One of the most striking features of the Mohammed crisis that has plagued the Danish and international communities since 2005, is a lack of dialogue.
The parties have repeatedly reacted – and over-reacted – without studying what others felt, or the background to their behavior.
Our predominant view throughout the lengthy debate has been that much could have been avoided if the government of the time had chosen to handle the crisis differently and added an element of dialogue and diplomacy.
It is in this light, that today’s small contribution to dialogue in this unfortunate case should be seen.
We have not found it too difficult to accept that our re-print of Kurt Westergaard’s caricature of the Prophet Mohammed has seemed offensive to many Muslims.
It has never been our intention to offend anyone. The cartoon is legal under Danish law. And we have only printed the cartoon in connection with our news coverage.
But that does not change the fact that our re-print in February 2008 was perceived as part of a renewed affront and provocation that once again caused tempers to fly in large parts of the world.
Tired of the case
Thanks to this acknowledgement and regret, we have reached agreement with a large group of Muslims from eight different countries.
The accord is an agreement designed to look forward, focus on de-escalating tensions and with hopes for further reconciliation between Denmark and the Muslim world.
At the same time it has naturally been vital that Politiken in no way, as a result of an accord, has placed any form of restriction on its editorial freedoms.
What we choose to publish, including which cartoons we choose to print, will continue to be our sovereign and free decision.
Most Danes are profoundly tired of the issue.
That became clear in a recent poll in which 84 percent of the population said they agreed with a decision by the media not to re-print Kurt Westergaard’s caricature in connection with the most recent terrorism cases.
But unfortunately, the case has a symbolic value that means that it will not die out on its own.
If all parties are to gradually begin to look ahead and leave the conflict to the fanatics who refuse to relinquish it, it is vital that Danes and Muslims begin to put a full stop to the issue. Together, and based on dialogue that respects those differences that exist.
Today’s accord is a small step in that direction. Hopefully, others will tread the same path.
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Translated by Julian Isherwood