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15th Aug 2020

MEPs express solidarity with Denmark in cartoon row

European lawmakers have spoken out on the Danish-Muslim cartoon conflict and are expected to issue a resolution condemning the violent protests, supporting Denmark and backing freedom of expression.

MEPs on Wednesday (15 February) debated the EU’s response to the furore triggered by the publication of cartoons of Islam's prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

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Centre-right German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering said the protests in the Muslim world, which claimed three new victims in Pakistan on Wednesday, had not been spontaneous.

"They were organised by repressive regimes months after the publication of the cartoons," Mr Poettering said.

Brandishing a stack of newspaper cuttings from the Muslim world, Mr Poettering also said he had found "hundreds of cartoons making a mockery of our world", and underlined that "tolerance is no one-way-street, but has to go in both directions".

The MEP proposed to establish an EU-Muslim commission that would examine school textbooks in Europe and the Islamic world to see which words and values are used to describe the other side.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who attended the debate, criticised violent acts by protestors and called for further dialogue to soothe tensions.

"The commission condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the violence perpetrated against our office in Gaza, and against the missions of the member states, in particular those of Denmark," president Barroso said.

"It is ironic that the aim of these missions is to bring real benefits to the lives of the people of their host countries," he added.

The dispute, sparked after the publication of the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten last September, has caused several deaths and millions of euro worth of trade losses as Danish goods have been boycotted and business contracts cancelled.

Press business is press business

MEPs were also strongly against a proposal by the commission to make media sign up to a voluntary "code of conduct" for reporting on Islam and other religions.

"The press has to draw its own code of conduct, we cannot do it for them," said German Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Danish Liberal MEP Karin Riis-Jorgensen read out a Danish constitution article on freedom for the printed media stating, "censorship and other repressive measures shall never be again introduced".

A fellow Dane, MEP Jens-Peter Bonde from the Parliament’s Independence/Democracy group, said, "Islam is not above the Danish constitution".

Mr Bonde also urged colleagues in the plenary to take the matter of the boycott of Danish goods before the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Barroso hinted at the same measures announcing "a boycott of Danish goods is by definition a boycott of European goods".

Recuperating relations between the EU and the Muslim world

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been in Egypt on the second stop of what has been described as a "charm tour" of Islamic states.

After meeting Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Mr Solana expressed a desire to "recuperate relations between the EU and the Muslim world" and told reporters he had discussed with president Mubarak means to ensure that "religious symbols can be protected".

"Such steps could materialise through various mechanisms, maybe inside the new human rights commission created in the UN," Mr Solana said.

A resolution proposal has already been sent to the UN by officials at the Cairo University Al Azhar and is supported by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The proposal asks the UN Security Council to oblige countries not to insult prophets and that legal action be taken against offenders.

Solana warns against EU-muslim cartoon rift

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said that the Danish cartoon row should not be allowed to cause a rift between Europeans and Muslims, while visiting the Middle East in a bid to soothe tension over the drawings.

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