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Poll shows support for freedom of expression

Muslims in Switzerland demonstrated over the cartoons on Saturday swissinfo.ch

Most Swiss are in favour of freedom of expression, but find it was a mistake to publish the controversial Mohammed cartoons, a survey has revealed.

This content was published on February 12, 2006 - 15:59

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has called for dialogue, a day after 1,000 Muslims held a peaceful protest over the cartoons in the Swiss capital, Bern.

The survey, published by the SonntagsBlick newspaper on Sunday, found that 66 per cent of those polled supported freedom of expression in religious questions. In total, 29 per cent said there should be limits.

However, 60 per cent disapproved of the original publication of the cartoons by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, with 30 per cent finding the newspaper had acted correctly.

Whereas 78 per cent of those asked were worried about the apparent rise of radical Islam in the world, 71 per cent said there was no reason for concern about the Muslim community in Switzerland.

In all, 1,000 people were surveyed across German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland.

Dialogue

For her part, Calmy-Rey called in the Sunday media for more dialogue over the affair, but condemned the violent reactions that have taken place in the wake of the publication of the caricatures.

The cartoons were published by Jyllands-Posten last September, but have since been reprinted by several European and Swiss newspapers. This has triggered protests by Muslims around the world.

The foreign minister told the SonntagsZeitung that as a neutral country and the depositary of the Geneva conventions, Switzerland should encourage dialogue between all sides.

"I am convinced that only dialogue and the readiness to listen allows for respect and understanding between societies and cultures," wrote Calmy-Rey in the SonntagsBlick.

She said that Switzerland could not take sides in the dispute.

However, the minister defended freedom of expression, but added that there were not only legal but also ethical limits to be respected. These limits started "where it begins to affect the dignity of other human beings," she said in the SonntagsZeitung.

Demonstration

Calmy-Rey's comments came a day after around 1,000 Muslims peacefully demonstrated against the cartoons outside the parliament building in Bern.

Demonstrators carried signs saying "You stepped over the line" and "Have respect for Muslims' feelings".

Speeches were also held and some protestors recited parts of the Koran in Arabic. The protest was organised by an association of Muslims from the town of Biel.

However, not all Muslims in Switzerland agreed with the move. Farhad Afshar, who is president of the coordination centre of Islamic organisations in Switzerland, called on Muslims not to demonstrate, saying it was now time for dialogue.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In September 2005 12 satirical cartoons each featuring Mohammed appeared in the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Several diplomats from Arab countries protested about the cartoons to the Danish government. They demanded an apology, which the government refused.

The cartoons were reprinted by several European newspapers in early 2006, including a number of Swiss publications.

The images provoked a wave of protests in the Muslim world, with many condemning the cartoons as an outrage as Islamic tradition bans depictions of the prophet or Allah.

On Saturday peaceful protests also took place in London and Paris.

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Key facts

According to the 2000 census, 311,000 Muslims live in Switzerland. Most of then come from the Balkans or Turkey.
Numbers have risen in recent years, rising from 2.2% of the population in 1990 to 4.3% in 2000.

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