In an opinion piece in Sunday's Washington Post, Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, said his intention was to stir a debate about freedom of speech and not to disrespect Islam.

He refused to apologise for exercising his right to print offensive material, but he said the intention was not to instigate the violence that followed.

Citing a Danish children's writer not being able to find an illustrator for a book about Muhammad and the Tate gallery in London withdrawing an installation that depicted a Quran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces, Rose said his newspaper saw "a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don't tell."

"I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam," Rose wrote in the Post.

"The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously - and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter."

Saudi paper statement

His commentary came out on the same day a Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper printed a full page statement from Jyllands-Posten.

"But we cannot apologise for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralysed by worries about every possible insult"

Statement
Jyllands-Posten

It was the strongest expression of regret yet from the paper, but stopped short of explicitly saying sorry for printing the cartoons, instead apologising for the turmoil caused in their aftermath.

Rose said his newspaper had not intended to insult or disrespect Islam.

"I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologised for that," he wrote.

"But we cannot apologise for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralysed by worries about every possible insult."

Debate

The Jyllands-Posten publication of the cartoons in September has led to a "constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people's beliefs," he said.

Protests have taken place in
several countries

"Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue," he said.

"This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo," Rose wrote.

"Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no," he said.

"Some of the spirited defences of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired."