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Denmark hit by Middle Eastern Boycotts

by BobFunk Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 12:13:09 PM EST

Nasty comments on Muslims in Denmark's debate on immigrants, a book about Muhammad the prophet for children and a lack of fingerspitz gefühl, has resulted in a boycott of Danish products taking hold in several Middle Eastern countries.


Scan of the drawings as they appeared in Jyllandsposten

Last year the Danish writer Kaare Bluitgen was putting the last touches on a book about the prophet Muhammad aimed at children. In spite of the prohibition on portraying the prophet in Islam, Bluitgen decided that he would like his book to be illustrated. In the wake of the murder on Theo van Gogh, and an attack on a professor in history at the University of Copenhagen, Bluitgen felt that it was wisest to keep the illustrators anonymous because of fear of reprisals from fundamentalists.

Danish newspaper "Jyllandsposten" picks up the story about Bluitgens choice to keep the names of the illustrators secret, and to demonstrate that Denmark has freedom of speech, the newspaper commissions 12 cartoonists to make a series of satirical drawings of the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons appear in print September 30 2006. They are immediately met with outrage from Muslims in Denmark and even gets noticed outside Denmark.

On the 19th of October ambassadors from 11 Muslim countries requests a meeting with the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, hoping to get an official condemnation of the newspapers publication of the drawings. Rather than meeting with the ambassadors to explain the principles of a free press and free speech, the prime minister refuses to meet with the ambassadors at all.

Throughout November and December a delegation of Muslims from Denmark travels all around the Middle East, to raise protests against Denmark and Jyllandsposten. They are successful in spreading the message, and the December 17 angry demonstrators take to the streets in Pakistan, outraged at Denmark.

2 days later, in an unprecedented move, 22 former Danish ambassadors to countries in the Muslim world publishes an open letter to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, criticizing his decision to refuse the suggested meeting with the Muslim ambassadors, and expressing their worry about the extremely rough and nasty tone in the Danish debate on immigration.

Around the end of 2005 the foreign ministers from the members of the Arabian League issues an official statement criticizing the Danish government for its handling of the case. The Danish foreign minister phones the league to explain the views of the Danish government, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen attempts to ease the tensions by addressing the tone of the immigration debate in his New Years Speech, which is immediately translated into Arabic, but this seems to have little or no effect, as the religious outrage towards Denmark just continues to grow.

At the 10th of January the Christian Norwegian newspaper "Magazinet" decides to publish the 12 drawings, with permission from Jyllandsposten, and suddenly Norway is targeted by the Muslim protests as well. 16 days later Norway issues an apology for the drawings, while the Danish government continues to refuse such a step. The same day, a boycott of Danish products starts in Saudi Arabia. Danish companies starts to feel the boycott right away. Arla, a Danish dairy products company, claims losses of more than a million Euros a day.

Since then Libya has closed its embassy in Denmark, the ambassador from Saudi Arabia has been called home to discuss the drawings, as has the ambassador of Kuwait, the Syrian government states that it is "shocked" by the character of the drawings, and in the Middle Eastern streets angry protesters burns the Danish flag.

Today, a EU office in Gaza has been stormed by armed and angry Palestinians, who closed down the office to protest the Danish drawings. In Saudi Arabia two Arla employees was attacked. Al-Aqsa has claimed responsibility for the action in Gaza, and demands that all Danish and Norwegian citizens must leave Gaza within 72 hours.

Also on the internet Islamic groups take action, as the website of Jyllandsposten together with the sites of other Danish newspapers, are hit by various forms of hacker attacks. These attacks even target Danish weblogs such as www.uriasposten.net/ (down at the moment due to a denial of service attack following a defacing).

Meanwhile in Denmark polls show that the population is firmly behind the governments policy of making no excuses for what a newspaper in Denmark decides to print, while Danish companies, with Arla as the most prominent, begs the government to intervene and drop the principles to save the Danish export to the Middle East.

Display:
Should the Danish government act to protect its principles or the export?

And are the Middle Eastern boycotts merely a reaction from countries that have no understanding of what a free press means, or is it a well deserved reaction to the harsh and undriendly tone against immigrants in Danish media and politics?

