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Offending Cartoons Reprinted
European Dailies Defend Right to Publish Prophet Caricatures

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 2, 2006

PARIS, Feb. 1 -- Newspapers across Europe reprinted cartoons Wednesday ridiculing the prophet Muhammad, saying they wanted to support the right of Danish and Norwegian papers to publish the caricatures, which have ignited fury among Muslims throughout the world.

Germany's Die Welt daily newspaper published one of the drawings on its front page and said the "right to blasphemy" is one of the freedoms of democracy.

"The appearance of 12 drawings in the Danish press provoked emotions in the Muslim world because the representation of Allah and his prophet is forbidden," the French afternoon newspaper France Soir wrote. "But because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society, France Soir is publishing the incriminating caricatures."

The newspaper's front-page headline declared: "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God," accompanied by a new cartoon depicting religious figures from the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Christian faiths on a cloud. The Christian is shown saying, "Don't complain, Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

France Soir paired its story and caricatures with a column by French theologian Sohaib Bencheikh, who admonished: "One must find the borders between freedom of expression and freedom to protect the sacred." He added, "Unfortunately, the West has lost its sense of the sacred."

Italy's La Stampa newspaper and the daily El Periodico in Spain also published some of the drawings Wednesday.

Islam considers any artistic renditions of Muhammad blasphemous. In many Muslim nations, English-language newspapers are so reverential that any mention of his name is followed by the letters PBUH, for "peace be upon him."

Outrage over the appearance of the cartoons in Danish and Norwegian newspapers -- one of which depicted Muhammad as an apparent terrorist with a bomb in his turban -- has ignited demonstrations from Turkey to the Gaza Strip, prompted a boycott of Danish products throughout the Middle East, and spurred calls for a religious decree to attack Danish troops serving in Iraq.

The newspapers also have riled Muslim populations in their home countries. Many of Western Europe's estimated 15 million Muslims feel alienated by cultural barriers and job discrimination and stigmatized by anti-immigration movements and anti-terrorism laws that they believe unfairly target members of their faith.

Dalil Boubakeur, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said the French newspaper's decision to publish the offensive cartoons was an act of "real provocation towards the millions of Muslims living in France."

The conservative Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, which first published the caricatures in September, this week apologized for offending Muslims but defended its right to publish the cartoons. Two offices of the newspaper were evacuated this week after receiving bomb threats.

The controversy began when the newspaper asked 12 artists to draw caricatures of Muhammad in response to an author who complained that he could not find an artist willing, under his own name, to illustrate a book about the prophet.

Three weeks ago, a small, evangelical Christian newspaper in Norway, Magazinet, reprinted the cartoons.

Government ministers from 17 Arab nations have asked the Danish government to punish the Jyllands-Posten newspaper for what they called an "offense to Islam."

The French-based Carrefour grocery chain pulled Danish products from its shelves in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar in response to a boycott the company said was costing it $2.4 million a day, about 8 percent of its global revenue.

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