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New book reprints controversial Muhammad cartoons

By Melissa Gray, CNN
  • The book is by the editor of the newspaper that first published them
  • The author says he wants to explain the images in context
  • The cartoons prompted angry demonstrations around the world

(CNN) -- Controversial political cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are reprinted in a new book due to be released Thursday.

The editor of the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons five years ago has written the book, "The Tyranny of Silence," to tell the story of the pictures and to put them in context.

"And I will also say to Muslims out there that by reproducing this page I did not intend to offend or insult anybody," author Flemming Rose, culture editor of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, told reporters Wednesday. "Those cartoons are part of history."

"My modest ambition," he said, "is to try to explain myself, because what I have experienced over the past five years is that there is a big gap between the way I perceive myself and the way I see a lot of people look at me. I am not a confrontational person by nature. I am not a provocateur. I am eager to talk and listen to people with whom I disagree."

Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen met with the ambassadors from 17 Muslim countries Wednesday about the upcoming publication, telling reporters afterward that the Danish government had no intention of determining "what kind of books private publishers choose to publish."

"There should not be any doubt that we are on guard as to the freedom of speech," she said. " ... What also is essential to say is that we naturally wish to have a constructive and positive dialogue especially with the Muslim world, and we wish to encourage understanding among various religions. Therefore, we will naturally do all that we can to ensure that no one is offended or derided."

Jyllands-Posten first published the drawings by cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in September 2005. Some Muslims believe the Quran forbids showing an image of the prophet, and the cartoons provoked further ire because they depicted the prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse.

Westergaard said he wanted his cartoon to show how some people exploited the prophet to legitimize terror. Many in the Muslim world, however, felt the drawing simply depicted their prophet as a terrorist.

Other newspapers around the world reprinted the cartoons in early 2006, prompting international demonstrations, some of them fatal.

Many protesters directed their anger at Denmark, prompting the closure of several Danish embassies in predominantly Muslim countries.