"[We] are talking here about the freedom of opinion and of the press,” Merkel said at a ceremony to honor Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, September 8.
“It's about whether in a Western society with its values, he is allowed to publish his Mohammed cartoons in a newspaper or not.
The cartoonist caused international uproar in 2005 after drawing a caricature showing a man said to be the Prophet wearing a tomb-shaped turban.
The cartoon was among 12 drawings published by
The cartoons, considered blasphemous under Islam, were later reprinted by European newspapers on claims of freedom of expression.
The abusive cartoons have strained Muslim-West ties and triggered massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.
Merkel called press freedom a "precious commodity".
"It is irrelevant whether his caricatures are tasteless or not, whether he thinks they are necessary or helpful, or not. Is he allowed to do that? Yes, he can."
Following the cartoons crisis, Muslim worldwide took many initiatives to remove widely circulated stereotypes about Islam in the West.
Danish Muslims established the European Committee for Honoring the Prophet, a grouping of 27 Danish Muslim organizations, to raise awareness about the merits and characteristics of the Prophet.
German Muslims and press swiftly condemned Merkel’s honoring of the Danish cartoonist.
"Merkel is honouring the cartoonist who in our view trampled on our prophet and trampled on all Muslims," Aiman Mazyek of the Central Council of Muslims in
The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has also warned Merkel over honouring the Danish cartoonist.
"By having her photo taken next to Kurt Westergaard, Merkel is taking a huge risk," wrote the conservative daily before the ceremony.
"It will probably be the most explosive appointment of her chancellorship so far."
The controversial honouring came shortly after a Central Bank board member accused Muslims of undermining German society.
The mass-circulation daily Der Spiegel said on Tuesday, August 31, that the anti-Muslim remarks by the board member are ringing alarm bells that the European country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.
According to government-commissioned studies,
The country is Europe's second-biggest Muslim population after