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European press defiant, editor sacked

With angry denouncements and devilish bravado dailies across Europe featured the offending cartoons, not caring for Muslim retaliation.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 19:59 IST
UK Bureau
UK Bureau
None

Newspapers across Europe have retaliated strongly to the continuing bomb threats to Danish facilities and the daily Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, which angered Muslims not only in the country but inflamed the community in the Middle East countries, by publishing caricatures of the Prophet last September.

Posten's office was again evacuated on Wednesday again following the second bomb alert.

It apparently irked European newspapers editors. With angry denouncements and devilish bravado dailies in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands featured the offending cartoons, not caring that they have caused firestorm in the Islamic world.

Editors expressed through the publication their wish to show solidarity with the editor of Jyllands-Posten. But the managing editor of France Soir one of the paper that republished caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed was fired the following day (Thursday) by its owner Raymond Lakah, an Egyptian magnate as debate over the drawings mounted among French Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God", France Soir had splashed its front with Buddha, the Christian and Jewish deities and the Prophet all sitting on a carpet of cloud. The Christian God is shown saying, "Don't complain Muhammad, all of us have been caricatured."

France Soir published all the 12 Danish cartoons and deplored what it called the new inquisition by "backward bigots" in a Muslim world that knew little about democracy.

In Berlin, Die welt, reprinted one cartoon on the front page and three others inside. The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical, it said.

When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were quiet. Roger Koeppel, editor of Die Welt told the Times, "We owed it to our readers. They have to understand what the fuss is about."

In Italy some of the cartoons appeared in Corriere della Sera and La Stampa. Both said the decision to publish was taken on purely journalistic considerations. The Spanish daily el Periodico published a montage of the cartoons and, albeit unwittingly bared the reality behind such defiance when it headlined them - The effects of terrorism: A test.

It's editor said "Publish and be damned, as they say."

Such defiance against the Islamic tradition that bars any depiction of the Prophet to prevent idolatry is bound to deepen the divided opinion within Europe and the Middle East.

The publication in France drew a stern reaction from the French Foreign Ministry. While it said that freedom of expression is dear to France, the ministry "condemns all that hurts individuals in their beliefs or their religious convictions."

The issue is sensitive in France, home to Western Europe's largest Muslim community with an estimated five million people. Already scarred by race riots, the publications of cartoons could encourage terrorist groups to take advantage of inflamed passions.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 19:59 IST