Riots Sweep Across Denmark After Cartoons Printed

A wave of vandalism swept through Denmark as cars were burned and fires set in schools in response to the reprinting of the famous Mohammed cartoons by about 17 Danish newspapers. The press was angry because of a reported attempt by two immigrants to murder the man who made the original cartoons. There is also the probability youthful anger could have stemmed from alleged police harassment of young immigrants. Most of the unrest took place in Copenhagen with a reported 15 fires beeing set. Part of a school was damaged when fire swept through staff rooms and administrative offices.

Muslim cleric Mostafa Chendid blamed the Danish media for causing the riots and destruction saying they deliberately angered Muslims by reprinting the cartoons. He also told young Muslims that Mohammed “did not teach you to burn schools, cars, and public buildings. He taught you to behave in a civilised manner.”

It is one thing to become upset at police harassment which is certainly grounds for anger, but a continuing problem is an inability to understand the nature of freedom of the press. Neither the Danish government nor any cleric has the right to dictate what newspapers print. From day one of this “controversy” this has been a problem. The Muslim press continually prints caricatures depicting Jews unfavorably but no Muslim clerics protest such publications. There apparently is a double standard in which the Muslim press can print distorted versions of history or depict its enemies in a cruel manner, but no one can print anything that some clerics consider to be insulting. Rioters conveniently forget many Muslims most probably accepted the caricatures and went along their daily lives with a shrug. A central issue is can a group of Muslims assume the role of “speaking for Muslims?” We think not. A central issue is freedom of the press. We believe it must always be defended regardless of whether we personally agree with what is being published.

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