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The Cartoon Wars Revisited By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Nearly three years ago, a shocked Western world witnessed “a carefully orchestrated campaign of incitement” and intimidation that left embassies ablaze and innocent people dead – all ostensibly on account of some mediocre drawings of the Prophet Mohammed deemed offensive by Muslim leaders.

The resulting debates about the limits of free speech have died down, but depictions of Mohammed continue to spark outrage around the world, mostly below the mass media’s radar.

Last week, for example, the government of Indonesia denounced as “very inappropriate” two online drawings of the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims believe it is forbidden to depict Mohammed under any circumstances, let alone in “sexual situations,” as these cartoons reportedly do. The country’s communications minister asked the website to remove the drawings or face being shut down by its internet service provider.

Now comes a report from a Jordanian news service of “New Danish Anti-Islamic Drawings to be Published Soon,” in a book of political satire co-authored by Kurt Westergaard. Westergaard drew the most notorious of the original “Mohammed cartoons”: a bearded man wearing a bomb instead of a turban.

In a case of history repeating itself, one Muslim leader hurried to denounce the new illustrations, sight unseen. A Danish imam, Abdel Wahed Pederson remarked ominously:

“It seems that Kurt has not learned anything over the past three years. I don’t know how he thinks. Is he really thinking of the safety of the Danish society?”

Pederson vowed that he and other Muslims would denounce the new cartoons as they “did the last time.”

Westergaard, on the other hand, advised Danish Muslims to get used to such drawings. “I have no problems with Islam. My problem is with terrorists” who use Islam to justify their crimes.

Asking Muslims “to get used to” the sort of satirical cartoons common in the West is a tall order. That the Muslim faith is superior to all others is woven into the religion itself, and mass illiteracy in Islamic nations leaves their populations unused to expressing or experiencing criticism, and unprepared to respond in a civilized fashion.

In an exclusive interview with FrontPage about these burgeoning “cartoon controversies”, author Andrew Bostom (The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism) was blunt:


“At this stage in history, Muslims remain unprepared to admit any of the profound flaws in their bigoted, supremacist Islamic worldview.”

Bostom added that “pious Muslims in the Islamic world appear to lack guilt receptors.”

Canadian writer and political activist Ezra Levant became an involuntary expert on the subject when he became one of the few North American publishers to reprint the “Mohammed cartoons” during the original controversy. As a result, a Calgary imam charged Levant with committing a “hate crime” and took him to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Levant was acquitted, but only after spending a six-figure sum in his defense and because, as he admits himself, Levant is a hyperarticulate, energetic, principled and well-connected fellow who savors a good fight.

Asked why he thinks the latest offensive drawings haven’t made headlines in the English speaking world, Levant told FrontPage that whereas Muslims reacted to the original cartoons (both the real ones and more scandalous pictures added to the mix later by troublemaking imams), we in the West reacted to their over-reaction.

Should Danish or Indonesian Muslims take their protests to the streets and issue death threats again, Levant predicts a reprise of the “bizarre oxymoron” witnessed last time around: the unedifying spectacle of our allegedly fearless, speaking-truth-to-power liberal mainstream media’s “massive news coverage – with the images redacted.”

“Most people are fed up with Western self-censorship, especially in the face of illiberal, foreign bullies,” Levant added. “If you're in a Muslim backwater like Indonesia, make a choice: fight to liberate your country, or flee to the West.”

Levant insists that you can’t debate or “dialogue” with censors, “you can only defy them and defeat them. Or succumb to them.”

Tarek Fatah, author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, gave FrontPage his own perspective as a progressive Muslim.

“Notwithstanding my support for free expression and the right to critics religion,” he said via email, “I strongly feel that attacking Islam and mocking Prophet Muhammad is not only unwise and meaningless, it ensures the Islamists' argument that Islam is under attack, is validated.”

Fatah advises his fellow Muslims to “develop a thick skin and show maturity.” On the other hand, he observes, “absolutely nothing is achieved” by mocking figures like Jesus or Mohammed in a sexual fashion.

Fatah adds, “These are provocations by people driven not by a commitment to combat Islamism and Jihadism, but merely a desire to provoke a community that shows a tendency to be easily excitable.”

But if, in the manner of that old Zen koan, such provocations don’t echo beyond their immediate realm – be it Indonesia or Denmark – do they “make a sound”? That is: do the latest cartoon controversies even matter to the average Westerner, and should they?

Author Diana West (The Death of the Grown Up) told FrontPage she’s “afraid that such protests against any and all depictions of Mohammed are increasingly going to be treated as only so much background noise, an irritating condition of Islam meets West, which the West will increasingly attempt to avoid through self-censorship.”

West insists that those who oppose creeping sharia and the ongoing Jihadist war on the West “need to push back simply by publishing, whether cartoons or novels, in the tradition of robust and clanging debate. This is the only way to avoid deferring to a repressive religious code that undermines Western principles of liberty.”

For his part, Westergaard – who’s received death threats regularly for the last three years – told reporters last week, “I am 73 now and at this age I have nothing to fear. I want to be brave; otherwise one can not live his own life.”


Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.


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