Some Thoughts on the Danish Cartoon Controversey
Now there are three words I'd never thought I'd see together. "Danish" and "Controversey" seem natural enemies, and the latter rankles similarly with "Cartoon". You put all three together, and you descend into madness.
While more and more protestors take to the street and this bizarre row sucks in more countries, I offer the following observations:
1) The cartoons were unquestionably in bad taste, and highly offensive to some (whoever thought depicting Mohammed with a bomb for a Turban had to see trouble coming, and should answer for their controversial views). Nevertheless, they would not pass the hate speech test in most democratic states, and therefore have to be tolerated. You know, free speech and all that malarkey.
2) The cartoonist is not Muslim, and is thus not subject to Islamic law. How could he break a rule- against depictions of the Prophet- that doesn't apply to him?
3) It's legitimate to be angry to an affront to deeply held beliefs, particularly religious ones. But your default in such situations cannot be violence. I don't care how pissed off you are...issuing assassination fatwahs and walking through the streets chanting "Britain, you must pay...7/7 on its way"
is at best grievously inappropriate and at worst, 100% bat shazbot insane.
4) Where are the moderate Muslim leaders? I know they're out there...either being prevented from speaking out from fear of the mob, or ignored by western journalists eager for conflict. Either way, and I suspect a bit of both is true, we're not getting the full picture.
5) Interesting comment coming out of Iraq, of all places. From today's Globe:
In Iraq, the country's top Shiite, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.
“We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action,” he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.
Ayatollah al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.
He referred to “misguided and oppressive” segments of the Muslim community and said their actions “projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood.”
“Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms,” he said.
Thank you, Mr. Al-Sistani. Thank you very much.
5) Why are nations being targeted? Last time I checked, Danish newspapers (and all of the other European publications and television programs that subsequently carried the Cartoons) are independent from government.
6) European media are not entirely blameless here. I suspect a lot of them decided to run the cartoons due to some ill-conceived nationalist reason...the previously homogeneous societies of Central and Northern Europe are having real trouble coming to terms with the social integration of immigrant communities. Fuel for the fire.
7) They're freakin' cartoons
I'm not sure what the way forward is for all this. I hope some more leveller heads start appearing, and that, in stark contrast to most modern religious politics, they actually prevail. And most of all, I hope nobody gets hurt.