Copenhagen, Denmark Muslim and Christian scholars and clerics agreed at a conference Friday that the West and Islam must use dialogue to repair ties frayed by the crisis over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
However, the Muslim panelists accused the Danish government of mishandling the crisis and said it must apologize to the Muslim world if it wants an Arab boycott on Danish goods to be lifted.
"We request an official apology from your government to the Muslim nation and to the Muslims in Denmark," said Tariq al-Suweidan, an Islamic scholar from Kuwait. He also demanded that the European Union enact a law that forbids insulting religious figures.
Despite massive Muslim protests and in some cases violent attacks on Danish embassies, the center-right government in Copenhagen has refused to apologize, saying it cannot be held responsible for the actions of an independent newspaper.
The cartoons were published in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September, and have since been reprinted by other Western media.
"We cannot give you what you want," said Eyvind Vesselbo, a lawmaker belonging to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's Liberal Party, referring to al-Suweidan's demand for an apology.
But amid the calls for reconciliation, a rift over free speech was revealed between some Danes in the audience and the Muslim panelists.
Bishop Karsten Nissen, of the Western Denmark city of Viborg, noted Denmark has no law singling out hate speech against Jews. Danish law prohibits blasphemous and racist speech against all religious and ethnic groups, he said.
Nissen said he understood that Muslims were insulted by the drawings, but added Muslim countries do not always respect other religions.
"In my heart I am in agony and distress when I look at the freedom of religion in the Muslim world," he said.
Jyllands-Posten has apologized for offending Muslims, but stands by its decision to print the drawings, citing freedom of speech.