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Danes feel threatened in cartoon row



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(CNN) -- Denmark's leaders are calling for calm and dialogue as the nation finds itself under increasing pressure over the cartoons depicting Islam's revered Prophet Mohammed.

The government maintains it does not print the newspapers, and reminds Muslims what is meant by freedom of expression.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance gave this perspective from the Danish capital Copenhagen.

Q. What is the situation there now? How are the authorities reacting to the new outbreaks of violence?

A. The authorities are saying they believe this is Islamic extremism that has taken the issue of the 12 cartoons and blown them out of all proportion, misrepresenting what was actually depicted in them. The Danish government has said it regrets the publication in Denmark but stressed it is an independent media in this country and it is not in a position to apologize on behalf of it.

I've just come from the newspaper that first published the 12 cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. They also say that they regret that overseas there have been violent reactions to them but they stand by their right here in Denmark to draw cartoons about what they want even if that causes offense.

Q. Given the political and economic fallout to all of this, how have Danes been reacting?

A. Many of the 5.5 million people of Denmark have been shocked by the extreme scenes of violence they've been witnessing across the Middle East directed towards their government. It's a nation that seen as having low-profile links with the Middle East. It is not accustomed to seeing its flag burned in the streets. Most say this is an over-reaction, a matter of freedom of speech and the paper did nothing wrong by printing the cartoon.

But they are concerned this issue may make Denmark a target of Muslim extremists in the future. The country already has troops in Iraq and that has led to some insecurity, they believe. They've also been threatened on the air waves by members of al Qaeda, but this has really taken on a new dimension. People in this quiet northern kingdom are feeling quite insecure now.

Q. There have been calls for boycotts of Danish goods across the Middle East. What will the economic fallout of this be?

A. I don't think it's going to make a big impact. Denmark does much more trade with the rest of the world, with Europe, the United States and the Far East. One firm that specializes in dairy products has had to start laying off 100 workers as a result of people aren't buying their goods in the Middle East. Having said that, I think the economic effect is likely to be limited.

But what the government of Denmark is more concerned about is the damage to the international image of their country: a country that they like to see as extremely tolerant and one that has respect for all religious groups. And this row has put a big dent in that image.

CNN is not showing the negative caricatures of the likeness of Prophet Mohammed because the network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself.

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