On Wednesday, September 29th, Lene Esperen, Denmark’s foreign minister met with ambassadors from 17 Muslim countries ahead of the five-year anniversary of the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. This meeting took place on the day of the release of The Tyranny of Silence, a book by Fleming Rose, Jyllands-Posten‘s cultural editor at the time the cartoons were published. In this book, the cartoons will be featured in a photograph.
The purpose of the meeting was to defuse tensions so that new protests would not take place. In the meeting, Espersen acknowledged that news of the reprinting of the cartoons would hurt Muslims around the world. She emphasized that, while anyone has the right to freedom of speech as long as it is lawful, the Danish government respects all religions and Muslim sensibilities.
These cartoons were very offensive to Muslims worldwide and there needs to be an understanding of this fact. Yes, it is true that depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are generally prohibited. However, the intense, and sometimes violent, reaction in 2005 was directed more to the clearly offensive nature of the cartoons. Thus, the fact that Espersen reached out to the ambassadors and addressed the Muslim sentiment is an important gesture.
Do you think the cartoons should be republished? Do you think the cartoons were offensive? Can meetings like this one alleviate tensions? Please share your comments below.