Almost a year after violent protests against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, the editor who commissioned the drawings said they had prompted a vital debate on the integration of Islam in the West.
Flemming Rose, culture editor of daily Jyllands-Posten, said on Wednesday he had published the 12 cartoons depicting Mohammad to defend free expression against what he saw as self-censorship over Islam in Denmark and Europe.
The cartoons sparked protests
by Muslims around the world in which at least 50 people died. Many Muslims regard any image of the Prophet as blasphemous.
"The cartoons didn't create a new reality, they just made an existing reality visible. This reality is about differences in culture that have been taboo to discuss in Europe," Rose told a news conference.
Rose declined to say if he would publish the cartoons again but added he did not accept the premise that the protests and deaths were a direct result of the drawings.
Jyllands-Posten published the 12 cartoons in September 2005 about Mohammad, including one depicting the founder of Islam with a bomb in his turban.
Protests in the Middle East and elsewhere erupted in earnest in late January last year, culminating in early February.
Jyllands-Posten apologized for the offence the cartoons caused but said it had the right to publish material even if it was deemed offensive by some people.
"Of course a drawing in a newspaper is never worth even a single life, but I just don't accept the direct connection between our drawings and that people were killed," he said.
Rose added that if he said he would not publish the cartoons again, it would send a signal that intimidation, threats and violence could be used to silence critics.