International PEN statement on the publication of cartoons offensive to Muslims

International PEN is deeply alarmed by the escalation of tensions within the Western Media and Muslim communities arising from the publication of cartoons in Denmark and other European countries depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The images are considered by some Muslim communities to be deeply offensive and this has led to outcry and tensions between the countries concerned and many Muslim states. These tensions have extended to threats against newspapers, the sacking of the editor of an influential French newspaper, diplomatic boycotts and even the destruction of embassies.


International PEN upholds that its members “should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds.”


PEN “stands for unhampered transmission of thought” and calls on its world-wide membership to “to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world”. Since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members also oppose “such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends”. International PEN calls on all sides of the dispute to refrain from taking any action that might inflame tensions further. PEN’s International President, Jirí Gruša states that people’s religious feelings should never be used by others as an instrument of nationalism. He adds “The right to question all beliefs is a cherished tradition that requires mutual respect.

Satire can often be provocative and the defence of the right to such freedom of expression does not imply any sympathy with the views held by the authors.”


International PEN urges that the outcry resulting from these publications give cause for reflection and the opening of a space for debate on these critical issues where representatives from all sides of the argument can express their views without fear of censorship, imprisonment or even threat to life.

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