- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

1:31 p.m.

COPENHAGEN — A Danish court today dismissed a defamation lawsuit against a newspaper that first published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that touched off protests in the Islamic world.

The City Court in Aarhus rejected claims by seven Danish Muslim groups that said the 12 drawings printed in Jyllands-Posten were meant to insult the prophet and make a mockery of Islam.

Islamic law forbids any depiction of the prophet, even positive ones, to prevent idolatry.

“It cannot be ruled out that the drawings have offended some Muslims’ honor,” the court said, but it added that there was no basis to assume that “the purpose of the drawings was to present opinions that can belittle Muslims.”

Jyllands-Posten’s editor said the decision was a victory for freedom of speech. The Danish Muslims who filed suit said they will appeal the ruling, which was criticized by some Muslim leaders outside Denmark.

The newspaper published the cartoons on Sept. 30, 2005, with an accompanying text saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.

The caricatures were reprinted in European newspapers in January and February, fueling protests in the Islamic world. Some turned violent, with protesters killed in Libya and Afghanistan.

Jyllands-Posten’s Editor in Chief Carsten Juste said the ruling confirmed the newspaper’s “incontestable right” to print the drawings.

“Everything but a pure acquittal would have been a disaster for the press freedom and the media’s possibility to fulfill its duties in a democratic society,” Mr. Juste said.

Kasem Ahmad, a spokesman for the Muslim plaintiffs, told Danish radio that they will appeal.

The court said that some of the drawings could be perceived as linking Islam to terrorism but that the purpose was to provide social commentary rather than to insult or ridicule Muslims.

The seven Danish Muslim groups filed the defamation suit in March after Denmark’s top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

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