One of the eleven Danish newspapers that controversially reprinted a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed has apologised as part of a settlement with a Saudi Arabian lawyer.
In 2008 the Islamic world reacted furiously to Danish newspapers reprinting a cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban. The furore sparked an international debate about the liberty of the press.
But the apology by Politiken, a Danish daily newspaper, has been widely criticised in Denmark as a capitulation to extremists.
Kurt Westergaard, the artist behind the cartoon, criticised the apology, saying: “I fear this is a setback for the freedom of speech”.
He added: “In Denmark we play by a set of rules, which we don’t deviate from, and that’s freedom of speech.”
His concerns were echoed by Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, head of the Danish Union of Journalists, who accused the paper of “kneeling before opponents of the freedom of press”.
But Toeger Seidenfaden, editor-in-chief of Politiken, has defended his paper’s decision.
He said: “We have the right to print Kurt Westergaard’s drawings, we have the right to print the original 12 drawings, we have the right to print all the caricatures in the world.
“We apologise for the offence which the reprint has caused. That is what we apologise for.”
The Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen expressed concern that the Danish media were no longer “standing shoulder to shoulder” on the issue.
And Pia Kjærsgaard, leader of the Danish People’s Party, said: “It is deeply, deeply embarrassing that (Politiken’s editor) Tøger Seidenfaden has sold out of Denmark’s and the west’s freedom of speech.”
The controversial cartoon depicts the prophet Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban, but in Islamic tradition it is blasphemous to make or show an image of the prophet.
The limits of free speech in the UK are due to be tested later this week.
Dutch MP Geert Wilders has been invited to screen his controversial anti-Koran movie in the House of Lords on Friday.
Mr Wilders was originally invited to screen Fitna in the House of Lords last February, but found himself at the centre of an international free speech row when he was held at London’s Heathrow airport before being sent back to Holland.
But the ban on Mr Wilders entering the UK was overturned on appeal last October by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.