Cablegate: Embassy Copenhagen
P 131425Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4063
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY JAKARTA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY
CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L COPENHAGEN 000070
STATE FOR NEA, EUR, AND DS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2018 TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL KISL ASEC DA
REF: COPENHAGEN 00067
Classified By: CDA Sandra Kaiser for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (U) Summary: Taking a defiant stance following a foiled plot to kill a Danish cartoonist, 17 Danish newspapers today published his controversial caricature of Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. Official Danish reaction to the re-publication of the cartoon has been muted, while the Danish MFA nervously monitors reactions in the Muslim world. Domestic Danish press coverage of the February 12 arrests included editorials and comments reflecting general outrage at the planned killing and a defense of free expression. End Summary.
2. (U) Following the February 12 arrests by Danish police of three men accused of planning to murder Jyllands-Posten cartoonist Kurt Westergaard as revenge for his caricature of Mohammed (reftel), 17 Danish newspapers (including every major news daily) published Westergaard´s now-infamous image in their February 13 editions. The editors of the three major dailies, Politiken, Berlingske Tidende, and Jyllands-Posten, defended their decisions to publish the cartoon as a matter of free speech and a display of unity and solidarity with Westergaard. International media have also been quick to widely report news of the arrests and the Danish papers´ decision to reprint the cartoon.
3. (U) Various Danish political parties February 13 denounced the planned murder as "terrifying" and praised the work of the Danish police and intelligence services. Justice Minister Lene Espersen acknowledged the "deeply worrisome" nature of the case, but said the terror threat in Denmark remains unchanged. Parliamentarian Naser Khader, who gained political prominence during the last Mohammed crisis, called on the Danish government to develop a national action plan to combat Islamic radicalization.
4. (U) Representatives of Islamic groups in Denmark also uniformly condemned the planned attack. The Islamic Council (Muslimernes Faellesraad) issued a statement stating "it is shameful that a group of people would take Islam as a hostage in connection with their own interests... the suspects have misunderstood the message of Islam." The Islamic Faith Society (Islamic Trossamfund) characterized the threats as contrary to Islam.
5. (C) Acting Danish MFA Chief Anne Riggleson told Charge that Danish embassies are reporting calm in the field. The Danes remain concerned, however, about potential unrest in Ramallah, which saw flag burnings and violent protests in 2006. The Danish MFA´s Citizen Services Unit said in a statement that they "have not heard anything that gives reason to change the security assessment for Danish citizens." The Foreign Ministry had already issued a standing warning to Danish citizens of an increased terror threat as a result of the 2006 Mohammed cartoon crisis.
6. (U) Meanwhile, one of the suspected plotters, a Danish citizen of Moroccan descent, was released from prison February 12 pending formal charges. The two other suspects, both Tunisian nationals with Danish residence permits, remain in a Danish prison awaiting deportation as "threats to Danish state security."
7. (C) Comment: Denmark is enjoying one of its long, sacrosanct holiday periods, with the government on skeleton staffing. The domestic Danish debate has, as in the original Mohammed crisis, focused so far on the defense of free speech, with only a few professional diplomats expressing worry to us about international reaction. Muslim groups in Denmark have also been muted in their response. However, all sides will be nervous in the days ahead as they monitor international reaction and popular sentiments. A spokesman for the Islamic Faith Society commented February 13 that the group had been able to exercise considerable influence in encouraging restraint in Denmark´s Muslim community during the first Mohammed crisis. He quickly cautioned, however, that the decision to reprint one of the cartoons now might also "provoke" Muslims in Denmark, and he suggested the planned deportation of the Tunisian suspects without a court proceeding is "unfair treatment" which could lead the Faith Society to "lose control" of its efforts to keep Danish Muslims calm. Two years on, the Mohammed cartoon crisis remains a deep source of tension within and outside Denmark.