February 13, 2008 / 9:08 AM / 11 years ago

Danish papers republish Prophet cartoon

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish newspapers on Wednesday reprinted one of the drawings of the Prophet Mohammad that caused global Muslim outrage two years ago.

The newspapers said they were republishing the drawing in protest over a plot to murder the cartoonist.

The republication of the cartoon — showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban — drew criticism from Danish Muslims, who said it would only stoke anger.

A Danish citizen of Moroccan descent and two Tunisians were arrested on Tuesday for planning to murder 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist at Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that originally published the drawings in September 2005.

Five Danish daily newspapers, more than 10 smaller papers and a Swedish daily reprinted Westergaard’s cartoon, which had caused the greatest controversy before. Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive.

Denmark’s Muslim community makes up about 3 percent of the 5.5 million population.

An editorial in left-leaning Politiken, one of the newspapers that reprinted the cartoon, called the murder plot an attack on Denmark’s democratic culture.

“Regardless of whether Jyllands-Posten at the time used freedom of speech unwisely and with damaging consequences, the paper deserves unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror,” it said.

CRITICISM

Danish Muslim groups criticised the move as divisive, but said it regarded the issue as a local one on this occasion.

“We believe this is very foolish and does not help building the bridges we need,” said Mostafa Chendid, an imam at the Islamic Faith Community, a religious Muslim organisation at the centre of the first cartoon controversy.

“It will make our young people feel more isolated,” he told Reuters. “The printing of the cartoon is an insult to our intellectual capacity.”

The group, which in 2005 helped organise a delegation to the Middle East to present a dossier of alleged Danish insults to Muslims, said the circumstances were different.

“It’s the same picture, so it’s ... just a republication of what was published before,” Chendid said. “In the beginning it was pure provocation to Muslims. It’s two different situations.”

The group said it had no plans to travel or “export this problem abroad.”

Three Danish embassies were attacked and at least 50 people were killed in rioting in 2006 in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Several young Muslims have since been convicted in Denmark of planning bomb attacks, partly in protest at the cartoons.

The Security and Intelligence Service said Tuesday’s arrests near Aarhus in western Denmark were made after lengthy surveillance to prevent a murder that was in an early stage of planning.

Danish media said a man of Moroccan descent, 40, had been released but faced preliminary charges while two Tunisians, 36 and 25, would face deportation later this week.

Additional reporting by Simon Johnson in Stockholm; editing by Keith Weir

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