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2006-03-04

The story about twelve men seeking out a cartoonist's daughter turns out to be wildly exaggerated. Jens Rohde, spokesman for Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen's political party, has informed falsely.

The chairman of Danish Union of Journalists, Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, said so yesterday: Rohde swindles politically with cartoons (Danish text, my translation):

At the same time he accuses Jens Rohde of distorting and exaggerating the issue with his claim that a daughter of one of the cartoonists should have been sought out by twelve Muslim men at a school.

- One of the factual errors is, among others, the image of 12 Muslim men. It is totally distorted and out of proportion, says Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard.

At the same time he calls it outright amoral of Jens Rohde to use the cartoonists', and their families', personal security to further his own political argumentation.


Today, the paper-version of Jyllands-Posten has more details from an impeccable source, namely the cartoonist himself (my translation):

It wasn't Muslim men, but Muslim girls. They weren't adults but are in 6th grade and are 10-11 years of age. They weren't 12 persons, but 6-8 girls at most. And what has been presented as an almost planned action, triggered by the Mohammed-drawings, was instead a result of a year-long strife between the pupils on the two schools, which began a long time before the Mohammed-case, says the cartoonist.

The cartoonist emphasises that the conflict between the schools has been settled now.

»Is was only a case of children, and it was some girl friend disagreement, which could just as well have been about one of them stealing the others boyfriend. This is Jens Rohde's free imagination, and it's really scary that he can even think of going out with this story. I think it should be made public, how he has lied« says the cartoonist, who has asked for anonymity out of consideration for his family's security.

Jens Rohde
Jens Rohde by Rasmus Sand Høyer

Jens Rohde himself is unrepentant:

Jyllands-Posten: Aren't you guilty of misinforming in the Mohammed-case, just like the imams have been accused of doing?
Jens Rohde: Now I'm being compared to the imams? Honestly, I'm not making this up. But seen in the light of hindsight I shouldn't have taken that meeting and stood up for the cartoonist and the members of Danish Union of Journalists, if they think it's so terrible now.

Other politicians are less kind.:

»We hope it's a slip of the tongue. But if it's a conscious choice, then he has made a cynical calculation and created insecurity for these persons« says justice spokesman Morten Bødskov (Social democrat).

He believes it's up to Jens Rohde to take the consequences himself.

»But it might be that the Prime Minister should consider, whether Rohde still should speak in the Mohammed-case. This sort of statements, on a clearly erroneous basis, are certainly not contributing to a solution of the conflict« says Morten Bødskov.



Added: Jyllands-Posten hasn't made the article available on the Net, but Politiken quotes the facts from Jyllands-Posten: Rohde regrets statements about cartoonists daughter (Danish text)

Added: There seems to be some contradiction here. Politiken writes in this article (Danish text, my translation):

According to Politiken's information, the incident in question was a case of a group of 6 - 8 Muslim girls from another school having visited the school of a daughter of one of the cartoonists. They wanted to get hold of »the daughter of the cartoonist, who had derided their prophet«, but were refused at the entrance.

The cartoonist's daughter was not at school that day, but both she and the family has has regarded the situation as strongly unpleasant. The police has been informed about the case, which has been handled by the schools, Politiken is told.


This seems to contradict the cartoonist's own explanation. According to Politiken the "visiting team" did not know the name of the cartoonist's daughter, the reason for the visit was not "a year-old strife" or "a stolen boy friend", but was in fact very much related to the cartoons of Muhammed. Why was the situation "strongly unpleasant" if it was only "some girl friend disagreement", and why was the police suddenly contacted about "a year-old strife"?

Another thing is that children in the 6th grade are not 10-11 years of age, as the cartoonist claims, but rather 11-13. As a parent he should know this. It would look as if he's trying to downplay the whole thing - and I'm regretting that I called him an "impeccable source" in the original post. How does he even know, how old the girls were?

It's not for me to say, who's lying, but let me point out that so far the 12 cartoonists have received 110 death threats, some of the cartoonists are living under cover with constant police surveillance, some of them have reported chicanery against their family - and several have found problems with getting work assignments like they used to.

For these reasons, the Danish Security Intelligence Service has advised the 12 cartoonists to keep a low profile. Indeed, one of the complaints from the Danish Union of Journalists to Jens Rohde wasn't just that Rohde had distorted the story, but rather that he had leaked anything at all from the meeting.

So although there is no doubt that the original report was vastly exaggerated, the cartoonist may himself have an interest in making the incident appear more innocent than it was.

Added: For a further discussion of the discrepancies, see Agora: My take on the events surrounding the whole Jens Rohde debacle.

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