Cartoon wars roundup

The row over the Danish cartoons continues to run and run, albeit at a somewhat lower level of intensity:

  • There have been riots in Pakistan, after weeks of protests.
  • A Pakistani cleric has announced a bounty of $1 million to whoever kills the cartoonist who depicted Mohammed. He appears unaware that there were several cartoonists! This is in addition to the Taleban’s bounty of 100kg of gold.
  • There have been denial of service attacks and other attempts to hack/disrupt Danish websites and other websites that supported the cartoons. The hosters of Michelle Malkin’s blog have also been under this sort of electronic attack, and she has received threatening emails:

    From: naser jianpour (
    Date: Feb 10, 2006 12:04 PM
    Subject: we will kill you

    I am Iranian I am a mosleme .
    We will kill you( every )
    down with you( Crectian & jowe.)
    world is mine.


    From: monalisa monalisa (
    Date: Feb 4, 2006 5:55 PM
    Subject: you are filth

    the dishonourable the mean the prostitute I’am a müslim and turkish I kill
    you devil you are goto the hell shit the whore


    From: (
    Date: Feb 11, 2006 9:41 PM
    Subject: mohammed

    you have one day to delete all pictures of mohammed from your server, or i hack this site and delete all files on this server. ok

    mohammed have never a face. dou you now.

    for ever islam

  • Bill Clinton has condemned the cartoons (twice). The reports do not indicate that he has said anything about those issuing death threats, rioting and burning embassies or the climate of fear and intimidation that has been created by Islamists who try to suppress any perceived insult or criticism of Islam.
  • A female journalist covering an anti-cartoons protest in Turkey was stoned by the protestors who say they provoked her by not wearing a head scarf! Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.
  • Some interesting comments have been made on a BBC web page featuring a selection of commentators:
    • Dr Yunes Teinaz of the London Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre states “Freedom of expression is not a licence to attack a culture or religion”. If we take this seriously, then he is suggesting that two huge areas of human behaviour and beliefs should be off-limits to criticism or ridicule. It seems to me that for freedom of speech to be worthwhile and to mean something, no area of human behaviour of beliefs should be held to be immune from criticism. I see no reason for privileging cultural and religious beliefs by holding them to be immune from criticism or even ridicule. I also disagree that the cartoons were in any way racist as he also suggests.
    • Munira Mirza, a journalist, makes an important point:

      British newspapers should publish the images. Muslims should be able to see them and judge them for themselves, that’s why we have freedom of speech.

      Many Muslims want the same freedoms as everyone else to debate, criticise and challenge their religion.

      They want to be able to say: “Hey we’re not children, we can handle criticism, we don’t need special protection – we’re equal.”

    • Karen Armstrong, an author of a biography of Mohammed, claims that the cartoons were “criminally irresponsible”, yet fails to make any mention of the responsibility, criminal or otherwise, of those who have sent death threats to anyone who dares to criticise or insult Islam or Islamists, those who have been rioting, those who have toured the middle east stirring up anger with extra pictures that Jyllands-Posten had not solicited or published, those who have been torching embassies or those who have been offering bounties for the heads of the cartoonists concerned. These cartoons are no worse then those that appear regularly about world leaders and politicians or figures from other religions in Western media. I don’t see why lampooning Mohammed should be held to be criminally irresponsible when these other cartoons are not.
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British Muslim group calls for ban on depicting Mohammed

As I’ve reported at Magna Carta Plus, a group of British Muslims have called for a ban on depicting Mohammed. Thus this group wants us to observe a tenet of their religion. That’s both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

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Cartoon wars: Murial Gray gets it.

Muriel Gray writing in last week’s Sunday Herald shows she understands the cartoon wars:

One of the biggest misunderstandings of the crisis caused by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printing cartoons of Muhammed is that the paper was merely satirising Islam and hadn’t realised that any image of the prophet, insulting or respectful, is utterly taboo to Muslims. This is quite wrong.

The incident arose from the fact that an author of a children’s book about the life of Muhammed wanted it illustrated but couldn’t find any artist brave enough to risk offending those who currently express their offence by murdering the offender. Hence in a deliberate test of freedom of speech, the newspaper, not Muslim and therefore not bound by this taboo, sought artists willing to draw Muhammed. The mild satire on the state of Islamic jihad was incidental.

So yes, it was a deliberate provocation, a massive shove in the playground, but they didn’t start the fight. The initial provocation came from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 when he pronounced a death sentence on the author Salman Rushdie for having a written a novel that contained another Islamic taboo, that of disrespecting the Koran. This was a stroke of genius. Whereas critics of repugnant ideologies were only in peril when they acted openly in the country guilty of the tyranny, and were free to express their disgust from the safety of a civilised country, Khomeini came up with the brilliant Mafia-like scheme of recruiting his foot soldiers everywhere.

Knowing that there are now Muslims in almost every country in the world, he removed that safety net once offered to people such as critics of the USSR or Idi Amin, so that even in safe, tolerant Britain, nobody would ever again dare write, paint, broadcast, film or lecture on anti-Islamic views for fear of their lives. Of course most Muslims, being sane, peaceful human beings, simply ignored the psychotic Khomeini. But tragically the subsequent brutal murder of Theo Van Gogh, the deadly riots sparked by journalist Isioma Daniel’s article about Miss World in Nigeria, and the threats to people like author Irshadi Manji for writing a witty book about reforming Islam, have had such an effect that they have bought Islam immunity from criticism, not through respect, but through fear.

