Muslim Organizations Seeking Damages Rejected by Danish Court
The plaintiffs, who claimed to have the backing of 20 more Islamic organizations in the Scandinavian country, had sought $16,860 in damages from Jyllands-Posten Editor in Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.
The lawsuit said the cartoons depict Mohammed "as belligerent, oppressing women, criminal, crazy and unintelligent, and a connection is made between the Prophet and war and terror."It said the drawings were published "solely to provoke and mock not only the Prophet Mohammed but also the Muslim population."
The City Court of Aarhus indicated that while the drawings “have offended some Muslims’ honor, there is no basis to assume that the drawings are, or were conceived as, insulting.” The article indicates that there are statuatory laws against both racism and blasphemy in Denmark, meaning that they are punishable by law. However, in a very narrow reading of the law, the Court decided that neither rule was violated by the cartoons.
There is no question that religious beliefs and traditions, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or others, should be respected. Additionally, this decision should not be seen as a ticket to speak ill of Islam. In order to foster mutual understanding between the religions, differences must be acknowledged and valued. However, individual freedoms including the right to free speech must also be respected. It is up to the legislatures, not the courts, to balance the line between respect for religious beliefs and free speech. The role of the courts is not to punish someone for hurting another’s feelings. Courts are in place to dictate what the law says and punish those who are in violation of the law. In this case, the courts appear to have done their job.