A local newspaper in Jutland (ever heard of Jutland before?), a rural area of Denmark (one of Europe’s smallest nations, with a language spoken by barely 5 million people) published twelve drawings. Some were simple portraits of a man with Arab features, some poked fun at the newspaper itself, and barely a handful were caricatures of Muhammad, the prophet of the Muslims – hardly offensive by Western standards.
It is true that the Western press has been grossly offensive to religious people in the past, mocking their beliefs and morals, hurting their feelings, insulting them. From the BBC to CNN, from The Guardian to The New York Times, the dominant media have never been squeamish about giving offense.
Anyone who sees the twelve Danish pictures [see them here, halfway down the page] wonders what all the fuss is about. However, most people do not get to see them as they have been censored in the major information sources, from the BBC to CNN, from The Guardian to The New York Times. The drawings were so inoffensive that when they were originally published last September there was no outcry, not even in Egypt where they were republished in October. Only when fanatical imams travelled from Denmark to Arabia, with suitcases containing three grossly offensive bogus cartoons which they had added to the original twelve – and only when these imams told people that these were the offensive Danish cartoons, so offensive that no-one was allowed to see them – only then Islamic mobs went on a rampage. Four months after the original drawings had been published in Jutland.
Guess who immediately appeared on the scene, adding fuel to the fire by explicitly confirming that the three bogus cartoons were the original ones? The BBC! And guess who is still refusing to show the world the twelve, hardly offensive original drawings? The BBC! Meanwhile courageous local journalists and publishers who had reprinted the cartoons to show that they were hardly offensive are lingering in jail in countries such as Jordania and Yemen.
This weekend the cartoons returned from Arabia to Europe. Muslim immigrants staged protests in various European towns, from Berlin to London, to Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris [where two brave men “trod on 1.5 billion Muslims”], protesting against cartoons which over four months ago they had failed to notice. Last Saturday five hundred Muslims gathered on Antwerp’s main square, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Our Lady and below the statue of Peter Paul Rubens, to turn to Mecca and pray. It was a peaceful gathering that had been called by the imams. After the meeting angry “youths” left the prayer meeting to terrorize the city with shouts of “Allah is great!” The imams said that the youths’ behaviour was not their responsibility, as they had called for “respect.”
We do not recall any prayer meetings called by the imams on Antwerp’s main square after 9/11, after the Madrid bombings, after the London bombings. However, the Antwerp imams felt compelled to pray in public on Antwerp’s central square because... more than four months ago a paper in Jutland had published twelve drawings. What is the point of all this? None other, surely, than to show the citizens of Antwerp that they are the boss now in Europe, while we are the intimidated natives, the dhimmis, the slaves.
Last Friday Jyllands-Posten [The Jutland Post], the paper that published the original drawings, ran a remarkable article “Man pisser på os” by Per Nyholm, one of its journalists. Here it is, translated for you into English by one of our Danish readers. This is how the Danes feel today:
We are being pissed upon
I think it was the long departed H.C. Hansen, one of the great Danish statesmen of the last century, who – as the communists were demonstrating in front of Christiansborg [the Danish Parliament] – cast his gaze across the palace square and remarked: “I will not be pissed upon.”
Then he did what was necessary.
I feel that currently my beloved country is being pissed upon rather too much. Denmark has not been neglecting its duties on the international stage. We have supported poor people with acts and advice, we have worked for peace, we have sent soldiers, policemen and experts to all the far flung corners of the world. We have democracy, a rule of law and a welfare state. Not all is perfect, but we harbor no malice towards our fellow men.
And yet Denmark is being pissed upon. The spokesman of the US State Department is pissing on Denmark, the British Secretary of Foreign Affairs is pissing on Denmark, the President of Afghanistan is pissing on Denmark, the Government of Iraq is pissing on Denmark, other Muslim regimes are pissing on Denmark. In Gaza, where Danes for years have provided humanitarian aid, crazed Imams encourage people to cut off the hands and heads of the cartoonists who made the drawings of Mohammed for the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Excuse my choice of words, but all this pissing is pissing me off.
