COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — China demanded Monday that a major Danish newspaper, which angered Muslims worldwide by publishing drawings of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, apologizes for a cartoon on the new virus outbreak in China.
Jyllands-Posten’s chief editor, Jacob Nybroe, said the cartoon, which shows the Chinese flag with what resembles viruses instead of the normal stars, was not intended “to mock or ridicule China.”
In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen expressed its “strong indignation” and said the cartoon printed Monday “is an insult to China.” It added that the drawing “crossed the bottom line of civilized society and the ethical boundary of free speech, and offends human conscience.”
Nybroe said his newspaper “can’t apologize for something we don’t think is wrong … As far as I can see, there are two different types of cultural understanding here.”
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said freedom of expression in Denmark includes cartoons.
“We have a very, very strong tradition in Denmark not only for freedom of expression, but also for satirical drawings, and we will have that in the future as well,” Frederiksen said. “It is a well-known Danish position, and we will not change that.”
Following the news of the Embassy demanding an apology, people commented on social media for and against the cartoons, with some noting Frederiksen’s comments that Denmark has freedom of expression while others demanded that the Danish daily apologizes.
China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of a new virus, with more than 100 deaths. Most have been in the central city of Wuhan where the outbreak began in December.
In September 2005, Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons showing the Prophet Muhammad. This caused wide outrage among Muslims, who generally hold that any depiction of Muhammad is blasphemous, and prompted often violent protests.
Four months later, anti-Danish demonstrations were held in predominantly Muslim countries, some of which led to attacks on Danish and other Western embassies, while boycotts of Danish products were staged in the Middle East. One of the cartoonists was assaulted in his home and a terror attack against the newspaper’s Copenhagen office was foiled by the intelligence service.
The newspaper said it had wanted to test whether cartoonists would apply self-censorship when asked to portray Muhammad. No Danish laws were violated with the cartoons’ publication.