11th Dec 2023

European media show solidarity in Mohammed cartoon row

  • European papers sided with Danish Jyllands-Posten over Mohammed cartoons (Photo: Luxembourg EU Presidency)

Several European newspapers have published caricatures of Islamic holy man Mohammed in an act of solidarity with Danish colleagues, while protests against the Danish caricatures continue to spread like wildfire.

French daily newspaper France Soir on Wednesday (1 February) published a front page picture showing the Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian gods plus Mohammed floating on a cloud, with the Christian god saying "Don’t complain, Mohammed, we’ve all been caricatured here."

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France Soir, a Parisian daily tabloid struggling with declining readership, said it published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.

Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung, La Stampa, El Mundo, NRC Handelsblad and Corriere della Sera were among various European media who decided to publish the pictures, or create their own cartoons of Mohammed.

Later the same day, reports of internet sites selling mugs, t-shirts, key ring holders or other goods with the caricatures came from around the continent, and in Sweden an extreme right wing party announced that it would print the caricatures in support of neighbouring country Denmark.

The editor in chief of France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, was quickly fired by the newspaper’s owners however, arguing that the removal of Mr Lefranc was "a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual."

Last autumn, the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published drawings of the prophet Mohammed, as "a test of whether fear of Islamic retribution has begun to limit freedom of expression in Denmark."

The Koran forbids all visual depictions of the prophet, and Muslim anger over the caricatures has grown into both a diplomatic row between European governments and parts of the Muslim world, as well as a tricky situation for Danish trade interests as Danish goods to a large extend is boycotted in Muslim countries.

Several countries have recalled their ambassadors from Denmark while religious leaders and the Egyptian Parliament have urged a boycott of Danish products.

Following the publication of the drawings in European media, the Austrian ambassador to Iran was also called to a meeting at the Iranian foreign ministry.

According to Jyllands-Posten, the Iranian minister expressed his "deepest indignation" at the publication of the cartoons in European media, and urged Austria, currently in lead of the EU presidency, to listen to Muslim complaints.

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