Biilmann Blog

by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 12:37:35 PM EST
An interesting bit of news I was unaware of. I am not sure what the proper reaction should be ... realpolitik is basically setting your principles aside and doing what's in your interest, so a government is never alien to that concept. Meaning that I wouldn't be surprised if the government toned down its rhetoric.

I don't know enough about the nature of immigration in Denmark to comment anyhow. But, since I don't appreciate religious fanatism, regardless of the religion, I'm quite sure that one solution here would be to mulitiply drawings of the prophet ... let there be drawings everywhere, in every free-press country, so that zealots can progressively get used to it and tone down their zealotness.

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 12:46:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, do you have a link that points to a larger version of these drawings?
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 12:46:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've actually attempted to find a larger version of the drawings, but so far I've been unable to locate one. Whether this is because the outlets that covers wishes to avoid Muslims emotion, or whether they are simply afraid to get targeted by the religious outrage the drawings have caused, is hard to say. But searching for terms that brings up plenty of stories about the drawings on google.com, certainly doesn't bring up any relevant images at images.google.com.

Then again, this is the Internet - they must be out there somewhere!


Biilmann Blog

by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 12:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:09:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it's accurate to categorize this as a matter of religious fanaticsm.

I might have thought so, myself, except for a long conversation I had with two colleagues today.  (See my comment below.)

The first colleague is a conservative, deeply religious veiled Muslim woman, who I still would not consider a fanatic.  She has a diploma in Islamic studies and is working on another one in Islamic architecture.  I walked into her office to hand her some paperwork, and we started chatting, and she said something along the lines of, Can you believe those Danish people and how awful they are being with those cartoons?

OK, I have to say that her attitude didn't suprise me.  It's the second colleague who surprised me.

The second colleague is a French- and American-educated, highly Westernized upper-class Egyptian who has traveled widely in Europe and North America (Canada, mainly).  She is a tremendous Europhile (which in itself is a subjct I'll leave for another day).  She is also a Muslim, and unlike some of my other friends she is not so secular that she drinks alcohol, but she is by no stretch of the imagination a religious fanatic.  Her thinking is generally very inclusive on matters of religion.

She is, however, deeply, deeply offended by the very idea of a cartoon "mocking" the Prophet.  She did not think the newspaper should have published it, and she thought the Danish government should apologize.

I challenged her on this and asked her why an entire country should apologize for the actions of one newspaper, and I told her that in my view, freedom of expression is most important when the views expressed are unpopular.

We went back and forth over this for a while, but she started getting very emotional and was on the verge of crying.

At that point I realized that she was unable to get past the issue of what she sees as blasphemy, and is therefore unable to really discuss the other issues surrounding this case.  And I thought, crap, if this is having that kind of emotional impact on a very reasonable, non-radical, pro-Western person like her, there is probably more to it than I thought.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:37:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to diary this tonight but you beat me to it. :)

Egypt today apparently joined the boycott; not the government officially of course, but one of my colleagues told me that the boycott has been endorsed what I believe to be the Chamber of Commerce (she said Chamber of Trade).

I've had a couple of conversations with people in the office about this, and I have to tell you that support for the boycott is more widespread than I would have expected.  My most Westernized colleague nearly started to cry when we were talking (er, arguing) about it.

I have a lot more to say about this but am still trying to organize my thoughts.

I will just say this:  Because I am not religious myself, I had trouble really understanding the deep offense that people have taken at this until I stopped thinking about it in terms of religion and compared it to a cartoon that is deeply racially offensive.

As a secular person, it's hard for me to imagine why someone would get so bent out of shape over this.  But what I realized was that if my local paper, for example, ran a cartoon using ugly stereotyps to mock black people, yes, I would expect the paper to know better than to run such a cartoon.  And yes, I might call on the paper to apologize if it did run such a cartoon.  And if the cartoon was very offensive, yes, I might consider a boycott.

A boycott of the paper.

And possibly of its advertisers.

What I would not do is expect the government to sanction the paper.

