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Muslims around the world have banded together to violently protest the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed and other aspects of Islam, threatening attacks on Europeans and their newspapers if apologies do not come soon, the Guardian (UK) reports. European leaders have taken their normal stance in defence of Western freedoms; they're apologizing for them:
Europe's political elite were scrambling last night to contain the furore across the Arab world at the publication of caricatures of Muhammad, with leaders stressing that freedom of the press did not mean freedom to cause offence.
With newspaper editors in half a dozen countries unrepentant at the decision to republish cartoons depicting the prophet, EU commissioners stepped in to berate the press and try to calm Muslim anger.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, where the cartoons were first published last autumn, said in an interview with al-Arabiya television that there had been no intention to offend. "We deeply respect all religions, including Islam, and it is important for me to tell you that the Danish people have no intention to offend Muslims," he said.
The EU also entered the fray. Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner, said that newspapers had been deliberately provocative in republishing the drawings. Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, said that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had been "imprudent" to publish the 12 cartoons on September 30. Publication was wrong, he said, "even if the satire used was aimed at a distorted interpretation of religion, such as that used by terrorists to recruit young people, sometimes to the point of sending them into action as suicide bombers".
Even Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, was drawn into the debate, saying that freedom of the press should not be an excuse for insulting religions.
But not everyone was acquiescent. France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said he preferred "an excess of caricature to an excess of censure".
I'm no fan of excessive offense against religion, but the civilized method of protest is boycott and debate, not threats of violence, kidnapping, and murder. In the Palestinian territories, bands of armed thugs raided hotels looking for Europeans to hold hostage. Iran demanded explanations from the Austrian ambassador (Austria holds the EU presidency). In Indonesia and Pakistan, the protestors demanded violence against Denmark and France, and Muslim nations around the world spent their legislative time condemning the cartoons.
It is beyond disappointing that the EU and national leaders in Europe do not show the same courage as the editors of these publications. How difficult is it to defend free speech? If the Muslims don't like it, let them use the same freedom of speech to protest the publication by arguing against it on its merits, not by threatening death to anyone who breaks the tenets of their faith.
And while we're at it, let's ask our Exempt Media why they suddenly have too much "respect" to show images that might provide religious offense. Where were they when Chris Ofili created his dung-filled portrait of the Virgin Mary, or when Andres Serrano dunked a cruficix into a beaker of his own urine and called it art? They spent their efforts on publishing those images and praising the courage of the artists. Oh, but wait, there was one difference: Christians called for boycotts, not kidnappings and murders for the editors.
Perhaps the Exempt Media could at least publish this one cartoon that portrays Mohammed as smarter than most of his followers:
Too bad the protestors can't take this advice. Too bad that EU leadership and the American media show such reluctance to defend free speech and the people's right to know when it needs defending most. Too bad that these bastions of Western thought could be so cowed by the Cartoon Network.Sphere It View blog reactions
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There's all sorts of uproar among many Muslims about the cartoons of Mohammed that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September. It's supposedly against the Koran or a surah or some such to produce visual representations of t... [Read More]
Tracked on February 3, 2006 2:04 PM
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