This was what Jyllands-Posten was testing, and the result, as we can see, is that it has proved its point spectacularly. The other European papers which published the cartoons were, with a couple of exceptions, not trying to further provoke Muslims, but were engaging in an “I am Spartacus” moment, showing solidarity for Denmark and trying to gain enough similar support throughout Europe that it would make it harder for the extremists. What if everyone publishes? Going to kill everyone? Going to boycott goods from every European country? If only the Czech Republic would publish the cartoons then Hamas would have to boycott Semtex.

Unfortunately, though at least she’s honest about it, she and her paper have declined to publish the cartoons because of this very fear, as she states in her final paragraph:

This paper’s belief in freedom of speech is paramount. The decision not to reprint the cartoons, not to declare ourselves another Spartacus in support of our European colleagues, was taken, at least partly, out of consideration for the safety of the staff, and the safety of Scottish people here and abroad, and I fully support it. But the extremists, who created the fear that made that decision a foregone conclusion, must understand that if they think the UK press have done this out of respect, they are so very wrong. They have undoubtedly won this battle hands down. Well done. We are afraid. But do they think people neutered and silenced by fear are going to work at embracing their culture, their religion or their values? Clearly, they don’t care. The danger of this backlashing on to our innocent Muslim fellow citizens is a distinct possibility and the thought makes me sick to the stomach. It looks as though those of us aching for the misery of all this hatred to end are in for a long wait.

It is depressing that so many of our politicians have chosen to attack and condemn the people standing up to this intimidation rather than give them support. These actions will only encourage the extremists who carry the intimidation to continue.

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Is the rage over the Mohammed cartoons manufactured?

Consider the following:

I also find it suspicious that embassies in the middle east, such as Syria and Iran, were torched. Many of the countries concerned are dictatorships with high degrees of social control being exercised by the state. I find it hard to believe the riots would have been allowed to get so far out of hand had they not had some tacit support from the authorities.

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Has Jyllands-Posten been hypocritical?

It turns out that Jyllands-Posten, the paper which published the cartoons of Mohammed in Denmark back in September, had previously, in 2003, refused to publish a cartoon of Jesus, on the grounds that it might cause offence.

Some have suggested that the argument that Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons of Mohammed as a test of Danish freedom of speech and as part of a debate on freedom of speech is a hypocritical one in the light of this.

I don’t think this does necessarily show they’ve been hypocritical, though of course it’s not unknown for newspapers — or any other human organisation — to do so. There are several reasons:

  • according to the article linked above, the editor who rejected the Jesus cartoon is a different editor from the one who commissioned the Mohammed cartoons. Thus we have different people judging the suitability of the cartoons in each case.
  • the Jesus cartoon was submitted for publication, not commissioned by the paper.
  • the paper’s ostensible reason for commissioning the Mohammed cartoons was that, in the light of the difficulties Kare Bluitgen had finding an artist to illustrate a children’s book on Mohammed, difficulties based on fear of death threats from militant Muslims at a perceive insult to Islam if they did, they wanted to test Danish freedom of speech and spark a debate about the issue. The fear of intimidation for depicting Mohammed simply did not exist with regards to Jesus. Thus the need to stand up for freedom of speech did not exist in that case and the possible causation of offence over an unsolicited cartoon would not be countered by the imperative to stand up to intimidation from some militant Muslims.

It is worth nothing that since publication the offices of Jyllands-Posten have been subjected to bomb-scares and that the cartoonists have faced death threats and have gone into hiding. Also, the remnants of the Taleban have put a bounty on the cartoonist’s heads, namely 100kg of gold.

As with Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, the response of some Islamists to a perceived insult of Islam is to intimidate and threaten the death of those responsible. Indeed, where Salman Rushdie was famously the subject of a fatwa calling for this death, Theo Van Goh was murdered and a note pinned to his body threatened Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Their crime? To have made a film, Submission, highlighting the mistreatment of women in Muslim families.

It is this intimidation that threatens freedom of speech and it seems to me that Jyllands-Posten were trying to stand up for freedom of speech against such intimidation when they asked for the cartoons.

Now maybe JP aren’t perfect, maybe they’ve not always been so good at standing up for freedom of speech, maybe they were even trying to get some publicity, but that does not alter the fact that such intimidation occurs, they are now the recipients of such intimidation – along with anyone else who has published the cartoons and that there is a need to counter this intimidation of people who dare to criticise Muslims or Islamic culture.

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Some questions

If the Labour party said that cartoons caricaturing or mocking their MPs and leaders deeply offended them, should the media stop producing such cartoons?

If the Royal family said they found cartoons that mock the Royals offensive and hurtful, should the media stop producing those?

If the leaders of Christian, Jewish, Sikh or Hindu institutions or communities said they found cartoons mocking their prophets or leaders insulting, should the media obey?

If representatives of the USA said the Americans found cartoons caricaturing them or their president or their army or their people deeply offensive, should the media stop producing such cartoons to mollify their feelings?

If this line of reasoning doesn’t convince you that the media should stop producing cartoons caricaturing (members of) the above groups should they claim to feel that way, why should it convince you in the case of Muslims?

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The cartoons produced in Arab newspapers and Muslim depictions of Mohammed

See this link, for examples of cartoons from Arab papers portraying Jews, Israel and America with provocative cartoons.

And they apparently don’t mind producing cartoons that might offend Christians either.

Why should we listen when they complain about cartoons caricaturing Mohammed?

Furthermore, despite the edict against depicting Mohammed, apparently Mohammed has been depicted for hundreds of years, not only without a peep from Muslims, but also he has been depicted by Muslims.

So why all the anger and fuss now?

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