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and freedom of expression, so it's also entirely possible, maybe even probable, that such a cartoon, even if it was very offensive, might not actually trigger in me the desire to boycott anything.  I'm just saying that I found it easier to understand when I removed it from the religous context and put the same debate into a different context, in which it is possible to offend me.

But I don't actually know how I'd react to a really deeply offensive racist cartoon, because pretty much all of the newspapers in the countries I've lived in would refuse to run such a cartoon.

So.  Anyway, I do have a bunch of other thoughts floating around in my head, I just have't figured out how to nail them down in words yet.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:06:44 PM EST
It seems the Egypt parliament are calling for boycotting Denmark now, according to the Danish Radio.

For those who's Danish might be a little rusty, here's a quick translation:


The Egyptian Parliament calls for boycott
The Egyption parliament yesterday unanimously carried a resolution to send a declaration to all Egypt's embassies, that demands an official apology from Denmark and Norway and in addition calls for a boycott of Danish products.

Egypt is also very likely to be the next country that withdraws its ambassador due to the Muhammad drawings, states the Egyptian ambassador in Denmark, Mona Omar Attia, to the Danish Radio. She believes that the growing anger in Denmark must be taken very seriously. The drawings in Jyllandsposten was insulting to all Muslims in the world. It touched on the most important symbol in Islam, and people are ready to go very far to defend the prophet, she says.

Apology can solve the conflict
The ambassador thinks that the conflict can be solved by an apology from both Jyllandsposten and the government. She doesn't think, that Anders Fogh Rasmussen has understood the gravity of the Muhammad drawings, since he has refused to speak with the 11 ambassadors.
- We are very willing to meet with him, in order to explain why we feel so offended, Mona Omar tells the Danish Radio.



Biilmann Blog
by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:45:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to diary this tonight but you beat me to it. :)

Me too, if it's any consolation.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:06:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
looking at the actual cartoons it is hard for me to see a clear line between racism, political satire, religious satire, etc. in them.  it seems all mixed together in an inseparable mess.

there are definitely reiterations of tired old anti-Muslim cliches (their religion is all about the promise of a harem of virgins in Paradise, blah blah);  equations of Islam with terrorism, period (Muhammad with a bomb for a turban, etc);  conflation of Muhammad and his early movement with the hardline oppression of women (which is not sanctioned by the Koran any more than witch hunts and persecution of women is sanctioned in the Gospels, despite the history of the 'Christian' [actually more like Paulist] Church)... so in a sense at least half the toons are satire of the lowest order, more ethnic slurs than anything else.

a more apt comparison I think might be with a series of cartoons sending up Moses or King David, using crudely sketched Semitic features and coarse or ignorant references to circumcision or money lending (the "two things everyone knows about Jews", like "terrorism and virgins").  the ADL would be in a froth immediately (but it doesn't take much to get them upset).

one would have expected at least one toon quoting some actual text of the Koran and comparing it to the secular policies of the ayatollahs (like Twain's magnificent satire 'The War Prayer'), tweaking the inconsistencies between what little we know of Mohammad's teaching and modern Islamist politics.  but the drawings mostly seem to come from a starting point of ignorance and kneejerk hostility rather than informed irony or sarcasm.  (not that informed sarcasm is safe from the rage of zealots, as Rushdie discovered).

as to the blasphemous aspect, this is hard for me to grok as I do not really understand religious ardour, no more than patriotic ardour.  if people trample on the flag of my native country (UK) in anger towards its government, it doesn't fill me with visceral shame or rage (whereas contemplating the devastation of the N Atlantic fisheries fills me with both, so maybe it is a question of what we each find sacred or important?).  

the Islamist response unfortunately intensifies (in those predisposed to it, anyway) the stereotype of Islam as pre-Enlightenment and anti-democratic (religion-based censorship)...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jan 31st, 2006 at 09:13:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, five ruppens worth...I think they should have had the meeting way back when, and let the Muslem ministers talk...and listen to what they had to say. How could that have hurt? There's some pride going on, and to what end? I dunno, I tend to believe in talking and diplomacy, is all...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:39:23 PM EST
PS: bob...is this your first diary? If yo...good one! (And welcome!)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:40:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that probably would have been pretty sensible.

