Boycotts and burnings

On January 12, the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet reported that the Danish imams had attributed to JP cartoons it never published. But it was too late. On January 21, the International Union of Muslim Scholars called for a boycott of Danish and Norwegian goods.[1] Saudi Arabia was the first government to comply, followed by most Middle East countries, and on January 26, the Saudis withdrew their ambassador to Denmark. In quick order, Libya closed its Danish embassy, masked Palestinian gunmen took over the European Union office in Gaza, and Syria called for punishing the cartoonists. On January 29, protestors on the West Bank burned the Danish flag, and the next day Danes were warned to avoid the Middle East.

JP tried yet again to contain the damage. Culture Editor Rose went on the Arabic-language TV network Al Jazeera on January 29 to express his regret that he unwittingly offended practicing Muslims, but his remarks were not translated into Arabic.[2] Editor-in-chief Juste on January 30 published a statement on Jyllands-Posten’s website in English, Danish, and Arabic which apologized for offending, but not for publishing. The statement noted that the cartoons did not violate Danish law. It said:

In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims, for which we apologize.

On the same day, European Union Foreign Policy Coordinator Javier Solana issued a statement condemning both the cartoons and the violent protests. On January 30, former US President Bill Clinton at a conference in Qatar described the cartoons as “outrageous.” On January 31, two JP offices were evacuated after a bomb threat.

Media support? Meanwhile, pressure was building on other media outlets to show support for Jyllands-Posten and its self-styled defense of free speech. Since the fall, a couple of publications had published a few of the cartoons. The left-wing Dutch Die Volkskrant published three on October 29. On January 10, 2006, the small Norwegian religious publication Magazinet, as well as the newspaper Dagbladet, reproduced all 12 JP cartoons.

But these were weeklies or small publications. The big European media voices were silent—Frankfurter Allgemeine and Die Welt in Germany; Corriere della Serra in Italy. The same was true of the English-language press—the London Times, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. In France, too, home of Le Figaro, and Le Monde, readers and viewers saw endless headlines about the Mohammed controversy and its manifestations. As of early January, however, the cartoons themselves were difficult for news consumers to find.



[1] Two Norwegian newspapers had republished the cartoons on January 10.

[2] For discussion of the diplomatic aspects of this affair, see: http://redalyc.uaemex.mx/pdf/767/76701102.pdf.