Flemish newspapers rallied to defend freedom of expression Friday, printing a slew of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including those published in a Danish newspaper that have sparked outrage across the Muslim world. "Right for Satire," said a front-page headline in Het Nieuwsblad. An editorial in the newspaper called the outcry over the cartoons an attack on freedom of expression.
Another Dutch-language newspaper, Het Volk, printed drawings of the prophet by leading Flemish cartoonists and quoted renowned Belgian philosopher Etienne Vermeersch as saying that Belgian papers should publish such caricatures every week "so that Muslims could get used to the idea." Broadsheet De Standard reprinted the 12 cartoons from the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, saying basic values of democracy were at stake.
The reaction in the country's French-Language papers was more muted, with La Libre asking "Can Muhammad be depicted?" in a front-page headline accompanied by a silhouette of the prophet.
Belgium, divided into Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, is home to a large Muslim community. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, to prevent idolatry.
The cartoons, first published by the Danish newspaper in September, included an image of Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, and another portraying him holding a sword, his eyes covered by a black rectangle, reports the AP.
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