But my understanding was that the cartoons were deliberately provocative, and the newspaper in question seems to have wanted a fight over this.  Having a meeting to diffuse the situation wouldn't have served that purpose, would it?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:44:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that it was very stupid of Anders Fogh Rasmussen to refuse the meeting with the ambassadors. It is hard to say if this would really have defused the matter, but not meeting the ambassadors certainly seem to have had a negative effect, besides from just being plain rude.

Second diary btw, but the first to make the recommended list. Thanks for the welcome...

Biilmann Blog

by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:49:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These are muddled waters.  It is not easy to no the motivations for publishing these drawings, but in general it is not for governments to draw the line between freedom of speech and slander and abuse, that is up to the courts to decide. That is why I think that the actions of the Norwegian government were unnecessary since the government had nothing, what so ever, with the publishing of these drawings.  It seems to be a general misunderstanding amongst a lot of people in the Muslim world that governments can somehow intervene and censor undesired information.  That is not the case, at least not in countries that take pride in upholding democratic principals.  

That said I have to say that it seems as if the two situations in Denmark and Norway are a bit different. First of all, the magazine that published these drawings in Norway is a rather small magazine with few readers.  The publishers behind this magazine are known to be Christian fundamentalist with a rather dubious relation to Muslims in general, but with a left-centre government known to be more immigrant friendly.  The case in Denmark seems to be of greater importance since the publisher behind the drawings is a respected newspaper with a broad national impact. This newspaper is, to my knowledge, not known to have had an anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim agenda in the past, in contrast to the Danish government, and that is why I believe the chief-editor when he states in an open letter published on January 28th that their motivation behind publishing these drawings was to test the limits for freedom of speech in Denmark.          

(Bear in mind that these drawings were originally intended to be published in a book for children and are as such not intended for an adult audience).  


Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 01:53:44 PM EST
You're quite right about Jyllandsposten, since it's the largest Danish newspaper. The drawings, though, were not ment for children but made specifically for the newspaper, and should be quite offensive. On portraits Muhammad as carrying a bomb, f.ex.

Biilmann Blog
by BobFunk (bobfunk@clanwhiskey.net) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:07:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, then it's clear that these are offensive not only on religious grounds.
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:13:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, now that I've seen all the drawings, courtesy of Sirocco, they are offensive on religious grounds chiefly, if not exclusively.
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To me, most of the cartoons seem designed to be primarily offensive, not primarily funny.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:37:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
does that justify death threats to the editors?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:45:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that is a different story.

But if the editors were deliberately trying to provoke anger in people whom they know full well are likely to react with death threats, all I can say is 'oops'.

What the newspaper did is legal, but it is not sensible.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:49:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
does that justify death threats to the editors?

Oh course not.

But, the overwhelming majority of Muslims who feel offended did not issue death threats. They just feel offended.

And I think this is the crux of where this idea got wrong: boldly demonstrating their lack of fear towards the extremist minority, they chose a weapon of mass offense.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 05:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are indeed mainly (not all of them) designed to be offensive on religious grounds. Although it must also be said that they contain an amount of truth, particularly the one about the cartoonist trying to hide his drawing of the prophet.
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:49:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a stretch to interpret that one as designed to be religiously offensive.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 05:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok my mistake, I seem to have read somewhere that they were intended for a children's book, but if the drawings were specifically made for the newspaper then of course it was meant to provoke.  Still, the use of humour is also one way of exercising freedom of speech although it is a limit to how far you can go, but that as I said above is for the courts to decide and not the government.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:17:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the details about the magazine. Presumably the newspaper were (or should have been) aware of the nature of its publishers before they agreed that it could re-publish the cartoons. They must have been aware that any representation is considered highly blasphemous before even they commissioned the cartoons. I believe they have acknowledged they knew they were "pushing the boundaries". Deliberately provocative might be another view. This and the magazine deal rather degrades the apology the newspaper has issued.

