The statements, in Arabic, ran in advertisements in three of Saudi Arabia's main newspapers, Al-Jazeera, Al-Riyadh and Al-Youm, as well as the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat, which is distributed around the Arab world.

They were placed by the newspaper Jyllands-Posten in an effort to stem the wave of outrage in the Islamic world over the drawings.

The statement, which began with the traditional Islamic greeting, "Peace and God's mercy and blessings be upon you", was dated 5 February, and it was not clear why the newspapers had only published it 14 days later, on Sunday.

The Danish newspaper's website said the advertisements had been placed by a group of businesses, which it did not identify.

 

The newspaper said it was not involved in placing the advertisements but acknowledged the text of the apology was identical to what it had published on its website last month.

The following is the text:

"Allow me first of all to say that our newspaper values and believes in the freedom of religious conviction and supports democracy and respects every individual. We apologise for the great misunderstanding that occurred over the drawings that depicted the noble Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him) and that led to a growing feeling of animosity toward Denmark and the Danish, including the call for a boycott of Danish products. Allow me to clarify some points in order to end any misunderstanding.

"The newspaper JP published on 30 September 2005, 12 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad (prayers and peace be upon him) that Danish artists had drawn. It is very important to state that the purpose of these drawings was not to detract from the personality of the prophet (peace be upon him) or to diminish his value. Rather it was an opening to dialogue on the freedom of expression, which we in our country value greatly. We did not realise at the time the extent of the issue's sensitivity for the Muslims who live in Denmark and the millions of Muslims around the world. The publishing of these drawings did not conflict in any way with Danish laws on freedom of the press or expression.

"But these drawings, it appeared, insulted millions of Muslims around the world. And so we now offer our apologies and our deep sadness over what happened, because this was far from the intentions of the newspaper, which previously received an award of excellence from the European Commission after we published a number of articles in a special edition calling for peaceful coexistence and mutual respect between the Danish and all other ethnicities in Denmark. This edition included a number of articles that reflected positively on Islam and Muslims. What happened later was that drawings intentionally insulting to Islam and its noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were published and shown to the Islamic world. These drawings have no connection to our newspaper, we know nothing about them and we are innocent of them, because they were never published in the JP. We always insist on high morals based on respect of principles, so we express our deep sorrow that some still believe we are connected to these intentional drawings.

"Getting back to the 12 drawings we did publish, (not an attack on Muslims) we reject this idea because we believe in freedom of religion, we consider sacred the freedom of the individual to perform his or her religious rites. We did not and do not think of harming or attacking any religion. We are sorry for this misunderstanding, and we underline that the intention was not to detract from anyone.

"In a serious attempt to eliminate the misunderstanding, we have held numerous meetings with members of the Islamic community in our country and these meetings took place in a positive atmosphere and the dialogue was constructive. Our desire is peaceful coexistence between peoples and we hope that a spirit of dialogue will prevail even if opinions differ.

"Finally, let me announce my apology in the name of the JP for what happened and my strong condemnation for any step that aims to harm particular religions, ethnicities or people. I hope that I have removed any misunderstanding, and success is with God." With best wishes,

Carsten Juste, Editor.