Responses from the European Press to the Cartoon Controversy

February 3, 2006

Source: BBC News

On February 3, 2006 BBC News reported, "The controversy generated by cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in the European press continues to make front-page headlines and dominates editorials. Most papers argue that in democratic societies, the right to free speech must come above the need to protect religious sensibilities... France's Le Monde takes the 1791 constitution as its guiding light on the issue... 'Religious commandments and prohibitions cannot take priority over the laws of the republic,' it insists. 'Religions... can be freely analysed, criticised, indeed ridiculed'... The Czech paper Hospodarske Noviny warns that giving up freedom of speech means rendering human life 'flat and empty'. Not even those who respect religious rules - like entering mosques barefoot and cathedrals with arms covered - can bow to pressure from Arab governments and the burning of flags, it says. 'One of the biggest curses that can befall man is the loss of the sense of humour,' the daily adds. Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says freedom of speech, including satire, is 'not negotiable'. 'It would be nonsense to regard the disparagement of Christian, Jewish, Hindu or other religious beliefs as an "opinion" covered by free speech, but making fun of the Prophet as a deadly sin or a crime,' it says. But it adds that 'provocation' is not the right way to engage with radical Islam. 'It causes the very attacks against which freedom must then be defended,' the paper says." The article also includes commentary from other newspapers in France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Austria.