It is possible for a government to distance itself from "free speech" while at the same time not restricting its publication. It is also absurd to claim anywhere that free speech is absolute. Take an extreme, what if instead of the Prophet being depicted as a terrorist (which I understand was one cartoon), there was a photograph of someone made up as Christ sodomising a baby with the headline "suffer little children"? OK clearly a photo would involve actual child abuse but what if it were a drawing? Would the newspaper be willing to commission one of these cartoonists to produce it in the name of free speech? Would that magazine be keen to buy and reprint it? Or would their reaction be that of Christian fundamentalists for ages, whether it be to object to "Jesus Christ Superstar", privately prosecute Gay Times in the UK for printing a homosexual poem eroticising Christ on the cross or the most recent objections to "Jerry Springer - the Opera" where the actor who appears in the first part as a guest with a baby fetish, dressed in a nappy, plays the part of Christ in the second half set in Hell.    

While we justly dispair at the failure of many to understand the relation between the press and government because of the controls in their own countries, let's not ignore the fact that our own societies contain their fair share of ferverts.

by Londonbear on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:37:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your points are fair and interesting, because they points to broader questions that are seldom addressed properly.  Yes, I do agree with you when you say that the freedom of speech can not be considered an absolute.  We have got laws that regulate conduct of discrimination and outright abuse is it verbally or physically and these are the boundaries Jyllandsposten wanted to test, according to their chief-editor.  

I consider myself to be of Christian faith, but my belief is personal and individually oriented.  If a newspaper was to publish a drawing of Jesus in a "compromising" way, I would either laugh of it or personally resent it, much depending on the seriousness of the drawings, but I would by no means take it personal and this is where the two religions and cultures differ I think. As I said in my comment below it is a matter of cultural conceptions.  I haven't been able to study the drawings in great detail and that is why I can not say anything definite about them, but I have to admit that it definitely seems as if the Danish newspaper knew what they were doing, but that the were not able to foresee the consequences of their action.  They thought, because of the lack of cultural knowledge that the reactions would be like mine, which clearly was not the case.    

I doubt that the publishing of these drawings is illegal, but as you said it is a difference in always stretching the law to its limits doing what you are entitled to and to now when you have overstepped unwritten norms of acceptable behaviour.  I hope that no government will distance itself from free speech, but I think it is wise sometimes to utter your personal opinion on such matters and thus distance yourself from unacceptable behaviour especially if you are a government official.  What I found a bit puzzling was the apologetic posture of my own government for something that was clearly not of their own doing.    


Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 03:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I really have to go make dinner, but I wanted to throw some more things out there.

First, this long article, which I linked to in a comment upthread, is a couple of weeks old but still has some interesting stuff in it:

Imam Ahmed Abu-Laban, a leader of Denmark's Muslim community, bristles at what he calls the "Islam-phobia" gripping the country.

Abu-Laban asserted that the cartoons had been calculated to incite Muslims since it was well-known that in Islam, depictions of the prophet are considered blasphemy.

"We are being mentally tortured," he said from his mosque, in an anonymous building that looks more like an apartment complex than a house of worship. "The cartoons are an insult against Islam, an attempt by right-wing forces in this country to get a rise out of the Muslim community and so portray us as against Danish values."


Soren Krarup, a retired priest and leading voice in the [far-right Danish People's Party], said the Muslim reaction to the cartoons showed that Islam was not compatible with Danish customs. He said that Christ had been satirized in Danish literature and popular culture for centuries - including a recent much-publicized Danish painting of Jesus with an erection - so why not Muhammad? He also argued that Danish Muslims must integrate.

"Muslims who come here reject our culture," Krarup said. "Muslim immigration is a way for Muslims to conquer us, just as they have done for the past 1,400 years."

Muslim leaders warn that such rhetoric is alienating the people the Danish People's Party says it wants to assimilate.

"Are young Muslims growing up here going to assimilate better when they hear themselves described in this way?" Abu-Laban said.
 


and then...
Fadi Abdul Latif, the spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Denmark, said in an interview that... He added that the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Danish People's Party had contributed to a swelling of Hizb ut-Tahrir's ranks in recent months.

"When Muslims see the discrimination here, they begin to listen," Abdul Latif said. that

Oh, well, that's helpful.  And undoubtedly true.

