A few weeks ago our local newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, in an article about freedom of expression, published some cartoons of Muhammad as a “rondelhund”. Rondelhunds are home made structures shaped like dogs which appear from time to time in the middle of roundabouts, for reasons that are quite beyond me. We see them from time to time and take little notice.
The cartoons in question depicted Muhammad as a rondelhund. In other words Muhammad’s head was superimposed onto a drawing of a roundabout dog. Needless to say this has provoked international outrage, and our local newspaper has been condemned by the governments of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and others. There have been two demonstrations outside the local newspaper offices which are housed in a beautiful old turreted building in the town centre next to the river. There was also a burning of piles of old copies of the newspaper in one of the residential estates on the other side of town which is home to many immigrants.
The newspaper has not apologised, despite the demands for it to do so. The editor says that freedom of expression is embedded in Sweden’s democratic system, and the article in question was simply about that, and that there was nothing offensive about it. The Swedish government has backed them up, the latest statement coming from the Minister for Integration, who stated that the controversy has in fact been a good thing for the country’s integration process because it highlights many of the issues around integration and encourages discussion of these.
But the problems that beset Denmark last year over the now famous Muhammad cartoons is in the back of everyone’s mind, so we are watching with interest as the drama unfolds…