Prophet Mohammed, and that flared into
"auto censor" debates. Following this, the Jyllands Posten newspaper
consulted with 40 cartoonists and asked if they would draw the Prophet
Mohammed sketches. Claus Siedel, Kurt Westergaard, Lars Refn, Jens
Julius, Annette Carlsen, Bob Katzenelson, Füuchsel, Peder Bundgaard,
Abild Sirensen, Poul Erik Poulsen, Arne Sörensen, Rasmus Sand Höyer
answered affirmatively; however, "insult and ridiculing" expressions
dominant in the cartoons by the12 artists. The paper published the
cartoons in the issue under the title "Faces of Mohammed" on its
September 30 edition's culture page. There upon, the ambassadors of
Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Saudi
Arabia, Algeria, Palestine, Indonesia and Pakistan including Turkey
asked the Dutch Prime Minister to take action in the subject.
Rasmussen, however, refused the demand and suggested the ambassadors to
resort the judiciary. An investigation by the United Nations followed.