Denmark: Politiken staff rejects prophet drawing apology

Denmark: Politiken staff rejects prophet drawing apology

Thirty-eight staff members of the Danish daily Politiken issued a letter on Saturday saying they are against the newspaper's apology for offending Muslims by reprinting a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban.

In a letter published in the newspaper, the editorial staff said "Politiken has nothing to apologize for."

"The settlement gives the impression that we regret our journalism, something there is no basis for whatsoever," they wrote, saying democratic journalism entails "describing reality as precisely as possible and to encourage social debate." They also said they fear the settlement could interfere with their editorial freedom.

Politiken, which has around 200 staff members, last week apologized for offending Muslims with the 2008 reprint but did not apologize for reprinting the cartoon.


The journalists stress that while Politiken apologized for insulting Muslims, the eight organizations promised not take legal or administrative steps against Politiken.  The settlement gives the impression that Politiken is apologizing - not on their own initiative, and as a result of independent considerations, but because the paper is being pressured by Muslims organizations, say the journalists.

The journalists think that if this case has important principles regarding freedom of speech, then it should be verified in court.

Chief Editor Tøger Seidenfaden says that the paper didn't sign the settlement in order to avoid an expensive court-case.

"We signed the agreement because we got a lot in return, in the form of Muslim willingness to drop tensions and support reconciliation, and because it gives us the possibility to practice the dialog that Politiken has argued for the entire time and was greatly lacking in the Muhammad crisis."

Meanwhile, it turns out the only person who wants to sue the Danish papers is the lawyer Faisal Yamani, and not all of Muhammad's descendants.

In August 2009 Yamani lied about this in his letter to 16 Danish editors, reports B.T.

The lawyer wrote that he's working for thousands of Mohmmad's descendants, who feel insulted by the papers reprinting the cartoons, and that they asked him to turn to the papers and ask for an apology.

As it turns out, Faisal Yamani and his wealthy father Zaki Yamani, took the initiative on their own.  In April 2008 they wrote on an Arab chat-forum that they will sue for themselves, so that the editors will be punished.

They also said that the lawsuit will force the Danish government to officially apologize for the cartoons, and that interested Muslims who can show their descendants of Muhammad should send a power of attorney if they support the lawsuit.

Conservative integration spokesperson Naser Khader think Yamani is a con-artist.  "The reality is that it's this family's own initiative to profile themselves.  I actually think that Tøger Seidenfaden should officially apologize to the Danes for his naivety," he says. 

He's backed by Social-Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt.  "This shows once more how foolish it was to apologize," she says.

DPP head Pia Kjærsgaard has lost trust in Tøger Seidenfaden.  "Now the rug has been completely pulled out from under Seidenfaden's apology.  He's a victim of scam and fraud and in his zeal to get attention has fumbled around in something which is very, very sensitive," she says.

Tøger Seidenfaden thinks it's completely irrelevant if it was the layer's own initiative.  "I apologize to all Muslims, who will accept the apology," he says.

Source: BT 1, 2 (Danish), LA Times (English)

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