What is going on? I am not referring so much to the threats against Danish citizens and Danish commerce. Nor to the burnt down Embassies. I am thinking of a word that keeps popping up whenever the Mohammed cartoons are mentioned.
That word is BUT. A sneaky word. It is used to deny or qualify what one has just said.
How many times lately have we not heard people of power, the Opinion Makers and others say that of course we have freedom of speech, BUT.
They have said it, all of them, from Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, to our own Bendt Bendtsen [a Danish Politician]. Once we had to be sensitive to the easily hurt feelings of the Nazis, then came the Communists, now it is the Islamists. The reason I say ‘Islamists’ is that I do not for a moment believe all the world’s Muslims are pissing on us. I think we are dealing with thugs, fools and misled people. Those are the ones we have to deal with, and then the chickenshit politicians.
The cartoons are no longer something Jyllands-Posten can control. They have already been manipulated and misrepresented to the point that few know what is going on and fewer know how to stop it. This affair is artifically being kept buoyant in a sea of lies, suppressions of the truth, misconceptions, lunacy and hypocrisy, for which this newspaper bears no blame. The only thing Jyllands-Posten did was provide a pin-prick which has made a boil of nastiness erupt. This would have happened sooner or later. That it happened more than four months after the publication of the cartoons, raises a question of its own. Are we dealing with random events or with a staged clash of civilizations? One might hope for the former yet be prepared to expect the latter.
That is why I say: Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech. There is no but.
Initially I was doubtful of the timeliness of publishing the cartoons. Later events have convinced me that it was both just and useful to do so. That they are consistent with Danish law and Danish custom seem to me less important than this: that we now know that remote, primitive countries deem themselves justified in telling us what to do. Unfortunately we must also note that governments close to us are agreeing with them in the name of expedience.
It was right and just for this newspaper to launch an offensive for Freedom of Speech, and useful, as we have now acquired new knowledge. Welcome to a brave new world where even our Prime Minister – in spite of his laudable firmness – must gaze out upon a scorched political landscape. True, his friend in Washington, George Bush, has uttered the customary condemnation of the torching of our embassies, but his State Department alludes to us as being the guilty ones in this case. The suggestion that Danish troops might contribute to democratization is buried under the charred remains of our diplomatic representations in Beirut and Damascus.
Perhaps it is time we started mopping up this mess. Perhaps Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste ought to remove his apology which has gone stale sitting so long on the front page of our internet edition and which does not seem to interest the madmen. Perhaps our government ought to announce to Mona Omar Attia, the strange Ambassador of Egypt, that she is persona non grata.
Perhaps the ambassadors that have been called home to fictitious consultations in the Middle East should be told that they may spare themselves the cost of the return ticket.
In so far as possible The Lying Imams probably ought to be expelled. And then we ought to make an effort to support those Muslims who in a difficult situation have proven themselves to be true Citizens.
We, for our part, have no wish to be a burden to the Arab governments. We will happily withdraw our soldiers, policemen and diplomats. If they think our money smells, we will retract our aid. Our trade must make do as well as it can. We promise to not bear a grudge and, in time, we will be glad to return, but we are through with the hypocrisy. We have better things to do than being pissed upon at our own expense.
Cut down our activities in the Middle East. The world holds plenty of other opportunities.
The Danes are pissed-off, and so are we. “Freedom of Expression is Western Terrorism” proclaimed a banner that Muslim fanatics were carrying in one of their protest demonstrations this weekend. The behaviour of the dominant media last week, from the BBC to CNN, from The Guardian to The New York Times, indicates that there may be some truth in this. They only defend freedom of speech when they can abuse free speech to piss on us, Westerners, on our religion, on our traditions, on our values. When it is time to defend freedom of speech against those that want to enslave us they are not to be heard.
