[JURIST] EU Justice Commissioner and European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini [official website] intervened in the growing Islamic cartoons controversy Thursday, calling newspaper publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad "somewhat imprudent," while acknowledging that freedom of expression was a "'founding principle' of most European nations." In a statement [text] from Brussels, he said:
I can understand the feelings of indignation, frustration and sadness of the Muslim communities over the last few days as they viewed the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper. Such events do not facilitate dialogue between faiths and cultures and provide barriers to the integration process to which the Member States of the Union are committed.... [But] a difference of opinion, even if it is bitter and disrespectful, often feeds into free polemic debate, in which satire plays a full part. We often discuss matters, sometimes passionately or even rudely, not only in our Parliaments or in the press, but in all manner of public arenas. This is the rule now, replacing armed and violent conflict, using words and ideas to create a society bound by the rule of law.A smoldering free-speech debate sparked into full flame Wednesday after newspapers across Europe reprinted offensive cartoons [JURIST report], including a French paper that ran a cartoon of Muhammad under the headline "Yes, we have the right to caricature God." Islamic authorities say that any representation of Muhammad is sacrilegious; in response to the depictions, which first ran in a Danish newspaper, a boycott on Danish goods was declared, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador from Copenhagen, and Libya closed their embassy in Denmark. EUPolitix.com has more.