It took the Muslim world three months to bring Denmark to its knees. Robert Spencer had sadly declared, “We’re all dhimmis now.” To Muslims all over the world, Denmark had been rightfully shamed. But many Westerners were saddened that the Danes had succumbed to threats and bullying and, more importantly, that none of us had cherished our freedom of speech enough to fight for it.
But then a small revolution began breaking out in America and all over Europe. Political journalist Michelle Malkin courageously defended freedom of speech on her website. Next, France’s daily newspaper France Soir took a stand against Islamic intimidation (although the editor was later dismissed). Then Germany’s Die Welt and Der Spiegel, were joined by Italy’s La Stampa and the Catalan-based, El Periódico. And in a brave move, Dutch politician Geert Wilders reproduced the whole scandalous incident on his website. Vive La Revolution!
When the Danish newspaper, Iyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons last October depicting the prophet Mohammad, it received so many threats it had to hire security guards to protect its staff. The Pakistani Jamaaat-e-Islami party offered a large reward to anyone who killed any of the cartoonists. And a number of the cartoonists – terrified for their lives – went into hiding.
Muslims lobbied the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who warned, “I find alarming any behaviours that disregard the beliefs of others. This kind of thing is unacceptable.” Then she announced an investigation into racism and Islamophobia.
Muslim Ambassadors from eleven countries demanded a meeting with the Danish Prime Minister, and thousands of Muslim protestors took to Denmark’s cobbled streets. In the Kashmir Valley, shops and businesses closed for a day to protest the cartoons. And Al-Azhar, the highest authority in the Sunni Islamic world, declared he intended to protest the drawing of Mohamed to the UN and human rights organizations around the world.
In January, the imam at the Islamic Center in Brussels denounced the cartoons. “Where are the human rights organizations? Why are they silent?” he demanded. And the Muslim World League called on UN Secretary Kofi Annan to implement international laws against insolence of religions.
In Saudi Arabia, Muslims threatened to boycott Danish Company, Aria Foods, and one supermarket was reportedly removing Danish produce from its shelves. Masked gunmen in Gaza stormed into the EU office and demanded that Denmark and Norway apologize for publishing the cartoons; they then banned citizens from both counties until an apology was made. The Danish Red Cross were forced to evacuate their employees after concrete threats were made against them. And the following day, thousands of Palestinians protested and burned Danish flags as they chanted, “War on Denmark, Death to Denmark.”
In Iraq, a roadside bomb was said to target a joint Danish-Iraqi patrol and Libya announced it was closing its embassy in Denmark. The Emirate’s Minister of Justice stated that publishing the cartoons had been “blasphemous, disgusting and irresponsible.” And 17 foreign ministers from the Arabian League called for the editors responsible for publishing the cartoons to be “punished.”
On January 30, the Egyptian government refused to discuss a matter of $72.5 million loaned to it by Denmark. And Bill Clinton decided that freedom of speech was not worth defending. When the former President was in Qatari explaining to reporters how “appalling” and “outrageous” the cartoons were, the journalists at Iyllands-Posten were evacuating their offices due to a bomb threat by the devastated Islamic victims Clinton was defending.
As the Islamic world intimidates and threatens the West with violence and economic boycotting, it is important to examine the Islamic response in its entirety and put this event into historical context. When Danish Muslim leaders recently toured the Islamic world with a 43-page report protesting the twelve cartoons published by Iyllands-Posten, they inserted an extra three into the Report for good measure. The Brussells Journal reported that the extra cartoons depicted Mohamed as a pedophile and a pigsnout, with a third, portraying a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.
Akhmad Akkari, spokesperson for the Muslim organizations involved in the tour, told The Brussels Journal that the three extra cartoons had been added to “give an insight in how hateful the atmosphere in Denmark is towards Muslims.” The 21 Danish Muslim organizations protesting the publication of pictures of their prophet, Mohamed, considered it appropriate to distort the truth in order to shame those, who it had perceived, had dishonored Islam.
But – even granted this concession – Mohamed has been visually represented throughout the centuries in hundreds of different mediums. The popular blog Little Green Footballs has published dozens of illustrations of Mohamed that have never generated an outraged Muslim or claims of blasphemy.
From book illustrations, including French book jackets to medieval paintings and Dante’s Inferno and Iranian icons, there has never been a murmur of protest from the Islamic world. In contemporary Christian drawings and animated television parodies Mohamed has been portrayed visually – again and again – without a word of complaint from any Muslim organization or spokesperson.
When France Soir published the Mohamed cartoons, it claimed it was doing so in provocation and stated, “We will never apologize for being free to speak and think.” However, the owner of the newspaper moved quickly to dismiss the Editor and apologize to the Muslim community.
German newspapers, Die Welt reprinted six of the cartoons and Der Spiegel examined the status of free speech in Europe while the BBC reported on the paper’s editorial, which stated, ”The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical.”
Dutch Politician, Geert Wilder is already the recipient of death threats for his criticism of radical Islam. Fellow Dutch MP, Sudanese Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali supported the Danish newspaper for publishing the cartoons and said, “It’s necessary to taunt Muslims on their relationship with Mohammed.”
Freedom of speech is a jewel in the crown of democracy. If the Western world is afraid to speak, write or to draw, it may as well succumb to the oppression and fear that characterizes the Islamic world. Tolerating the intolerable enables the aggressive culture to dominate and it nurtures its agenda of inequity.
Recently, a young Muslim immigrant in the UK was granted a subsidy from the Ministry for Culture to publish a poster advertising his play. He chose to depict a bare-breasted Virgin Mary holding a howling baby and a bowl of blood. And he announced, “I think one should be able to laugh at anything, even at anti-Semitism.”
When the Muslim World League lobbied the UN over a drawing of Mohamed with a burning fuse in his turban while simultaneously demanding respect for the Muslim religion, it appears it was ignoring its own hypocrisy.
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