Not to be heard, either, were the Western governments that went to war to liberate Iraq from the tyrant Saddam. Is it easier to send American and British soldiers to their deaths to liberate Iraq than to speak a few simple words in defense of freedom at home? Is this the kind of “solidarity” Washington and London exhibit towards their Danish ally, whose soldiers are also dying in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Last Friday Srdja Trifkovic, the foreign editor of the American paleo-conservative magazine Chronicles, wrote:
Denmark’s government, her media and the public at large, continue to defy the prevalent spirit of Western decrepitude by refusing to eat humble pie over some half-dozen mildly satirical cartoons of Muhammad, the inventor of Islam. Every American by now has heard about those cartoons, but very few have actually seen, thanks to our mainstream media’s strange view of what actually constitutes “all the news fit to print.” […] It looks like there will be no apology coming from Copenhagen, however, no matter how many Danish consulates burn in Dar al Islam, or how resolutely Iranians and others pursue their announced boycott of Danish products […] The U.S. State Department, by contrast, has effectively sided with Jihad by condemning the newspapers in Denmark, Norway, and elsewhere in Europe that have published those cartoons. […] We are witnessing the ongoing delusion at Foggy Bottom about the effect U.S. appeasement will have on the Muslim world. If the State Department believes that it will earn some brownie points for America in the streets of Cairo or Peshawar by betraying the Danes, it is merely repeating Clinton’s Balkan folly of the 1990s and Brzezinski’s Afghan blowback a decade earlier; and “not to learn from history is to be a child for ever” (Cicero).
For once the State Department finds itself in alliance with that other paleo, Pat Buchanan, whose February 8 article “Secularist stupidity and religious wars” led one of my European friends, an admirer of Mr Buchanan, to write to me: “I thought I was a paleo-conservative, but with a leading figure like Buchanan I am beginning to doubt this. There are very good arguments for non-interventionism. But he should be consistent and condemn the Arab intervention in the West, too.”
“What was the purpose of this juvenile idiocy?” Mr Buchanan asks about those who reprinted the Muhammad drawings:
Is this what freedom of the press is all about – the freedom to insult the faith of a billion people and start a religious war? […] Did Europeans learn nothing from the Salman Rushdie episode? Or the firestorm that gripped the Islamic world when Christian ministers in the United States called Muhammad a “terrorist”?
Really? What lessons were we supposed to learn from the Salman Rushdie episode?
Mr Buchanan continues with some observations which we share, such as the hypocrisy of the West:
We have ‘speech codes’ in colleges and ”hate crimes” laws to protect minorities from abusive remarks. But newspapers that hail these codes throw a blanket of “artistic freedom” over scatological art that degrades religious symbols – from putting a figure of Christ in a jar of urine to a “painting” of the Virgin Mary surrounded by female genitalia and elephant dung that hung in a Brooklyn museum. What has happened in Europe is that the secular press, which loves to mock the beliefs and symbols of religious faith, has now insulted a deadly serious religion that answers insults with action.
We have a question for Mr Buchanan: Does the fact that the dominant media from the BBC to CNN, from The Guardian to The New York Times – those cowards that refuse to republish the twelve original drawings – have offended our religion, our traditions, our values in the past, mean that we now have to submit to a “deadly serious religion that answers insults with” (and here Mr Buchanan employs a euphemism – something which he very rarely does) “action?”
Then the position adopted this week by The Weekly Standard is more courageous. It has republished the cartoons because, as Bill Kristol says in an editor’s note:
In light of recent instances of capitulation to the threats of radical Islamists, and in response to eloquent pleas by individuals like Walid-al-Kubaisi in Norway to publish the cartoons in order to protect freedom of expression, we wanted to do our small part to stand against intimidation by extremists.
In an article about the cartoon affair he writes:
The response of Western leaders hasn’t been particularly encouraging – with the notable exception of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark. Robert Frost said of liberals that they’re incapable of taking their own side in a fight.
This is not only true of Western leaders, but even more so of its dominant media, from the BBC to CNN, from The Guardian to The New York Times...