London, UK, February 8 – The Danish Government had legal powers to prevent the publication by Jyllands-Posten of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Section 140 of the Criminal Code prohibits any person from publicly ridiculing or insulting the dogmas of worship of any lawfully existing religious community in Denmark. Section 266b criminalises the dissemination of statements or other information by which a group of people are threatened, insulted or degraded on account of their religion.
However, since the publication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the Danish government has been hiding behind the veil of "freedom of speech" and claiming that the government has no authority over what the media can and cannot publish. Only today, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC that the "government cannot interfere with the media". In an earlier interview with the TV station Al-Arabiya he said, "In our society the media is completely independent. We have free press and the government has no authority to control the press or interfere with the press."
Commenting on this, Dr Imran Waheed, a media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, said, "The Danish government could have used their laws to prevent publication of these insults. They have made much of the 'fact' that they had no power to stop the publication of these insults but failed to tell the world that they had laws which they could have used to prevent them being published."
"We have always argued that freedom in Western societies has limits imposed by the law of the land. This episode exposes that in secular liberal societies like Denmark the government decides whether or not to use the law to curtail freedom of speech. In choosing not to prevent the publication of these cartoons you did so out of political expediency, not ideological purity."
"We demand that the Danish government exerts pressure on its media outlets to retract the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), apologise for the offence caused and guarantee no further repetition of such abuse."