Lest anyone think that opinion on this subject is anything like united in the Middle East, have a look at recent postings by two weirdly neocon Egyptian bloggers, with whom I unfailingly get annoyed when they talk about US politics or Iraq, but with whom (in spite of myself) I often find myself agreeing when it comes to Egypt.  Big Pharaoh deals with it here and here, while the Egyptian Sandmonkey (no, really, he calls himself that) writes some very snarky stuff here and here.  All worth reading.

Ah, but I saved the best for last.  I have to recommend this excellent column by Egyptian writer Mona Eltahawey, who nails it as usual:

Can we finally admit that Muslims have blown out of all proportion their outrage over 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad published in a Danish newspaper last September?...

The initial printing of the cartoons in Denmark led to death threats being issued against the artists, demonstrations in Kashmir, and condemnation from 11 countries. What did any of this achieve but prove the original point of the newspaper's culture editor, that artists in Europe were censoring themselves because they feared Muslim reaction?...

While one cartoon was particularly offensive because it showed the prophet as wearing a turban with a bomb attached to it, a great deal of the anger had to do with the mere depiction of the prophet. Muslims seem to forget that just because they are prohibited from representing the prophet in any way, this does not apply to everybody else. Even with regards to the egregious cartoon showing the prophet with a bomb, Muslim reaction was exaggerated. This should have remained an internal Danish issue.


What should have remained a local issue turned into a diplomatic uproar that Muslims otherwise rarely provoke when fighting for their rights around the world. Perhaps the Muslim governments who spearheaded the campaign - led by Egypt - felt this was an easy way to burnish their Islamic credentials at a time when domestic Islamists are stronger than they have been in many years.

Must we really boycott Danish products, as one e-mail I received exhorted?... Of all the issues that plague the Muslim world today, are our priorities cartoons published in a newspaper in a country inhabited by less than 6 million people? If we really want to pick a fight with the West, have we forgotten that 500 Muslim men continue to be detained without charge at the makeshift prison run by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which last week marked its fourth anniversary?

Here are a few facts we should remember. However offensive any of the 12 cartoons were, they did not incite violence against Muslims. For an example of incitement, though, one must go back a few weeks before the cartoons were published. In August, the Danish authorities withdrew for three months the broadcasting license of a Copenhagen radio station after it called for the extermination of Muslims. Those were real threats and the government protected Muslims - the same government later condemned for not punishing the newspaper that published the cartoons.

Second, the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live - particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

Go Mona!  I really like her.  The whole column is certainly worth a read.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:12:26 PM EST
Today, an EU office in Gaza has been stormed by armed and angry Palestinians, who closed down the office to protest the Danish drawings. In Saudi Arabia two Arla employees was attacked. Al-Aqsa has claimed responsibility for the action in Gaza, and demands that all Danish and Norwegian citizens must leave Gaza within 72 hours.

This show how different people of different cultures think, and especially in the Middle East.  The publishing of these drawings are perceived by many Muslims as a collective thing and that is why all people of the "Christian faith" or culture have to be punished add to this the general level of tension in the area and you have got an uproar. Simply stated you can say that people from the Middle East think in collective terms while people from Western countries in general tend to think in individualist terms.

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 02:36:04 PM EST
Well - you just thought of Muslims on collectivist terms :-)

In your place, I'd say that most of the protesters in the Middle East think in collectivist terms, while part of the Europeans don't. (From the litte I read so far, I am not at all certain that say the Norwegian paper wasn't thinking in collectivist terms.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 03:40:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Touché' :)  In my defence I condicionized the argument by adding, simply stated.  My point was that in a socio, cultural and political context the principal of collectivism has a stronger resonance in the Middle East than in the Western countries even though we have nation state in Europe too, which is certainly a collective entity.  But as I have said I didn't speak in absolutes.

In the Middle East people are to a much greater extent  defined by affiliation to groups for instance tribes, clans, families or religion than people are in Western countries where your identity is more defined by your individual rights.  There are always exceptions to a rule and the Christian fundamentalist group I was talking about is one such exception.      


Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:21:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we should also remember that this is all taking place in a context of the collective western "christian" world "crusading" in Iraq, dictating to Palestine and threatening to start on on Syria from an Arab perspective. Denmark is also one of Bush's biggest allies and has troops in Iraq. The cartoons were obviously going to elicit a strong and negative response. Nobody should be surprised at that.
by observer393 on Tue Jan 31st, 2006 at 12:50:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Norway's Aftenposten:
Norway's Foreign Ministry was heeding a warning Monday from Islamic groups that want all Scandinavians out of Gaza. The groups claim the Scandinavians have offended them by printing controversial caricatures of their prophet Mohammed.

One Islamic group burned a Danish flag over the weekend.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini
Related stories:
Security tight during visit by Pakistan's president - 23.01.2006
USA threats after boycott support - 12.01.2006
SV's boycott call embarrasses government - 06.01.2006

The first drawing, which showed the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb, appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in September and was re-printed in a Norwegian Christian publication called Magazinet earlier this month. Islamic law forbids any illustrations of the prophet Mohammed, so the caricatures have spurred protests from Islamic countries and from Muslims living in Denmark.

One Islamic group demanded on Sunday that all Scandinavians leave the Gaza Strip within 48 hours. Armed members of another group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, handed out pamphlets in Gaza encouraging Danes and Swedes to leave within three days.

Members of the al-Aqsa Brigade burned a Danish flag, and a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official said the ministry has alerted Norwegians to the groups' threats.
(snip)
Many Muslim countries have started boycotting Danish products, while there have been several demonstrations against Danish embassies.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre last week urged Norway's embassies to apologize for the publication of the caricature, but that has spurred counter-criticism that Muslim countries should respect freedom of expression.

by ask on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 03:16:43 PM EST
My impression is that Jyllandsposten was trying to make a point, and I am afraid the point may well have been that Muslims are stupid for having a religious rule forbidding representations of Mohammed, as well as that Bluitgen was a wimp. Please correct me if I'm wrong -- I want to be wrong on JP's intentions. What was the accompanying text to the drawings like? Was it inflammatory? Did it make any attempt to put Bluitgen's decision in the context that, to Muslims, representating Mohammed (and people generally) is considered to be idolatry?

Then, what point did Anders Fogh Rasmussen think he was making by refusing to meet with 11 ambassadors?

Now the very pious people of the middle east are making a point back.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 03:20:19 PM EST
Exactly my thoughts. And there is the backdrop that the start of the nastiest immigrant debate preceded this mess by six years, and Denmark is a rather solid US ally (the only where a majority was clearly pro-war). I'm all for the right to denigrate religious figures, but from the context there is more here.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 03:44:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to Muslims, representating Mohammed (and people generally) is considered to be idolatry?

Note that the taboo on depicting the Prophet only exists in Sunni Islam. In Shia islam there is a vivid tradition of portraying him, yet there is no boycott against Iran, which also has condemned the drawings. So the sticking point is insulting the Prophet, not so much depicting him, as such.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:46:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me that those Muslims that reacted are keen to confirm all the worst stereotypes about themselves, the absolute danger from taking religion too seriously - and from taking it into the public space.

They should consider how Christians are mocked mercilessly all the time, and have somehow managed to survive this. A joke that was played on TV with regularity on "Les Guignols de l'Info" not long ago. The (puppet) TV presenter starts "A new gruesome rape..." A puppet cardinal pops up and starts saying "we have no information linking us to ..." but the TV presenter continues "... of a young woman..." and is interrupted again. "Oh, it's not a boy? I retract what I just said"

Organised religion is a danger to everybody, and I must say that I am not inclined to have too much sympathy for them. Yes, you can laugh about anything (but not with everybody, as a sadly departed French humorist, Pierre Desproges, said)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:18:43 PM EST
You know, BobFunk scooped me on this one. For my piece I seriously contemplated including the drawings in a scroll bar, but decided against it, simply because it might put you as editor in physical danger. (The editor of the Norwegian magazine and his family have police protection after two score death threats.) Threats actually work.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:31:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This pisses me off to no end. Is that how it works?



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:44:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 04:48:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is this even an issue? The pictures I link to below were published in a provocative paper that's read by at least 100 000 people.

