Monday, October 24, 2005

The Danish Prime Minister rejects calls to stop public criticism of Muslims in the media

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen rejected on Friday Muslim ambassadors' request that he get personally involved to tone down debate about Muslims.

The eleven ambassadors sent a letter to Rasmussen on Wednesday, requesting that he step in to stop 'the current smear campaign being carried out by the public and the media against Islam and Muslims'.

On Friday, Fogh rejected their call, saying that 'freedom of expression is the very foundation of Denmark's democratic tradition'.

'Freedom of expression has wide boundaries, and the Danish government has no means to influence the press,' said Rasmussen in his reply. 'Danish laws do forbid blasphemous statements or discriminating acts, and the offended party can bring such statements or acts before the court.'

Despite refusing to steer the tone of the debate, Rasmussen agreed with the ambassadors' opinion that dialogue between cultures and religions should be based on mutual respect and understanding.

The ambassadors' request comes after heated debate over newspaper Jyllands-Posten's decision to run drawings of the prophet Mohammed, which is frowned upon by Islam.

In addition, some of the drawings depicted Mohammed in a negative light, which only added to Muslims' ire.

The ambassadors said, however, that the cartoon incident was just the latest of a number of unfortunate critiques of Islam, including critical comments by the Minister of Culture, a Copenhagen City Council candidate, as well as a local radio station that had been found guilty of broadcasting racist programming.

'We distance ourselves from these statements and publications, and we request that you prosecute those responsible as a way to create religious harmony, better integration, and improve Denmark's relations with the Muslim world in general.'

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Anders Fogh Rasmussen


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