More than two years after the publication of cartoons in European newspapers depicting the prophet Muhammad unleashed a heated debate and a fury of rage among Muslims that left more than 50 people dead, the controversy has been reignited with the republication of one of the cartoons in Danish and Dutch newspapers, stirring talk of everything from boycotts to severing of diplomatic ties.
The BBC reports Danish newspapers have reprinted one of several caricatures, originally published in 2005, that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world the following year. The cartoon was arguably the most controversial, as it depicted the prophet with a bomb in his turban. Muslims consider depictions of the prophet Muhammad offensive.
They say they wanted to show their commitment to freedom of speech after an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists behind the drawings....
The cartoons were originally published by Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
Danish embassies were attacked around the world and dozens died in riots that followed.
Police officials said they made the arrests to "prevent a terror-related murder" after a long period of surveillance, but did not say which cartoonist had been targeted.
The case shows that, unfortunately, there are in Denmark groups of extremists that do not accept and respect the basic principles on which the Danish democracy has been built," said the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Following the arrests, the left-leaning Danish broadsheet Politiken reprinted the cartoons, calling the murder plot an attack on Denmark's democracy. In an editorial, the newspaper wrote that:
Regardless of whether Jyllands-Posten [the first newspaper to publish the cartoons in 2005] at the time used freedom of speech unwisely and with damaging consequences, the paper deserves unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror.
The republication of the cartoons has drawn condemnation among Muslims. Arab News reported from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had expressed regret about the new move.
Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged Muslims to use legal and peaceful means to protest the outrage. He said that he wished the Danish media would have chosen another subject as a test case to reassert the freedom of speech instead of supporting a blatant act of incitement to hatred in a most unfortunate and senseless manner, noting that the newspapers were aware that this act would offend not only Danish Muslims but the world's other 1.3 billion Muslims who have nothing to do with the alleged three-man terror plot.
In Iran, which has also attempted to prevent the screening of a controversial film – it would air views about the Koran held by a Dutch right-wing populist lawmaker – the cartoons sparked immediate backlash from parliamentarians, reported the Tehran Times:
In a letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, some 215 MPs in Iran's 290-seat assembly said Iran should review trade and political links with Denmark and the Netherlands to respond to "an anti-Islamic and Islamophobic current" in the two countries.
We, representatives of the honorable Iranian nation, condemn this devil measure. We ask the president ... to seriously review Iran's political and trade ties with these countries," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, state radio said.
The Danish government, however, has refused to condemn the republication of the cartoons and, in an act praised by Israel's Ynet News, the government canceled an official delegation that was due to travel to Iran:
A group of Danish lawmakers has cancelled a trip to Iran because Tehran demanded they condemn the reprinting of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in newspapers, a spokeswoman said Saturday.
Ten members of the parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, including Denmark's former foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft, were scheduled to visit Iran between Feb. 18 and Feb. 21.
Mette Vestergaard, a committee official, confirmed the cancellation. "The Iranian ambassador asked the Foreign Policy Committee to condemn the drawings. They can't and they won't," she said without giving more details."
The American Muslim has mentioned some of the other immediate consequences of the republication of the cartoon:
Once again we are seeing protests in Pakistan, young people rioting in Denmark's immigrant areas which has now gone on for seven nights, calls for a total boycott of Denmark by Kuwaiti MP's and by an Arab consumer group, and diplomatic difficulties.
The reaction bears strong resemblance to the outcry that followed the original publication of the cartoons in 2005, as reported The Christian Science Monitor at the time:
The bomb threat comes in the aftermath of the September 2005 publication of the 12 cartoons, some of which seemed to equate Muhammad with terrorism. Since publication, Jyllands-Posten and Denmark have become the focus of the ire of the Muslim world. Demonstrators in Gaza have burned Danish flags, Saudi Arabia and Libya have withdrawn their ambassadors to Denmark, and Danish goods are being boycotted across the Middle East.
This time, however, a new virtual debate has also been spawned by the controversy. In Denmark, the battle of Facebook sites (registration required) defending the pros and cons of the cartoons has already begun:
"Now young Danish student Anders Boetter says he has decided to start a Facebook site called Sorry Muhammad to apologise to Muslims on behalf of ordinary Danes and also give them a voice in the controversy over the row.
Anders says that in the last two years since the first printing of the cartoons, the media has built up a debate which is very black-and-white.
"Either you were for the Muhammad drawings or you were against it, but I believe there are many Danes who do not feel that way - they're somewhere in between and I am one of them," he explains."
Within hours of the launch of his Facebook group, a rival group appeared called "No Need to Apologise to Muhammad."