Sunday, September 02, 2007

Swedish Artist's Mohammed Sketch Prompts Another Muslim Uproar

Swedes getting bolder?

"Marking the beginning of yet another dispute over free speech and religious sensitivity, the government of Pakistan has joined Iran in protesting the publication in a Swedish newspaper of a sketch featuring the head of Mohammed on the body of a dog. "Pakistan condemns, in the strongest terms, the publication of an offensive and blasphemous sketch of the Holy Prophet in the Swedish newspaper," the foreign ministry in Islamabad said in a statement Thursday.

The government in Stockholm has distanced itself from the decision by a regional newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, to publish the picture on August 18. The sketch, by artist Lars Vilks, was used to illustrate an editorial on freedom of expression. The paper noted that three Swedish art exhibitions had turned down three Vilks sketches depicting a bearded, turbaned man as a dog, apparently because of security concerns....

Earlier this week the Iranian government also summoned a Swedish diplomat for a dressing-down, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at a press conference during which he raged about Jews, accused "Zionists" of being responsible for the sketch.

The Swedish newspaper publishers' association has come out in support of Nerikes Allehanda's decision to publish the Mohammed sketch. "The strength of freedom of expression lies in the fact that it tolerates -- and protects -- not only comfortable, harmless and uncontroversial opinions, but also those that are tasteless, controversial, upsetting and offensive," the group's deputy chairman said in a statement.