New Mohammed cartoon book out in Denmark

Last Updated: Friday, October 1, 2010 - 00:03

Copenhagen: A new book containing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed went on sale on Thursday in Denmark, on the fifth anniversary of their original publication.

The 12 cartoons were initially published by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in September 2005, sparking violent protests a few months later in several Muslim countries.

Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose, who had commissioned the cartoons for an article on self-censorship, said he wrote the book as part of a process of "closure", but also in a bid to discuss freedom of speech in broader terms.

"For me, the book ends the Mohammed cartoon phase," he said.

On the eve of the book`s publication, the Danish government said it feared fresh protests. The foreign minister met with envoys from 17 Muslim countries as part of efforts to avert this, while underlining the government`s wish to protect freedom of speech.

Denmark has in recent years experienced threats and been the target of alleged terrorist plots, partially over its engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Jyllands-Posten was for instance the likely target of a Chechen-born man who was arrested in September after a blast at a hotel in central Copenhagen, according to police.

Public discourse in the country over Islam has at times also been shrill.

At a news conference on the eve of the publication, Rose quoted a sentence from the book stating that "the cartoons do not legitimate violence, and the issue is not worth a single human life".

In the book, he describes his experiences as a foreign correspondent in Russia, his meetings with dissidents and their strong conviction in freedom of speech in totalitarian societies.

The book also cites examples of paintings, photos and art that have generated controversy and been banned, including French artist Edouard Manet`s "The Picnic" and Robert Mapplethorpe`s homoerotic photography.

Rose noted that the cartoons were commissioned after he read about a Danish author`s difficulties in finding an illustrator for a children`s book on the prophet. After three rejections, the author found an artist, who however refused to be named in the book.

Following the paper`s publication of the cartoons, Rose has been repeatedly threatened - a fate he shares with former Jyllands-Posten cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew a cartoon of the prophet with a bomb in his turban.

A Somali-born, axe-wielding man in January forced his way into Westergaard`s home near Arhus, but the cartoonist was able to alert police from a panic room.

An opinion piece in Jyllands-Posten said the fallout after the 2005 publication "clearly showed in what direction the world has moved".

Toger Seidenfaden, editor-in-chief of the rival daily Politiken, questioned the book`s title in his reflections on the book, concluding: "When has there been less silence concerning (and more criticism of) Islam and Muslims than in the years prior to and after the Mohammed crisis?"

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, October 1, 2010 - 00:03

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