Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How the 'Danish Cartoon' Issue has become International!

This blog has already talked a lot about the ‘Danish cartoon’ controversy [here, here and here and here]. I am still baffled by the continuing violence in SOME countries. In the last couple of days, a few things have become clear and need to be mentioned. Even though the cartoons were published on September 30 in Denmark, the violent protest occurs NOW and OUTSIDE Europe and here is how the internalization of the controversy was orchestrated:

Abu Laban, leader of the Islamic Society of Denmark, took the images on a tour of the Middle East in December to rally support for his protest against the newspaper and Danish government. Tour spokesman Akhmad Akkari explained the three drawings had been added to "give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims."
Akkari claimed he didn't know the origin of the three images, saying they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. But he rejected a request by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet to speak with the people who supposedly received them.
In a television interview, Abu Laban told Fox News the cartoons came from threatening letters, but he has not replied to the network's request to provide copies of the letters. (WorldNet)

Now Abu Laban said something a lot scarier:

The Muslim cleric told reporter Jonathan Hunt of his demand that Danish leaders "within their abilities and competence and within the concept of dynamism of liberalism to create … a new set of rules. … "
Hunt: So, you want a new set of rules for the way
Western Europe lives?
Abu Laban: Yes.

So we must keep in mind that however offensive the cartoons may be, the sentiment of most Europeans is that it is for those countries to tell us how to run our own. I also believe this is the feeling of a majority of European Muslims, born and raised in Europe and who not wish to be associated with the minority of extremists committing violence.( I guess we will see on Saturday as there is a demonstration organized against the cartoons in France).

So I believe that we ought to differentiate between the issue on an international level which is highly political and utilized by religious fanatics and the issue within Europe which has to do with ‘freedom of expression’ and its limits. The second issue is a question of interpretation. I, for my part, can see why one of the cartoons can be interpreted as Islamophobic as it associates the Prophet with terrorism. But not everybody agree.

As far as blasphemy is concerned, that’s a moot point – blasphemy is only for those who believe. As a Christian myself I am not offended by those non-Christians who make fun of my God. To use a famous quote by someone I most admire: ‘forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing”.

As for the question of ‘freedom of expression’, it is a difficult one. Everywhere in the West, including the United-States, there are limits to ‘freedom of expression and speech’ and the discussion in Europe is about what those limits should be. As this article in the Christian Monitor points out, “the violence over cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad has highlighted often inconsistent rules in Europe governing free speech, tolerance, and the boundaries of public expression” and maybe that’s one of the problems of Europe – how do you reconcile the views of a French person and of a Pole?

PS: It appears that "one of the three especially inflammatory but undocumented Muhammad images distributed by a Danish imam as an example of an "anti-Muslim environment" in the European country turns out to be a poorly reproduced copy of an Associated Press photo taken at a French pig-squealing contest" (WorldNet)

UPDATE: Read today's NYTimes article on how Muslim leaders utilized the cartoon controversy for their political agenda. (Feb. 9) - someting we all knew but it's good to have facts.


At 10:41, Anonymous DG said...

This is a pretty good take on the subject...


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