German Chancellor Merkel honours Mohammad cartoonist at press award
Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to freedom of speech on Wednesday at a ceremony for a Dane whose cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad provoked Muslim protests that led to 50 deaths five years ago.
Merkel, who grew up in Communist East Germany, recalled her joy over the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. “Freedom for me personally is the happiest experience of my life,” Merkel, 56, said at the conference on press freedom in Potsdam near Berlin.
(Photo: Kurt Westergaard (L) congratulated by Angela Merkel (R) in Potsdam, September 8, 2010/Odd Andersen)
“Even 21 years after the Berlin Wall fell the force of freedom stirs me more than anything else,” she said. She called press freedom a “precious commodity”.
Honoured at the event was Kurt Westergaard, who drew the most controversial of 12 cartoons of Mohammad which angered Muslims worldwide after appearing in a Danish paper in 2005. Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam to be offensive, and Westergaard’s cartoon portrayed Mohammad with a turban resembling a bomb. At least 50 people died in riots by enraged Muslims in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany said in a statement: “Merkel is honouring the cartoonist who in our view trampled on our prophet and trampled on all Muslims.”