Denmark

Animated self censorship

Based on the graphic novel by Claus Deleuran, Rejsen Til Saturn (Journey to Saturn) tells the tale of what happens when a Danish crew of misfits travel in space to find natural gas. The film is due to be released on Friday and promises a fart and belch fuelled lampoon of a whole host of political and religious beliefs. Except one (via).

The one Muslim character in the film has been exempted from any religious satire because the director was concerned about his own, and his familys, safety.

Its unfortunately been impossible to make fun of the Muslims religion. I think we make many jabs at the person Jamil in the film, but its correct that were not touching his belief.  Its simply too sensitive an area, that I cant take the responsibility to get involved.  I certainly need to think of both my family and my workplace.  Im not a fighter, and I dont like to have raging Muslims knocking on my door, says Thorbjørn Christoffersen.

I 100% support that people should be able to make fun of everything.  but this is not about special consideration for Muslims, its about consideration for myself and my family, says the director.

Brian Mikkelsen, Denmarks Justice Minister – and former Culture Minister – has expressed sadness at this:

Its sad it its become so that individual artists censure themselves out of fear of religious fanatics.  We have in Dnemark a strong and good tradition of satire, also in connection with religious subjects.  And we should hold fast to it.”

From the trailer, the film does look like it could be a lot of fun. It is a shame, though – to put it mildly – that the people behind the film should feel threathened into holding back.

Denmark evacuates embassies

Denmark has evacuated (via) staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan to secret safe locations because of an imminent threat. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service are concerned about an aggravated terror threat level against Danish interests following the reprinting earlier this year of Kurt Westergaards Mo-Toon as a protest over a plot to murder the cartoonist.

Mo-Toon II: Still rumbling on

The attempt to organise a boycott (via) of Danish products in Saudi Arabia is still rumbling on and Hatim Misfir, a government official in the country, has trotted out the old canard about freedom of press and expression being okay as long as no-one uses it.

Last week, French cartoonist Plantu appeared to endorse this position, expressing concern over renewed tensions between the West and the Islamic world after the republication of the cartoons. Making the rather bizarre assertion that you can somehow kill people with cartoons, Plantu claimed to be advocating the right to nuance.

Nuance, of course, is the one thing that those making the threats seem to lack as is evidenced by the news (via) that several men who share the same name as the cartoonist whose life was threatened have also been threatened. There are 81 people in Denmark called Kurt Westergaard, several are now under police protection from stupid people taking offence.

Motoon II: Another update

First the good news. Aleksandr Sdvizhkov, the editor in Belarus who was jailed for publishing the Muhammed cartoons back in 2006 has been released.

More than a 1,000 (mainly small and local) Danish websites were hacked by some individual calling himself United Arab Hackers and reportedly from Saudi Arabia. The websites of international companies based in Denmark, such as Lurpak and Carlsberg, were not affected.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is threatening to expel Danish organizations, snub its officials and boycott the countrys products in reaction to the republished cartoons. Denmarks foreign aid minister is considering whether this might have consequences for Danish aid (130.2 million kroner last year) to the African country.

Bahrainis took to the streets and the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe jumped on the bandwagon.

With thanks to Media Watch Watch (twice) and The Comics Reporter.

Updated

The Vatican and the Al-Azhar university in Cairo have issued a joint statement condeming (via) the republication of the cartoon but studiously avoiding any mention of the foiled murder plot against the 72-year-old cartoonist which prompted the republications.

Irans sense of proportion failure

Three people were arrested in Denmark last week for plotting to murder cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who drew one of the Muhammed cartoons way back in 2005. The Danish press responded, commendably, by reprinting the cartoons in order to demonstrate their commitment to free speech and refusal to be threatened into silence. Now Iran has decided to stir things up - and display their ignorance of how a free society works - by demanding an apology from Danish MPs.

The nine members of Denmarks foreign affairs committee were due to travel to Iran on Monday for a three-day trip focusing on human rights and the Islamic Republics nuclear programme. On Saturday, the Iranians demanded the MPs condemn the cartoon on their arrival in the country.

So the MPs cancelled their trip.

We are not the ones to apologise, said Villy Soevndal, the leader of Denmarks Socialist Peoples Party.

If anyone needs to apologise for freedom of speech, human rights, imprisonments, executions and lack of democracy, it is the Iranians.

Quite

Danish press stands up for freedom

Following yesterdays news that three people were arrested in Denmark for plotting to murder a 73 year old cartoonist, Danish newspapers have reprinted the cartoon in order to show their commitment to freedom of speech.

We are doing this to document what is at stake in this case, and to unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper will always defend, Berlingske Tidende said.

The cartoon was also broadcast on national television, and even newspapers - such as Politiken - that originally criticised the publication of the Muhammed cartoons are now backing the campaign to defend freedom of speech. Jyllands-Posten quotes Tøger Seidenfaden, Politikens editor-in-chief as saying: In a free society, we can discuss how public discussions should be conducted, but not if they should be conducted,

Mo insanity

And still the Muhammed Cartoons Controversy rumbles on. Danish police have arrested five people suspected of plotting to murder one of the cartoonists.

According to Denmarks intelligence agency, the arrests were made in the western Aarhus region at 0330 GMT - after lengthy surveillance - to prevent a murder linked to terrorism. Three of those detained are Danes and the other two are foreigners.

According to the online edition of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper at the centre of the furore, the plotters target was 73 year old Kurt Westergaard. He, and his 66-year-old wife, Gitte, have been under police protection for the past three months.

According to the artist:

Of course I fear for my life after the Danish Security and Intelligence Service informed me of the concrete plans of certain people to kill me. However, I have turned fear into anger and indignation. It has made me angry that a perfectly normal everyday activity which I used to do by the thousand was abused to set off such madness. I have attended to my work and I still do. I could not possibly know for how long I have to live under police protection; I think, however, that the impact of the insane response to my cartoon will last for the rest of my life. It is sad indeed, but it has become a fact of my life.

Updated

The BBC is now saying that three people were arrested - two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin.

Legally stupid

Danish prosecutor, Birgitte Vestberg, said on Wednesday that the group of Imams that traveled to the Middle East to whip up the Muhammed Cartoons Controversy will not be prosecuted.

Vestberg said she found no evidence that the imams had sought hostilities against Denmark or had any reason to suspect that the reported persons have violated the penal code.

Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the imams, said he was very satisfied by this decision.

Anything else would have been a disaster for the imams and their image.

That image being that they were stupid rather than malicious.

(via Media Watch Watch)

Not offensive

A Danish court has rejected a libel case brought by several Muslim groups against Jyllands-Posten over the Muhammad cartoons controversy.

The organisations brought the lawsuit in March after the Danish attorney-generals decision not to make criminal charges against the newspaper under racism and blasphemy legislation. Since the racism and blasphemy laws cannot be used in a civil suit, the groups sued the editor-in-chief and cultural editor of the newspaper for libel, accusing the paper of publishing text and cartoons which were offensive and insulting to Muhammad.

However, the City Court in Aarhus ruled on Thursday that the cartoons were not offensive even if the text accompanying the pictures could be read as being derogatory and mocking.

Of course it cannot be excluded that the drawings offended some Muslims, the ruling said.

But there is no sufficient reason to assume that the cartoons are or were intended to be insulting or put forward ideas that could hurt the standing of Muslims in society.

In bizarre response news, Ameer ul-Azeem, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami - one of the groups behind the riots earlier this year - claimed that: It is not up to the court to decide if Muslims will have hard feelings or not. Presumably he therefore feels that the civil action should never have been brought in the first place.

And, in Syria, legislator Mohammed Habash said that publishing the cartoons represents a true insult to millions of Muslims who do not follow Danish laws. He didnt elaborate on what laws he thought Danish people in Denmark should be following.

368 Days

On 30th September 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the now infamous Muhammed cartoons. The Guardian marked the occasion by noting that that the the issues raised by the cartoon row have not gone away - as demonstrated by the recent Berlin Opera fracas.

Admirably, both Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, stood firm throughout the crisis, resisting calls to apologise for the cartoons, citing freedom of speech and saying his government could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmarks independent media.

The believers, no matter of what religion, cannot demand that others outside their believers circle should observe their rules of conduct, order, dogma and doctrines that apply to the individual believer.

Jyllands-Posten also stayed firm throughout. The paper has not apologised for the cartoons - which were published to highlight an issue of self-censorship - and does not intend to. Over the course of the crisis, newspapers in 50 countries showed their support by publishing some or all of the cartoons.

Flemming Rose, the Jyllands Posten culture editor told the South African Daily News:

The drawings were a catalyst that shed light on a hidden reality: that some Muslims want everyone in the world to respect their dogmas in public.

There are so many religions that have taboos.

If we had to respect them all, Denmark would be a dictatorship, he says.

The BBC asks whether Denmark learnt any lessons.

It is not Denmark that has any lessons to learn.

(via MediaWatchWatch. Twice)

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