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Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Crown’s Prosecutor: Muhammed is a violent figure

Quotes from some central parts with added headlines from the 10 page legal assessment of the cartoon case from the Crown’s Prosecutor, all in strict legal language, provide a highly interesting insight in the Danish legal thinking when it comes to humour, tradition, interpretation of blasphemy and more.

The Crown’s Prosecutor systematically examines the case evaluating the two relevant sections of the penal code, first the “blasphemy-section”, since the “racism-section”.

Readers Digest version, click Continue .., Full version, click headline
Headlines in Italic are added by me

"Section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code
Section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code provides that any person who, in public, mocks or scorns the religious doctrines or acts of worship of any lawfully existing religious community in this country shall be liable to imprisonment for any term not exceeding four months. "

Only in use three times, last sentence passed in 1938
"It should also be noted that when adopted in 1930, section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code was intended to afford protection of the most serious offences against religious feelings and was furthermore implied in subsequent discussions by the Danish Parliament in 1973 and 2005 regarding the necessity for this provision. This has been reflected in practice as well, as since 1930 only three prosecutions have been brought for violation of this provision and the most recent of these cases from 1971 led to acquittal. "

Drawing Muhammed is not illegal
“It cannot then be assumed that a drawing of the Prophet Muhammed in general will be contrary to the religious doctrines and acts of worship of the religion as practised today, although certain groups within the religion comply fully with the ban on depiction. For that reason alone, a drawing of the Prophet Muhammed cannot in itself constitute a violation of section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code. "

A caricature of Muhammed may be in violation
"The drawings in question, which according to the headline illustrate "The Face of Muhammed", are not, however, where some of them are concerned merely a depiction of the Prophet Muhammed, but a caricature of him.

Depending on the circumstances, a caricature of such a central figure in Islam as the Prophet Muhammed may imply ridicule of or be considered an expression of contempt of Islamic religious doctrines and acts of worship. An assessment of whether this is the case must be seen in the light of the text accompanying the drawings.”

Drawings referring to terror in the name of Muhammed are okay
"If Muhammed is taken to be a symbol of Islam, the drawing can be understood to mean that violence or bomb explosions have been committed in the name of Islam. The drawing can therefore be seen as a contribution to the current debate on terror and as an expression that religious fanaticism has led to terrorist acts. Understood in this way, the drawing cannot be considered to express contempt for the Prophet Muhammed or the Islamic religion, but as an expression of criticism of Islamic groups who commit terrorist acts in the name of religion. On this basis, the drawing is clearly not a violation of section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code. "

Muhammed historically was a violent person
"The drawing can also be taken to depict the Prophet Muhammed as a violent person and as a rather intimidating or scary figure.

The historical descriptions of the Prophet's life show that while propagating their religion, he and his followers were involved in violent conflicts and armed clashes with persons and population groups that did not join Islam, and that both many Muslims and others lost their lives in that connection.

The bomb doesn’t correctly reflect on the violent Muhammad, however not illegal
Even against this historical background, a depiction of the Prophet Muhammed as a violent person must be considered an incorrect depiction if it is with a bomb as a weapon, which in the context of today may be understood to imply terrorism. This depiction may with good reason be understood as an affront and insult to the Prophet who is an ideal for believing Muslims.

However, such a depiction is not an expression of mockery or ridicule, and hardly scorn within the meaning of section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code. The concept scorn covers contempt and debasement, which in the usual meaning would not comprise situations depicting a figure as shown in drawing 2, regardless of how it is illustratively to be understood or interpreted. "

"Section 266 b of the Danish Criminal Code
Under section 266 b(1) of the Danish Criminal Code any person who, publicly or with the intention of wider dissemination, makes a statement or imparts other information by which a group of people are threatened, scorned or degraded on account of their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, or sexual inclination shall be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for any term not exceeding two years.

Like section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code, section 266 b should be subject to a narrow interpretation out of regard for the right to freedom of expression."

The accompanying text is not scornful, nor referring to Muslims in general
"The text section of the article does not refer to Muslims in general, but mentions expressly "some" Muslims, i.e. Muslims who reject the modern, secular society and demand a special position in relation to their own religious feelings. The latter group of people must be considered to be comprised by the expression "a group of people" as mentioned in section 266 b, but the text in the article cannot be considered to be scornful or degrading towards this group – even if seen in the context of the drawings.

As mentioned in point 3.2 above, according to the heading, the drawings in the article depict Muhammed. The drawings that must be assumed to be pictures of Muhammed depict a religious figure, and none of them can be considered to be meant to refer to Muslims in general. Furthermore, there is no basis for assuming that the intention of drawing 2 was to depict Muslims in general as perpetrators of violence or even as terrorists. "

As it appears from point 3.2 and 3.3. above, the Director of Public Prosecutions does not find basis for changing the decision made by the Regional Public Prosecutor of Viborg and therefore concurs in the decision pursuant to section 749(2) of the Danish Administration of Justice Act to discontinue the investigation with regard to section 140 of the Danish Criminal Code as well as section 266 b of the Danish Criminal Code."


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