Danish political party regrets youth wing poking fun at prophet during summer camp

Copenhagen, Denmark - The youth branch of Denmark's third biggest political party — known for its populist anti-immigration stance — regrets that some of its members mocked the Prophet Muhammad during a summer camp earlier this year, it said Friday.

Despite the regret, the group said it was "OK to poke fun" at religious and political figures.

The leadership of the Danish People's Party Youth, known as DFU, organized a drawing contest among its members during its annual Aug. 4-6 summer camp in central Denmark.

Video clips showing the young politicians, in their 20s and 30s, presenting one cartoon were posted on some Web sites. In the videos, it seemed that they had been drinking.

"It is bad style because it overshadows our political line," the youth organization's chairman, Kenneth Kristensen, told The Associated Press.

Kristensen added that he believed it "is OK to poke fun at Muhammad, Jesus or (former U.S. President) Bill Clinton. We must not put limits on ourselves."

Nearly all of the approximately 30 people shown in the videos had their faces blurred, but the images they drew were easy to see.

One of them, a woman, is shown presenting a drawing of a camel, adding that it has "the head of Muhammad" and beer bottles as humps. The group laughs as the woman, who was not identified, explained the drawing.

The story, first reported by the daily newspaper Nyhedsavisen on Friday, came in the aftermath of violent protests after 12 drawings of the Prophet Muhammad were published last year.

Danish daily Jyllands-Posten printed the drawings in September 2005. Four months later, they were reprinted in a range of Western media, triggering massive protests from Morocco to Indonesia.

Some Islamic leaders called for the cartoonists to be killed as rioters attacked Danish embassies in Muslim countries including Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Indonesia.

Kristensen blamed the group's leadership for organizing the contest and Martin Knudsen, a member of the youth branch who shot the video, for posting the clips.

"It could potentially have big consequences to have them on the Internet," he said.

Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depiction of the prophet for fear it could lead to idolatry.

The cartoon considered most offensive by many Muslims was a drawing of Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.

Zubair Butt Hussain, a spokesman for Danish group called Muslims in Dialogue, said the organization was "disgusted" by DFU's contest, but "not surprised."

"The Danish People's Party has through its history made a virtue to make humiliating and generalized statements about minority groups, especially Muslims," Hussain said.

The moderate Muslim organization "believes that freedom of expression is every citizen's right but under responsibility both legally, ethically and morally," he said.

The was not immediate comment from leaders of the Danish People's Party.

Jyllands-Posten printed the drawings saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists dealing with Islamic issues. They later were reprinted by dozens of newspapers and Web sites in Europe and elsewhere.

The daily apologized for offending Muslims, but stood by its decision to print the drawings, citing the freedom of speech.

Throughout the crisis, the government doggedly resisted calls to apologize for the cartoons and said it could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmark's independent media.