| Iraqi protesters burn a Danish flag. (Reuters)
Dubai, Feb. 19 (AFP): A Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper printed today a full-page apology from Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily that first published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad unleashing a wave of fury by muslims worldwide.
The publication of the apology came a day after Muslim rioters killed 16 people and burned 11 churches in Nigeria in the country’s first violent protests over the cartoons. A curfew has been imposed in the northeastern state of Borno where the churches were burnt.
The apology was the strongest expression of regret yet from the paper, but stopped short of explicitly saying sorry for printing the cartoons themselves, instead apologising for the turmoil.
“These drawings apparently hurt millions of Muslims around the world, so we now offer our apology and deep regret for what happened because it is far from the paper’s intention,” said the statement titled “apology” in big bold letters addressed to Muslim citizens and printed in Asharq al-Awasat. It was signed by the paper’s editor-in-chief Carsten Juste and also posted in Arabic on Jyllands-Posten’s website under a link titled “a new formulation for the apology.”
“We did not set out to offend or insult any religion. We apologise for being misunderstood and reiterate that we did not intend to target anyone.... I hope this clears the misunderstanding and god bless,” said the statement.
The move comes after at least 32 people were killed and dozens wounded since Tuesday in violent riots over the cartoons sweeping through Libya, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Many Muslim religious and civic leaders across the world have insisted that anger on the streets will only be quelled with a clear and unequivocal apology from the paper and the Danish government for the cartoons, considered blasphemous by most of the world’s estimated 1.3 billion Muslims.
Others have said it is too late for an apology, calling for legislation in Europe that would ban caricaturing or insulting religious symbols.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen previously said he was distressed over the row caused by the cartoons but insisted that his government would not apologise on behalf of the newspaper given his country’s free press tradition.
The paper itself had published a statement in early February on its website explaining that the anger of Muslims around the world over the cartoons may be the result of “serious misunderstandings” about its intentions.
It said it initially published the 12 cartoons on September 30 as part of a “dialogue on the freedom of expression”.