Danish Editor Explains Cartoons' Background

Carsten Juste, the editor of the Danish newspaper that set off an international kerfuffle by publishing cartoons of the founder of Islam was interviewed in yesterday's edition. An excerpt from the Q&A:

There were some journalists here at the paper, including some who write regularly about Muslims, immigration, and integration, who strongly advised us not to do it. It was quite a discussion. Personally I thought the cartoons were harmless - very much in fitting with our Danish tradition for caricature. If some of the cartoons had been cruder - if an illustrator had given us Mohammed pissing on the Koran, for example - then it would have been pulled. The same way I've pulled a lot of cartoons over the years that devout Christians might have found insulting. Or others because they were too vulgar or too crude. I didn't feel that these were, and so we went ahead.'

You calculated the possibility that someone might be offended according to normal Danish standards?

'Yes.'

You discussed it with staff who are familiar with Islam, and who could tell you that this means something else for Muslims - that any pictorial representation of their prophet is forbidden?

'Yes. The fact that no one would openly illustrate Bluitgen's book gave an indication. But it wasn't definitive. Some Muslim denominations permit drawings of Mohammed. In some places, like Iran, you can even buy pictures of Mohammed. And then there was the question: "Muslims can't, but what about non-Muslims?" There was no clear answer.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013