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EU steps in after bomb threats to Danish paper

Chants of "Death to Denmark" resounded in many cities while a boycott of Danish goods spread from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to states throughout the Middle East and north Africa.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 20:01 IST
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The Danish newspaper in Copenhagen which published cartoons of the Prophet suffered bomb scares despite apologising for them. The publication has already prompted protests from Muslims and a boycott of Danish products in a dozen nations.

Reports said the offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and Arhus were evacuated as the storm continued over its publication last September of a series of 12 satirical cartoons regarded by many Muslims as blasphemous.

Chants of "Death to Denmark" resounded in many cities while a boycott of Danish goods spread from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to states throughout the Middle East and north Africa. Saudi Arabia has already recalled its ambassador from Copenhagen and Libya has closed its embassy. Sudan is the latest nation to join the boycott of Danish goods which has forced the Danish-based dairy Arla Foods to close its plant in Riyadh.

An alarmed European Union has intervened, warning Saudi Arabia that, if it encourages the boycott, it will be in breach of its obligations in the World Trade Organisation.

The cartoons included one that showed Mohamed wearing a bomb in place of a turban. Any visual depiction of the Prophet is considered to be blasphemy, according to the tenets of Islam.

The newspaper after receiving received 9,000 e-mails expressing anger and outrage over the cartoons, had moved to defuse the row with an appeal published on its web site. In an open letter published in Arabic as well, Carsten Juste, editor-in-chief, said, "In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologise."

But, the editor, under the headline "Honourable Citizens of the Muslim World", also defended the publication, arguing: "The initiative was taken as part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark."

The apology, which has prompted a fierce debate over freedom of expression, was welcomed by the Danish premier, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "I'm extremely happy that Jyllands-Posten has decided to take this very difficult step. I would now like to appeal to Muslim groups in Denmark to speak out and defuse the situation after Jyllands-Posten's apology."

But chief of one of the largest dairy producers in the world revealed that the row has caused a total collapse of sales. He urged the government to urgently engage in a positive dialogue with the many millions of Muslims who feel offended.

Meanwhile the Danish Foreign Ministry has advised against non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia and to be cautious in other Muslim countries.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 20:01 IST