Today almost all the European newspapers are reporting on the Danish cartoon case. What most papers do not mention is that the whole affair escalated after a group of radical Danish Muslims and imams visited the Arab countries early in January with the deliberate intent to provoke a consumer boycott of Denmark. These people wanted to punish the Danish government for its refusal to introduce press censorship. They even added three false cartoons, possibly of their own making, to the twelve drawings of Muhammad that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published last September. (See the original cartoons here, halfway down the page.)
The result of their actions has not only been the current Muslim boycott of Danish products, which some sources say may lead to 11,000 Danes losing their jobs, but also death threats to Scandinavians in general. As Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in mid-January about the Danish radicals touring the Arab world: “I am speechless that those people, whom we have given the right to live in Denmark and where they freely have chosen to stay, are now touring Arab countries and inciting antipathy towards Denmark and the Danish people.” It was not just antipathy they were inciting, it was downright hatred. If ever there was a hate crime, this is it.
No-one will blame Denmark if it throws these fanatics out of their country. However, it is unlikely that this will happen because the Danes are way too good. If they were truly racists, as the radicals claim, the Danish authorities would make sure that the people who lose their jobs in Denmark because of the boycott are all Muslim immigrants. This will not happen because the Danes are a civilised people, who do not punish entire groups for the possible offense some of their members may have caused. Sadly, a similar civilized attitude is apparently not to be expected from the hordes burning Danish flags in the Middle East and from those threathening to kill people for the mere fact that they are Danes. What kind of “religion” is it anyway that encourages people to behave in such way?
Let it be known to the fanatics that today all Westerners are Danes. All across the Western world papers have begun to show the Danish cartoons [but not, apparently, the BBC]. Weblogs proudly carry the Danish flag. Petitions are presented in support of Jyllands-Posten. “Buy Danish” campaigns have been launched. Will the twelve cartoons mark the beginning of the clash of civilizations? Will this be the turning point where Westerners tell immigrants that “guests” are expected to accept the rules of the house where they have come to live?
Many in the West clearly do not accept the Muslim verdict that even Westerners are subjected to the rule that one may not depict Muhammad. The French newspaper France-Soir, which republished the cartoons today, wrote on its front page: “Oui, on a le droit de caricaturer Dieu” (Yes, we have the right to caricature God). Though religious people may object, so long as they are not forced to contribute (e.g. through their taxes) to the making or publishing of such images (as was the case recently in Belgium), or to watch, they cannot persecute others for mocking whatever they like, as some do, for instance, by placing a crucifix in a glass of urine. Has Jyllands-Posten forced any Danish Muslim to buy its paper?
Fortunately, there are Muslims who are beginning to oppose the intolerance of the radicals. Mona Eltahawy is one of them, the Danish Muslims who courageously oppose their own radical imams are, too, as well as some Muslims who mailed us during the past few days. Many of these live in Arab countries. Yesterday one of them wrote:
I am a muslim from Lebanon. I've been following the news of the offensive release of the photos of our Prophet Mohammad by your newspaper... but what I am most concerned at is the aftermath: burning Danish flags, boycotting Danish products, asking Danes to leave, and putting the blame on them and demanding an apology. I would like to send this message to you and the Danish people: I am a muslim, and I tell you that I totally DISAGREE with how the Muslims are reacting to this!!
Yes, I DISAGREE. The muslims are offended, true...but is this the right way to react? Not at all. As a muslim, yes, I am deeply offended by those pictures. they have insulted my religion and I totally disagree with their context. However, I would not react by burning flags or demanding an apology.
I would react by publishing pictures, articles and other material that would show how Islam is a religion of peace, harmony and forgiveness. A religion of science and human value. Just like there were cartoons representing my Prophet as a terrorist, I would make similar cartoons representing him in his real image, sending those cartoons to Denmark :)
I would react, by understanding the real root causes of WHY Prophet Muhammad is viewed in that way by some people in those societies, and I try to see if I can do something to treat those causes. Last but not least, and most importantly. I would react by standing FIRM AND STRONG against the MUSLIMS that are exploiting my OWN religion for political interests: Ousama Bin Laden, his ideology, his actions and their supporters. […]
But what to think of this e-mail which The Brussels Journal received today from the following IP address 126.96.36.199 belonging to the “Cardiff County Council”?
WARNING: YOU HAVE 20 DAYS FROM TODAY TO DELETE ARTICLE
JIHAD AGAINST DANISH NEWSPAPER
I WILL HACK YOUR WEBSITE IF YOU DONT!
BYE WISH YOU DIE!!!!!!
Not all is rotten in the state of Britain, however. Today, the House of Commons defeated a bill proposed by Tony Blair’s government to prohibit the right to ridicule religion. As a spokesman for the Barnabas Fund said: “We praise God and rejoice in this surprise result.” Tony Blair is definitely no Anders Fogh Rasmussen – which The Brussels Journal says is yet another reason why Mr Rasmussen should be given a freedom award.