Prophet Cartoons: Danish Court Rejects Lawsuit Against Newspaper

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A Danish court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by seven Muslim organizations against the newspaper that first published a dozen cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered massive protests in the Islamic world earlier this year.

The City Court in Aarhus said it could not be ruled out that some Muslims had been offended by the 12 drawings printed in Jyllands-Posten, but said there was no reason to assume that the cartoons were meant to “Belittle Muslims.”

The newspaper published the cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005 with an accompanying text saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.

The caricatures were reprinted in European papers in January and February, fueling a fury of protests in the Islamic world. Some turned violent, with protesters killed in Libya and Afghanistan and several European embassies attacked.

Islamic law forbids any depiction of the prophet, even positive ones, to prevent idolatry.

“It cannot be ruled out that the drawings have offended some Muslims’ honor, but there is no basis to assume that the drawings are, or were conceived as, insulting or that the purpose of the drawings was to present opinions that can belittle Muslims,” the court said in its ruling.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, welcomed the ruling in a statement, saying it confirmed the newspaper’s “Incontestable right” To print the drawings.

“Everything but a pure acquittal would have been a disaster for the press freedom and the media’s possibility to fulfill its duties in a democratic society,” Juste said.

Muslim groups to appeal verdict
However, he didn’t see an end to the controversy anytime soon.

“There are radical people in this world that simply don’t want this case settled,” He said. “They want to use it to create and maintain divisions forever.”

Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim groups, told Danish radio that they would appeal the verdict. He also feared that people around the world “Would be disturbed” By the ruling.

One of the cartoons showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. Another portrayed him holding a sword, his eyes covered by a black rectangle, and a third pictured a middle-aged prophet standing in the desert with a walking stick, in front of a donkey and a sunset.

The seven Muslim groups filed the defamation lawsuit against the paper in March, after Denmark’s top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

The plaintiffs, who claimed to have the backing of 20 more Islamic organizations in the Scandinavian country, had sought 100,000 kroner ($16,860) in damages from Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.

The lawsuit said the cartoons depict Muhammad “as belligerent, oppressing women, criminal, crazy and unintelligent, and a connection is made between the Prophet and war and terror.”

It said the drawings were published “solely to provoke and mock not only the Prophet Muhammad but also the Muslim population.

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