Apology for Offensive Cartoons from a Danish Newspaper – A Lesson for Indians Worldwide?

Most readers would recall that a few years ago Danish Newspapers published cartoons that were deemed offensive by Muslims around the world. While there are many cartoons, such as those provided by organizations similar to www.cartoonporno.xxx, that can be deemed to be offensive, these particular cartoons shook many Muslims to their core. The publication of these cartoons was met with violent demonstrations in many Muslim countries. The Danish newspapers and their brother Newspapers in Europe maintained that the publication was protected under freedom of expression while the religious Muslims felt the cartoons were deeply defamatory to their religious beliefs. For the most part, the American print media were restrained in their coverage and, as we recall, did not publish the cartoons. 

Last week we saw a short comment in the New York Times titled Denmark:Cartoon Apology. This week, on March 4, Business Wire carried an article about the “first success” achieved in getting Danish newspapers to apologize.

Both these articles state that on February 26, 2010, the Danish Newspaper Politiken published its apology and the draft of the settlement that has been apparently reached between Politiken and the Law Firm that represented an International Organization of Muslims with over 95,000 members in 8 countries including Australia.


                                    Left to right: Mr. Jacob C. Jorgensen, Mr. Faisal Yamani, Mr. Philipp Plog & Mr. Alexei Panich (Photo: Business Wire)

The Business Wire article quotes Mr. Faisal Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the Executive Partner of the lead Law Firm, as saying “In our view, all religious icons of all religions……….all deserve respect and protection from ridicule and defamation”.

We concur. While we hold the principles of freedom of speech very dear and sacrosanct, we pointed out in our January 30 article on Academic Freedom that even in America, Freedom of Speech has not been viewed as absolute sanction or license. All major voices in American Media were unanimous in this view of freedom of speech in the immediate aftermath of September 11 attacks. In fact, as we recall, a humorist was fired from a TV network at that time for expressing views that were complimentary of Al Qaeda.

We are surprised by the legal victory of the Ahmed Zaki Yamani firm. We confess to being pleased to a certain extent because we do feel that the Danish Newspapers crossed a red line.

Perhaps we feel so because we witness the persistent and pernicious defamation of Indian Religion & Culture in 
the European-American Media. This has spread to English language media in India that are funded by capital from European-American TV & Media networks. In contrast to Danish Newspapers which only drew cartoons, nude paintings of sacred Indian icons and religious figures have been supported and acclaimed by European-American funded TV networks in India. Anchors at TV networks in America, Europe or India see nothing wrong and fear no retribution from making horribly insensitive or defamatory comments about Indian religion. 

On this Blog, we have drawn* attention to so-called “scholarly” books published by American Universities that contain disgustingly defamatory content about Indian Religion & Culture. We have drawn* attention to mainstream organizations that actually consider giving awards to such work deemed defamatory and erroneous by Hindu Religious and Scholarly bodies.

These “scholarly books” and their affirmation by American Universities & Newsmedia have created a deep sense of outrage among Indians in India and in the Global Indian Diaspora. So far, this outrage has been contained due to the essentially peaceful, tolerant nature of Indian Society. So far, the most common expression we hear is the traditional Hindi proverb “Hathi to chal raha hai, Kutte bhunke to bhunke” or “The elephant walks serenely without paying any attention to the barking of mongrels (at him) “.

But we have begun to see a new awareness among the Global Indian Diaspora, an awareness that argues for immediate and articulate response. After all, mongrels can carry rabies or other diseases and venomous bites from such mongrels may only be ignored at peril.

So, we wonder whether the legal victory of the Ahmed Zaki Yamani Law Firm provides any lessons to the global Indian Diaspora?

* Our prior articles are:


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