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Last Updated: Friday, 15 February 2008, 16:11 GMT
Danes clash on web in Prophet row
The controversy in Denmark over the reprinting of one of the 12 cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad this week has triggered an unusual dialogue on social networking group Facebook, writes the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Frances Harrison.

Anders Boetter
Anders says the debate in the media has been very black-and-white

The row began with Tuesday's arrests of three Muslims in Denmark said by the intelligence services to be plotting to kill one of the cartoonists.

All the major Danish newspapers next day rallied round their colleague, reprinting his drawing of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban as a sign of solidarity.

But now young Danish student Anders Boetter says he has decided to start a Facebook site called Sorry Muhammad to apologise to Muslims on behalf of ordinary Danes and also give them a voice in the controversy over the row.

What does hurt my feelings is when a Danish newspaper publishes these very mocking cartoons of Muhammad
Anders Boetter
Sorry Muhammad

Anders says that in the last two years since the first printing of the cartoons, the media has built up a debate which is very black-and-white.

"Either you were for the Muhammad drawings or you were against it, but I believe there are many Danes who do not feel that way - they're somewhere in between and I am one of them," he explains.

"I am myself an atheist, but I do respect any kind of religion," he says, adding that the cartoons therefore do not offend him but he understands that it "hurts the feelings of Muslims a lot".

'Shockingly fast'

During the first cartoon crisis in 2006, Anders says he e-mailed his Muslim friends around the world to apologise.

Nobody is forced to be in Denmark - neither immigrants nor Danes. If you want to be here then you have to adapt
Anders Kunze Juul-Dam, No Need to Apologise to Muhammad

When all the major newspapers reprinted the cartoon on Wednesday he felt there needed to be a reaction from what he calls "everyday Danish citizens".

"What does hurt my feelings is when a Danish newspaper publishes these very mocking cartoons of Muhammad.

"For me this is not a matter of a drawing but the mocking of one of our minority groups in Denmark and that's a big problem. That is why I apologise for being a Dane coming from Denmark," Anders explains.

In the first 24 hours, more than 1,000 people joined the Sorry Muhammad network.

Anders' goal is to collect 10,000 members in 14 days - which would be a significant feat since the total number of Danes on Facebook is 300,000 so far.

He calls the response "shockingly fast" but admits that he has also received some hostile e-mails.

Rival network

One says: "If you have no brains at all, move to Iran you stupid ****," while another reads: "I hope you know what it's like to have someone plotting to kill you."

A protest rally by Danish Muslims in Copenhagen on 15 February 2008
Denmark's Muslims protested against the cartoon's reprinting

"Perhaps you can expect this when you start mingling with national feelings," Anders says calmly.

But a Danish girl writes that she was happy and proud of being Danish when she heard about the Facebook site.

She added that "being proud of being Danish is something I rarely feel lately but with your initiative we're finally having a dialogue and there's understanding between people which the media has not been able to show the public".

And if imitation is a sign of success then Sorry Muhammad certainly made its mark.

Within six hours a rival network group appeared called No Need to Apologise to Muhammad.

Kurt Westergaard, one of the cartoonists (15/09/2006)
Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard is said to be the target of the alleged plot

"This is a mockery of freedom of speech and to me it doesn't matter what religion you have; you should be tolerant towards Danish freedom of speech," writes Tanya Kortgaard.

"I think it's fantastic that most of the newspapers in this country have shown that in Denmark we are not giving in to death threats," says Gar Field.

Anders Kunze Juul-Dam, another group member, argues: "I think there's a tendency to believe that the most fundamental norms and values of Danish society are open for debate - they're not. If you don't like the smell in the bakery then get out of here. Nobody is forced to be in Denmark - neither immigrants nor Danes. If you want to be here then you have to adapt."

Ignoring the mainstream media, young Danes have found a new way to air their views and debate the future of their society.

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