Why I Published Cartoons of Muhammad and Don’t Regret It

Image: Church and State
Almost a decade has passed since I commissioned drawings of the Prophet Muhammad to run in Jyllands-Posten. But despite countless op-eds and even a book that laid out my motivation for publishing the drawings, confusion and bizarre conspiracy theories continue to cause controversy about that fateful decision.

By Flemming Rose | Church and State

In 2006, for example, a Syrian television series portrayed me as a Ukrainian Jew with close ties to neoconservative circles in the U.S. My purpose for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, according to the show, was to stir up conflict between the Muslim world and the West.

The echo of those cartoons still reverberates in different parts of the world. The recent attacks on cartoonists and artists in France and Denmark are just the two most recent examples.

A few days ago, a Guardian commenter wondered: “I’d like to ask Flemming Rose why he commissioned the infamous cartoons. What news story was he seeking to illustrate, or what political statement was he seeking to make?”

Well, I wasn’t making any political statement. Back in 2005, I was trying to cover a story about self-censorship and fear among writers, artists, museums, publishers, comedians and other people in cultural life in Denmark and Western Europe. A children’s writer had made headlines when he claimed that he had difficulties finding an illustrator for a book about the life of the Prophet Muhammad; the reason, he said, was fear. That was the starting point for a debate about self-censorship in dealing with Islam. Several other examples followed. In one example, a Danish comedian admitted he was afraid of mocking Islam the same way he did with Christianity. In another, two imams called on the Danish government to pass laws criminalizing criticism of Islam.

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Von Kurt Westergaard