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Barroso defends Denmark's stand
The European Commission president has expressed support for Denmark in the dispute over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, saying that freedom of speech cannot be compromised.
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2006 15:16 GMT
Barroso: Better to publish too much than not to have freedom
The European Commission president has expressed support for Denmark in the dispute over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, saying that freedom of speech cannot be compromised.

In an interview with Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that first published the drawings, Jose Manuel Barroso has said that freedom of speech is a fundamental value in Europe.

"It's better to publish too much than not to have freedom," he said in comments published on Tuesday.

"Denmark is a country that we respect and that has a long tradition of being an open, tolerant and a free country, and a country known for good dialogue with different civilisations and cultures, and which at the same time is one of Europe's largest contributors when it comes to development aid," Barroso was quoted as saying in comments translated into Danish.

He expressed the European Commission's solidarity with Denmark and said he was "upset" by TV pictures showing angry mobs burning Danish flags.

Fundamental value

"Nothing justifies violence and we must tell those who do not like the drawings that the freedom of speech is not up for negotiation. It is a fundamental value in our open European society," Barroso was quoted as saying.

"I can understand that the drawings have offended many Muslims around the world, but that does not justify violence."

The cartoons have set off a wave
of protests in the Islamic world

Islam widely holds that representations of Muhammad are banned for fear they could lead to idolatry.

Barroso said he had been in contact with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, since the onset of the uproar, and had no reason to question the Danish government's handling of the crisis.

The Danish government has resisted pressure to accept any responsibility for the cartoons. The drawings have been reprinted in many European media.

In other developments, a Canadian magazine has decided to reprint the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, prompting Muslim groups to press for hate-crime charges against the publication.

Canadian reprints

The Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, based in Calgary, said on Monday that it filed a complaint against the Western Standard, a right-wing weekly newsmagazine that is reprinting eight of the 12 cartoons.

Syed Soharwardy, president of the council, said his group has not seen the magazine's latest edition but would try to have Calgary police investigate the Western Standard for hate crimes.

Many West European countries
have seen protest rallies

"This is a provocation of Canadians and an insult to our religion," he said.

"We are convinced that within the boundaries of Canada there is a way that we can prosecute these people. The whole Muslim community is seriously looking into this and consulting with lawyers."

Canadian law prohibits the wilful incitement of hatred towards any identifiable group, based on ethnicity, region or sexual orientation.

While the cartoons have been reprinted by several European newspapers, no major Canadian newspaper has run the series.

One of the cartoons was reprinted by Le Devoir in Montreal. A University of Prince Edward Island student newspaper printed the cartoons but copies were ordered off the campus.

Newsworthy

Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, told CBC television the magazine decided to publish the cartoons because it considered them newsworthy.

"We're not publishing them for their editorial merits," he said.

"They're boring cartoons. They're bland. They're not interesting. We're not running them because we share their views. We're running them because they're the central fact that caused Muslim radicals around the world to riot."

The government has a responsibility to prevent these things from happening. They should have stopped it, not just in Syria or Iran but all around"

Kofi Annan,
UN secretary-general

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, has said Iran, Syria and other governments that failed to protect foreign embassies from mobs protesting over the cartoons should pay for the damage.

"The government has a responsibility to prevent these things from happening. They should have stopped it, not just in Syria or Iran but all around," Annan said on Monday.

"Not having stopped it, I hope they will pick up the bill for the destruction," he told CNN. "They should be prepared to pay for the damage done to Danish, Norwegian and the other embassies concerned."

Danish facilities have been singled out for attacks, including diplomatic missions in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

Holocaust contest

In Iran, a Brazilian has become the first person to enter a newspaper contest for cartoons on the Holocaust.

The contest was devised by Hamshahri, one of Iran's five leading newspapers. The newspaper said its contest was a test of the Western world's readiness to print cartoons about the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews in the second world war.

Denmark's embassies have been
burned down in Iran and Syria

The first entry depicts a man, smoking a cigarette and wearing a prison uniform, with a wall and guard tower in the background.

The man, with a moustache and several days growth of beard, is wearing a white keffiyeh and has his right hand over his forehead and eyes.

On his chest is a red crescent with a letter "P". Below is the number 7256, the significance of which was not immediately clear, although Israel is said to be holding about 8000 Palestinian prisoners.

Davood Kazemi, executive manager of the contest and cartoon editor at the paper, said: "We don't intend retaliation over the drawings of the prophet. We just want to show that freedom is restricted in the West."

Source:
Agencies
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