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Even Islam, as such, cannot be a problem unless we let the extremist activists redefine the public space. Then it will be a problem we have created.
But we already have. We have let extremist activist conservative newspaper owners define publishing pictures of Muhammed as free speach and opposition to publishing pictures of Muhammed as support of violent oppression of free speach. They did so by creating a controversy in Denmark, and then ignoring to report on non-violent protests against that controversy. When economic measures won fare and square, they used their power to over-rule the outcome by republishing in so many newspapers that the protesters economic measures could not win. Then they defined the conflict as violent by giving ample room to any threat or physical violence used.
Before 2006, depictions of Muhammed was in general not used in history books and such. There was not and is no particular need to create a picture of a man if no one knows what he looks like and the people who think he is important thinks it is wrong to depict him. This was ratehr uncontroversial and if mentioned at all used as a way to introduce the reader to religions, icons and iconoclasm.
Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
Publishing the same cartoons in France, though provocative, does not have the same context. Most adults in France who are of Muslim heritage are grandchildren of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. They know the rules (which are different from those in Denmark, which as far as I know has a less anti-clerical culture). Practising (as opposed to nominal or cultural) Muslims are undoubtedly hurt by caricatures of Mahomed, just as the small minority of practising Christians are hurt by caricatures of Jesus. But they understand that they are a legitimate part of public discourse. Those who have tried, and failed, to remove it from public discourse are a well-identified evangelical fringe.
It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue
- Queen Elizabeth II
I know nothing of the history of Islam in Denmark, but I have the impression that it's largely a matter of first-generation immigrants, who come from countries where Islam is the established religion, and can not be publicly criticised. It is therefore unsurprising that they are surprised and shocked at public satire.
Danish Muslims overwhelmingly did not react to the cartoons. They did react when they were later subjected to book burnings and other racist attacks "justified" by the boycott that a handful of fundamentalist nutcases had ginned up with a doctored portfolio of cartoons (including, amusingly, an image of a Breton wearing a plastic pig nose at a pig faire).
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
Banning of so-called blasphemy is like coughing blood. Always a bad thing.
Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
I would make that precise argument re: book-burning.
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