The Danish editor in charge of publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad says they were printed in response to self-censorship on issues regarding Islam and that giving in to pressure not to run them would have been "incompatible with a secular democracy."
In an opinion article written for Sunday editions of the Washington Post, Flemming Rose, the editor at the Jyllands-Posten newspaper behind the publication of the caricatures, said running the cartoons was responding to "widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam."
Citing a Danish children's writer not being able to find an illustrator for a book about Muhammad and the Tate gallery in London withdrawing an installation that depicted a Koran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces, Rose said his newspaper saw "a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don't tell."
Rose - who is on indefinite holiday from his newspaper - wrote that the cartoons were fair in their treatment of Islam.
"The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims," Rose wrote.
"Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist," Rose wrote. "I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name."
After reports that the Danish newspaper refused to run caricatures of Jesus in the past, critics said that pointed to a double standard when it comes to dealing with Islam. But Rose defended his newspaper's editorial decisions, saying depictions of Jesus have been printed.
"Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those."