» Monday, February 6, 2006

Danish Cartoons

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) began the briefing with a statement. He said that the Government understood the offence caused by the cartoons depicting the Prophet and, of course, regret that this had happened. Such things helped no-one. It was always sensible for freedom of expression to be exercised with respect for religious belief. But nothing could justify the violence aimed at European embassies or at the country of Denmark. We and our EU partners stand in full solidarity with them in resisting this violence and believe the Danish Government had done everything it reasonably could to handle a very difficult situation.

The attacks on the citizens of Denmark and people of other European countries were completely unacceptable, as was the behaviour of some of the demonstrators in London over the last few days. The Police should have our full support in any actions they may wish to take in respect of any breaches of the law, though again we should understand the difficult situation they had to manage.

We also welcomed strongly the statements of Muslim leaders here, who were themselves tackling the extremists who abused their community’s good name.

He added that the Prime Minister had spoken to Mr. Rasmussen this morning as well.

Asked if it had been Demark who had initiated the phone call, the PMOS said that the two governments had been in contact over the weekend and it had been mutually agreed that it would be useful to speak. Asked if the Prime Minister had expressed solidarity with the Danish Government, the PMOS said that was clear from our statement. The Prime Minister believed that it was important to be seen to be standing firmly alongside the Danish government.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed the Police should bear down hard on demonstrators who were advocating violence, the PMOS said that in this country we abide by the law, and the way in which the law operated was that it was the Police who decided when to take action, in conjunction with the CPS. Therefore he did not wish to pre-empt that process in any way. Equally however our statement made clear that the Police would have our full support if they thought that there had been breaches of the law and did decide to take any action. In terms of the behaviour of some of the demonstrators, we believed that some of it was unacceptable but it was up to the Police to decide whether action was justified. Asked if he would agree with Peter Hain’s words this morning when he had said that Police should bear down on people advocating violence, the PMOS said that in affect the statement said that, but it was the Police and the CPS to judge what action, if any, was justified.

Asked why the Police had not acted on Saturday, the PMOS said that the Police had operational independence and it would be wrong for him to second-guess judgments on the ground. Of course it was simply common sense that in these situations there were always decisions to be taken about whether to act immediately or to act later. That was a matter for the Police and the Police themselves had said that people shouldn’t rush to judgment at this stage. Asked to define what was considered unacceptable behaviour, the PMOS said that anything which advocated action outside the law was unacceptable, it was as simple as that. As he had said on Friday, people should respond to this situation within the law and with due respect for people’s sensitivity. That worked both ways. In terms of the comments coming from the mainstream Muslim community, they appreciated that.

Asked what the Government’s message was to anyone thinking about re-printing these kinds of images, the PMOS said that the message was exactly the same as the message we gave on Friday. We had said that people need to have cogniscence of the law and also act with due sensitivity. Anyone who published the cartoons now, would be fully aware of the offence they were causing. Therefore that was why we had said what we said in the statement. Freedom of expression needed to be exercised with respect for religious belief. To put it another way people needed to distinguish between what they could do and, given the sensitivities, what they should do.

Asked why the Police had not arrested anyone, in particular those advocating murder, given that in recent months they had been so quick to arrest a woman for reading out the names of those who died in Iraq outside Parliament, the PMOS said that the operational decisions on the ground were matters for the Police. The Police had to take into account not only the whether they believed an offence had been committed, but also the impact this might have on the ground. That was an operational judgment and he would not get into the business of second-guessing that. In this country we worked with the Police making operation decisions and they, in conjunction with the CPS, decided whether arrests were justified. That was how the process worked. Our role was to make clear what we believed to be unacceptable behaviour and we had done that.

Put to him that the Government should have been more forward in making it clear what the Police should be doing in this situation, the PMOS said that he thought in a different guise, we would be heavily criticised if we were seen to be breaching the way in which we did things in this country by telling the Police when, and when not, to make arrests. That was not the way things were done in this country. We had to recognise that there were circumstances in which the Police would make operational judgments on the ground and then pursue matters later on. It was for the Police to decide how to handle such things, it was not for us to second-guess that process.

