Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cartoons ignite cultural combat in Denmark - Europe - International Herald Tribune

Cartoons ignite cultural combat in Denmark - Europe - International Herald Tribune: "When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad - including one in which he is shown wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse - it expected a strong reaction in this country of 5.4 million people.

But the paper was unprepared for the global furor inspired by the cartoons, which provoked demonstrations in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, death threats against the artists, condemnation from 11 Muslim countries and a rebuke from the United Nations.

'The cartoons did nothing that transcends the cultural norms of secular Denmark, and this was not a provocation to insult Muslims,' said Flemming Rose, cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's largest newspaper, which has refused to apologize for publishing the drawings.

'But if we talk of freedom of speech, even if it was a provocation, that does not make our right to do it any less legitimate before the law,' he added in an interview from Miami, where he has fled to escape the publicity after living under police protection in Denmark.

As countries across Europe grapple with how to assimilate their growing Muslim communities in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, Denmark has become an unlikely flash point in the growing culture wars between Islam and the West.

The publication of the cartoons in late September has spawned a fierce national debate over whether Denmark's famously liberal freedom of speech laws have gone too far. It also has tested the patience of Denmark's 200,000-strong Muslim community. Its members say the cartoons reflect an intensifying anti-immigrant climate that is stigmatizing minorities and radicalizing young Muslims.

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