United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged Muslims offended by a cartoon in a Danish newspaper to accept the publisher’s apology, while cautioning others against exacerbating the volatile situation.
Asked to comment on the controversy, Mr. Annan said, “I share the distress of the Muslim friends who feel that the cartoon offends their religion. I also respect the right of freedom of speech. But of course freedom of speech is never absolute. It entails responsibility and judgment.”
Emphasizing the need to overcome the immediate crisis, he added: “What is important is that the newspaper that initially published the cartoons has apologized, and I would urge my Muslim friends to accept the apology, to accept it in the name of Allah the Merciful, and let’s move on.”
He also appealed “to everybody not to take any measures that will inflame an already difficult situation.”
The UN has “always respected freedom of speech along with the right to worship,” he said, recalling the world body’s initiatives to bridge the cultural divide between Islam and the West, including the Alliance of Civilizations, a high-level group discussing the issue.
“I hope the apology will be accepted and that we will put this behind us and move on, and no attempts will be made in a way to punish a group that has nothing to do with the action of an individual journalist or a newspaper,” Mr. Annan repeated. “We should not tarnish the whole nation of Denmark or all of Europe with this, and I think my Muslim brothers should accept the apology.”