"Neither god nor pope"

"Don't get things mixed up! (Radical Islam / Moderate Islam)

This portrays what happened to the pope when he died


by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 05:05:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot to translate the last picture: the pope says "umm, is anyone here?"
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 05:08:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes there are traditions in which any living creature should not be depicted not on the Prophet. Equally there is another tradition realism - look at the travelling exhibition of Sulleyman the Great's collection if you get the chance.

Jokes about religion are certainly not taboo in Islam. I was told this self-denegrating one by a Palestinian woman. Unfortunately the English version does not translate well as the original refers to the different modesty traditions. Anyway:

God called Abraham, Jesus and Muhanned together with the women of the world and asked the prophets in turn to to chose their followers.

Abraham went first and chose the most beutiful and said to them "Follow me and cover your heads"

Jesus went next and said to those he chose "follow me and cover your heads"

God told Muhmmed that the remaining women would follow his teachings and the Prophet looked at them and told them "Cover your heads!!"

by Londonbear on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 06:13:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After seeing the pictures, what strikes me is not so much the pictures, although some of them could clearly be categorized as bad taste, as some of the texts accompanying the pictures. They transcended concepts of what could be justifiably be used in a serious debate about freedom of speech. Still, violence and death threats can never be justified no matter how repulsive a picture or a text is and never be allowed to stifle freedom of speech.  If a controversy about legality appear, then it should be resolved in court.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.
by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Mon Jan 30th, 2006 at 05:31:38 PM EST
So far, Islam has gotten off rather easy in the face of democracy.  A few simple cartoons.  Maybe also "Satanic Verses" by Rushdie, which got a mafia contract on the author's life and didn't even portray Mr. M. in a bad light.

Those are a far cry from Piss Christ -- an art exhibit actually funded by US taxpayers to make the point of free speech and free expression.

Wait until Muhammad's image is submerged in a bottle of piss.  These cartoons will seem like the good old days.  

-----

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The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
W. Churchill

by US expat Ukraine on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 02:19:32 PM EST
Meanwhile, there is this:

http://www.masada2000.org/tatiana.html

Now that's a deliberate provocation.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 02:25:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is interesting to me is the rhetoric further down in this "Masada" article, viz "We at Masada2000.ORG do NOT consider Tatiana Soskin a racist... unless love for one's own Jewish people above all others is also considered to be racism."

This is almost to the letter the same rhetoric you will find in the literature of the Aryan Nation and other white supremacist (though they call themselves white separatist) parties in the US.  "We do not hate Blacks, Jews, Asians, and other non-whites," they insist, "but we love and cherish our White heritage and culture which is under attack from all sides from multiculturalism, mixed marriages, etc."

We could have found similar rhetoric in the literature of the early Nazi party, of course, in which love of Fatherland, Teutonic culture, and the "Aryan Race" was proposed as the... what?  pretext?  white[sic]wash?  aegis?  of the hate campaigns that facilitated their rise to power and their subsequent mailfist rule.

Why is it that "love of my Race" always seems to translate to land theft, beatings, vandalism, harassment and other hateful stuff?  is there any such thing as harmless or benevolent "love of Race"?  or is Race inherently (as it seems to me even with the little I know of genetics) a ridiculous, simpleminded concept without any objective foundation?  I share most of my genome with a banana, even more of it with a bonobo, and damn near all of it with a Bantu-speaker.  What differentiates one "Race" from another are tiny genetic tweaks, odd little dominant and recessive wrinkles in the fractal outer fuzz of what defines terrestrial life and humanity.  What's the big deal?

I have started to shudder every time some impassioned human ape starts to bellow about loving some mass abstraction like his Race or his Country.  Seems like in 99.999 percent of cases what he means is "I'm looking for a nice-sounding excuse for a good old satisfying Hate."  Loving a particular landscape or city or one's family and friends I can understand;  loving a particular forest or coastline or one's old school or village or the memory of woodsmoke and cowbells (or diesel, rain, and taxi horns) in the morning.  I can understand a longing in the gut for familiar regional foods and the accents and rhythms of speech of our home county.  But Race?  what the heck is that?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Feb 1st, 2006 at 04:13:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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