In 711 Muslim armies crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. They took Spain by force and remained there until they were thrown out during the reconquista in 1492. Every year, in a tradition that goes back to the 16th century, Spanish villages still celebrate the liberation from the Moors (as the Muslims were locally called) during “Moros y Cristianos” festivals in which effigies of the prophet Muhammad – the so-called “la Mahoma” – are mocked, thrown out of windows, and burned.
Now the Spanish, having witnessed what happened to the Vikings recently, are wondering whether they can still continue their tradition of “offending Muslims.” The village of Bocairent near Valencia decided this year to discontinue the century old tradition of mocking and burning effigies of Muhammad. Bocairent does not want to risk becoming the target of suicide bombers.
In Belgium, as we reported last week, the organizers of the traditional carnival (mardi gras) parade of Aalst hope that the participants in this year’s parade will be sensible enough not to offend Muslims by dressing up in burqas or posing as Muhammad. But not only the Belgian authorities are worried. The neighbouring Netherlands have a tradition of dressing up at carnival as well.
The authorities in Oldenzaal have decided that mocking Muhammad will not be tolerated. “We will be very strict,” they told the media. Similar prohibitions have also been imposed in the province of Limburg, where carnival (this year from 26 to 28 February) is a very old tradition. Participants can mock whomever they want, except Muslims. “Making allusions to the cartoon crisis will not be tolerated either,” the organizing committee of a carnival parade in Brabant said.
Some Dutch, however, are made of sterner stuff. Last Friday, at the conclusion of a debate on Dutch television about the Muhammad cartoons, an animated cartoon was shown. It was made by Joep Bertrams, who won an award last year for being the best Dutch political cartoonist of 2005. See it here. The title “Gevoelig” means “Sensitive.”