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Correspondence

Finland, Democracy, and Those Cartoons

The Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten’s publication of the satirical cartoons depicting Muhammad prompted a crisis that touched the whole of Scandinavia.  The drawings were greeted with outrage and violence from Muslims and their liberal defenders throughout the world.  Danish flags were burned in Arab cities; Danish embassies were firebombed in Syria and attacked in London; and the Islamic world boycotted Danish products.  Even so, the Danish government stood firmly behind the cartoonists and staunchly refused to apologize.  When Norwegian newspapers republished the cartoons, there was similar government support.

Not every government in Scandinavia reacted this way, however.

The Muhammad cartoons were never published by any Finnish newspaper.  Nonetheless, in February, the Finnish prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, took it upon himself to apologize to the entire Arab world.  He wanted to make it clear that the Finnish government opposed the publication of the cartoons and to distance Finland from countries, such as Denmark, that were supporting free expression.  At around the same time, the website of a tiny Finnish nationalist group that few Finns had even heard of—Suomen Sisu—published the cartoons.  In response, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and her foreign secretary issued public statements “regretting” their publication in Finland. ...

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