– February 12, 2008 Danish officials uncover Islamist extremist plot to murder Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard
– February 14, 2008, Danish media outlets republish controversial cartoons sparking protests across the country
– Islamist leaders call for calm
– Islamist radicalism continues to spread across Western Europe
On February 12, 2008, Danish intelligence officials unveiled a murder plot being waged by suspected Islamist extremists to kill Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard. The individuals, two Tunisians and one Dane of Moroccan decent, were arrested on charges of planning to kill Westergaard, one of 12 Danish cartoonists responsible for highly controversial and perceived anti-Islam cartoons that were originally released and published by Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.
Responding to the murder plot, on February 14, 2008, Danish newspapers across the country announced their intention to republish the controversial cartoons, and in particular, chose Westergaard’s incendiary illustration of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed adorned in a turban shaped like a bomb.
In the days following the cartoon’s re-release, violent protests have erupted across Denmark to include: demonstrations, fires, and vandalism in Aarhus, Ringsted, and Slagelse.
Controversial Cartoon Sparks Protests
On February 14, 2008, Denmark’s five leading daily newspapers republished one of 12 controversial cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammed, angering Muslim believers across the globe. Citing freedom of speech, Danish media outlets chose to republish the controversial cartoons in protest against a revealed plot to murder Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. Authorities arrested two Tunisians and one Dane of Moroccan decent in the western region of Denmark for planning to murder Westergaard.
A total of five newspapers, to include the original publisher of the cartoons, Jyllands-Posten, republished an original version of Westergaard’s controversial cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammed with a turban in the shape of a bomb on his head. Originally published in September 2005, the cartoons sparked worldwide protests, resulting in large-scale destruction, to include damage sustained to Danish embassies in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
Danish Youth Take to the Streets; Muslim Community Leaders Call for Calm
On February 17, 2008, Danish authorities arrested 13 youths on suspicion of vandalizing and torching schools, vehicles, and waste disposal containers in immigrant neighborhoods across the country. The protests marked the seventh straight day of demonstrations waged by immigrant youth in response to the republishing of controversial anti-Islam cartoons. Commenting publicly on the rising gravity of the situation, Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, stated, “We must make clear that the youths are responsible for this.”
On February 17, 2008, the Muslim World League urged Muslims, Islamic organizations, and centers, across the country to remain calm. The organization, founded by the Saudi Arabian government, stated, “Muslims should not get caught in a whirlwind of emotional reactions.” At the same time, the organization called on responsible parties to take the necessary measures to cease what they describe as “offenses” against the Muslim prophet.
Islamist Radicalism Remains Key Concern
As we have previously reported, Western Europe continues to be significantly affected by the spread of Islamist radicalism across the region and the globe. To this end, Denmark’s status as a strategic locale for Islamist extremism is on the rise (Previous Report). In 2007, a Danish court sentenced Moroccan-born Danish citizen, Said Mansour, to three and one half years in prison for inciting terrorism (Previous Report). Arrested in 2005, Mansour was found guilty of producing and distributing multimedia materials, to include CD-ROMs and DVDs, for the promotion of terrorism. Despite being the first individual convicted under Denmark’s newest anti-terrorism law, Mansour was not the country’s first suspect to be arrested on terrorism charges.
Additionally, the February 2008 discovery of an Islamist extremists’ murder plot targeting Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, further underscores the seemingly un-scathed nation’s perceived importance as a strategic locale for the global terrorist front.
Conversely, the region is also plagued by a seemingly growing anti-foreigner/anti-Islam backlash. To this end, we continue to see far-right ideologists gaining prominence in Western Europe as well as an increase in anti-foreigner and xenophobic attacks in countries such as Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands (Previous Report). As Far-right political parties and leaders seek to incite further anti-foreigner attitudes, it is likely these attitudes spark increased anger in the region’s growing Muslim immigrant populations.