Islam cartoons will go in textbook

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Publisher risks further fury from Muslim world as it plans to use controversial drawings of the Prophet as a teaching aid, reports Chris Johnston.

DENMARK

An educational publisher is risking provoking further outrage from the Muslim world by republishing in a textbook the 12 cartoons of Mohammed that have sparked violent protests around the globe.

Peter Mollerup, director of Danish publisher Gyldendal's academic division, said the controversial drawings of the Prophet, which are forbidden under Islam, would be used as a teaching aid in schools.

"What is happening at the moment has so great a significance that you cannot brush them under the carpet," he said. "It is essential that future generations know about these drawings. In a year's time I don't think we will have anything against printing them."

Mr Mollerup told the Danish newspaper Politiken that the publishing house was not trying to further provoke Muslims and that the cartoons would be part of a comprehensive examination of the entire affair.

"It's a touchy subject and needs to become more distant, but it takes a year and a half to make a book for use in education," he said. "When that time comes, the intensity of the subject will probably have blown out."

But Imam Ahmad Abu Laban, the religious director of the Muslim society in Copenhagen, who led protests against the cartoons, said they would be just as insulting to Muslims in a year's time.

The cartoons could also be put on display in Danish museums. Ervin Nielse, head of the media museum in Odense in central Denmark said he "did not rule out" exhibiting the drawings that resulted in protests and a boycott of Danish products by many Muslim countries.

Sofie Lene Bak, a researcher at Copenhagen's Royal Library, said it was vital to preserve the cartoons for future generations. "From a pedagogic view it's important to show the drawings. However, I think it is necessary to stress what is so insulting about them - you have to explain what it's all about."

The drawings were commissioned by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper after Kaare Bluitgen, a 46-year-old Copenhagen author, last year had difficulty finding an illustrator willing to draw pictures of the Prophet for his children's book about Mohammed and the Koran.

Despite the taboo on depicting Mohammed, the author insisted on having pictures of the prophet because he believed it was central to the European book-writing tradition of illustrating the main character.

Mr Bluitgen eventually found an illustrator, who has remained anonymous, but the paper decided to invite others to contribute their own images that were then published.

The book was meant to give non-Muslim Danish children a better understanding of who the Prophet was, he said. "I tried to create understanding for a new religion and culture and it all ends up with Scandinavian embassies being burned."

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