Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Gwladys Fouché and agencies
Monday February 6, 2006
Guardian
 

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.

The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”

The illustrator told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, which saw the email: “I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy.”

“I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny.”

He said that he felt Jyllands-Posten rated the feelings of its Christian readers higher than that of its Muslim readers.

But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, told MediaGuardian.co.uk that the case was “ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

“In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That’s the difference,” he said.

“The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some.”

The decision smacks of “double-standards”, said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman for the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, the umbrella group that represents 27 Muslim organisations that are campaigning for a full apology from Jyllands-Posten.

“How can Jyllands-Posten distinguish the two cases? Surely they must understand,” Mr Akkari added.

Meanwhile, the editor of a Malaysian newspaper resigned over the weekend after printing one of the Muhammad cartoons that have unleashed a storm of protest across the Islamic world.

Malaysia’s Sunday Tribune, based in the remote state of Sarawak, on Borneo island, ran one of the Danish cartoons on Saturday. It is unclear which one of the 12 drawings was reprinted.

Printed on page 12 of the paper, the cartoon illustrated an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population.

The newspaper apologised and expressed “profound regret over the unauthorised publication”, in a front page statement on Sunday.

“Our internal inquiry revealed that the editor on duty, who was responsible for the same publication, had done it all alone by himself without authority in compliance with the prescribed procedures as required for such news,” the statement said.

The editor, who has not been named, regretted his mistake, apologised and tendered his resignation, according to the statement.

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