Danish expats condemn daily

Tim Newbold
Filed on February 2, 2006

ABU DHABI Danes and other expats in the capital have condemned the cartoons in a Danish newspaper that have caused a storm across the Muslim world.

The Muslim group in Denmark that spearheaded the criticism of the paper has said it accepted apologies from the publication, Jyllands-Posten, and the Danish government for the anger and offence caused to Islam by the blasphemous images.

However, it is not yet clear whether the backlash in Muslim countries has abated. Danish goods have been boycotted, threats have been made by militants against Denmark and diplomatic sanctions imposed by some nations.

Khaleej Times spoke to a number of Danish and other residents of Abu Dhabi for their views but they would only speak on condition of anonymity. They wholeheartedly castigated the newspaper for its "stupidity" and "disrespect" to Islam.

One Dane said: "I understand why there has been such a reaction. I've been in Abu Dhabi a while and really respect the way Muslims feel about their religion. It's about respect and empathy for other people and other religions. I'm not proud of being a Dane at the moment. It's not something I talk about much. The cartoon didn't represent the views of the Danish people, especially those who live in the Middle East and know and understand Islam."

Another Danish expatriate said: "Denmark is not a very religious country, whereas here belief and faith are taken very seriously. I don't think it was done in spite. It was not thought through and was very, very stupid."

She added: "One thing that's been missed is that there's obviously still a huge gap in understanding. The Europeans have not got what Islam is all about yet. We need to focus all the energy of both sides on learning to understand each other better."

A British expatriate said: "It is offensive. You'd have to live in an igloo not to know what the reaction would be. It was obviously going to upset a very large proportion of the Muslim community. It also puts the Danish people living in this part of the world in a very precarious position. It has made enemies on their behalf. It's totally unfair that someone can have the power to affect so many people's lives."

A Canadian living in the capital added: "I think the Danish paper was very insensitive and had no right to do what it did. This is not the kind of thing people should make jokes about in these sensitive times or any other times."

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