Put to him that some of these fringe elements in the Muslim community might have been looking to get arrested, the PMOS said that long experience had taught him that it was probably best for him not to get into the business of trying to second-guess what was in the minds of extremists or attribute motivations to them. All he would say was that he recognised that the Police had a difficult balancing act, but it was for them to take the decision, not for us to dictate what they should do.

Asked if perhaps the Syrian Government had been encouraging some of the violent demonstrations towards embassies in their country, the PMOS said all he would say was that under the Vienna Convention Syria had an obligation to protect embassies on its soil, just as other countries would act to protect Syrian embassies on their soil. That was one of the basics of international protocol and diplomacy.

Asked to characterise the Prime Minister’s mood with regard to race relations in the UK, given that after so much work had been put into engaging with the Muslim community since 7/7, it now seemed to be unravelling with the publishing of a few cartoons, the PMOS said that first and foremost his view would be that you should not associate the vast majority of Muslim opinion with the actions of a few extremists. What had been encouraging over the weekend was the speed with which mainstream Muslim community leaders had condemned and distanced themselves from the actions of those extremists. The premise of the question did seem to put all Muslims in the same brackets, and we disputed that.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed it would be appropriate to apologise for the cartoons, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister believed that it was a fact that cartoons had caused offence and we regretted that that had happened. Equally however the way in which people protested about the cartoons must be within the law. As we had said on Friday, people should abide by the law and act with sensitivity.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Search for related news


  1. "…and believe the Danish Government had done everything it reasonably could to handle a very difficult situation."

    Except, of course, print the fucking things in the first place! Come on now; the only reason here in the "civilised West" such things are allowable is because in general we have no faith left ourselves. Therefore it’s ok to take the piss out of anyone and everyone else – and take umbrage when they don’t have a "sense of humour". If we ourselves believed fervently in Jesus Christ or anyone else we’d have had more sense. But that’s fine; the fact that this comes on the back of the establishment of the Jewish Holocaust remembrance, naturally forgetting all the other victims, shouldn’t be looked at with any suspicion, should it? Especially not when we’re camped out on the doorstep of a couple of Muslim countries (Iran and Syria for the stupid) ready to kick off to nick their oil at the behest of the warmongering Zionists in Israel and the US.

    Am I the only one to see how transparent this is? I am really the only one to remember the exact same tactics being used before we got stuck into Iraq – and incidentally made a right royal fuck-up of the whole thing?

    But I’m sure that’s ok to all the unthinking sheep out there; the news says Iran is loaded for bear (with nukes, no less) so it must be ok to ignore our own instincts and jump on the war-wagaon.

    Humanity should be ashamed of itself – especially those parts who supposedly live in "democracy". Every last single one of you needs an education into the meaning of democracy; sadly, it’s too late and you’ll never get it. In case you hadn’t noticed the USA is very quickly turning into Nazi Germany; Bush is asking for powers to kill people who don’t agree with him. What happens in the USA pretty soon afterwards happens here – and all you IDIOTS out there are just going to let it.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 7 Feb 2006 on 10:13 pm | Link
  2. "He added that the Prime Minister had spoken to Mr. Rasmussen this morning as well."

    What did he say? "Nice one son!!! You got that spot on! No-one will suspect a THING!!!"?!?!?!?

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 7 Feb 2006 on 10:18 pm | Link
  3. Papalazzaru says….

    Am I the only one…..

    I am really the only one…………….

    But I’m sure that’s ok to all the unthinking sheep out there…………

    Humanity should be ashamed of itself ….

    Every last single one of you needs an education…

    ….all you IDIOTS out there….

    God, by defintion, can change his mind.
    He’s obviously changed it and opted to put another all knowing, wise and superior Prophet on terra firma – either that or Papa’s hinge needs tightening.

    Comment by Mr Pooter — 9 Feb 2006 on 5:07 pm | Link
  4. Papalazzaru er, Rothschild?

    Comment by Mr Pooter — 9 Feb 2006 on 9:22 pm | Link
  5. Constructive. And funny. Yawn…

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 9 Feb 2006 on 10:07 pm | Link

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