Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gud Bevare Danmark! (God Save Denmark!)

Some time ago a newspaper in Aarhus, Denmark (Jyllands Posten) published a series of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a variety of amusing, artistic, and/or critical ways. You can see the cartoons at this website if you scroll down a bit.

You can guess at the reaction in the Muslim world. They went ape. Several of the more backward Muslim tyrannies (including Saudi Arabia) have withdrawn their diplomatic missions from Denmark over this. Jihadi groups are threatening to bomb not only the newspaper but Danish "targets" in general (Danish troops are currently posted in both Iraq and Afghanistan). Things have gotten so bad the Jyllands Posten is running this open letter to Muslims (link is to the English version).

Recently, French and German papers have come to the defense of the Danish paper's right to publish whatever cartoons they want. A majority of Danes think that no apology should be forthcoming! (nearly 80% against government apology, 62% against paper apologizing) I agree with them.

Jyllands Posten is one of two national daily papers in Denmark. The other is Politikken. Jyllands Posten is based in Aarhus which is the second largest city in Denmark and the largest city on the Jutland (Jylland) peninsula and the city in which I was an exchange student many years ago. I would be very upset indeed if some religious maniac blew up a bunch of my friends because the local paper published the hypothetical image of their idol.

It is so frustrating that in our globalized world, we are forced to deal with such backwards bigots as these Wahabists. I have to say that decreasing our dependence on oil (not just Middle Eastern oil) would be a great boon to humanity. It is oil that has made these people simultaneously so backward and yet wealthy enough to be relevant.


Anonymous said...

I am not saying I agree with what the Arabs are doing. In fact, I have mixed feelings. We all know that it is a grave wrong to make images of the prophet. And in all the Arab cartoons that I see, I have never seen the pope, the Buddha, Jesus, etc. shown. It is considered a serious sin to depict images of these leaders because it is idolatry. This is why the Arabs use script and verses from the Koran as d├ęcor in their homes and mosques. Thus, it was insensitive of the Danes or anyone else for that matter to depict the Prophet as they did and they had to have known that. Were they being provocative on purpose?

The problem is that many of these Arab governments that have closed embassies and such have to in order to placate the more conservative elements in their countries. Lebanon is on the brink of a another civil war. Syria is backed into a corner, and striking out at Danes seem harmless to them, I am sure.

On the other hand, the Danes have the right to publish what they want in their own papers. They have the freedom of speech protected in their country and they have the right to exercise it. But then, they have to deal with the fall out.

So I think this is a wash. The Danes have the right to do as they wish. The Muslims have a right to be offended and to do as they wish.

What bugs me, though, is the double standard in people's attitudes, even if it doesn't appear in their media. Why is it that some faiths seem to require more respect from outsiders than others? It seems to me that it is perfectly acceptable, for some reason, to offend Christians (and Catholics for that matter) and less so , but still, Jews. However, it wrong for any non-Muslim to say anything about Islam without first qualifying one's self by groveling about how honored and cherished is Islam and admitting that you are not Muslim. Is it the inferiority complex or overriding sense of victim hood that seems to permeate Arab attitudes?

Cartoons are harmless. Actions are more serious. In Iraq, Chaldeans are being run out of the country (NPR just did a story on Kirkuk this morning where Chaldeans are being harassed). That is what people should really focus on. This thing with Denmark will blow over.

// posted by uswest

Anonymous said...

Let me start this by stating, unequivocally, that I believe in pluralism, inclusion and ‘tolerance’, though I hate that word because it gives privilege to those doing the tolerating and encapsulates those to be tolerated. Let’s just say I believe that everyone ought to be welcome and equal in any modern nation.

That said, I find it incredibly disturbing to note the rising call in Islamic nations and among Muslims to set their prophet Mohammed and their religion off limits for mockery, discussion or debate. The inflammatory response to the cartoons in Denmark (which portrayed the prophet Mohammad with a bomb-shaped turban) says, on its face, our values, our sacred symbols are beyond the realm of free speech. And the threats of violence as reprisal clearly delineate the division between the values of the ‘West’ as it’s called. I would re-term that ‘rational people’ not the West. I am reminded everyday in the papers, that the vast majority of Muslims abhor terrorism. Well, not when it comes to free speech about their prophet. In fact, it isn’t very often that we hear any Muslims speak out with force and indignation about Islamist terrorism. They are instead weak and watery words of declaiming acts but sympathizing with the underlying sentiments. I am not an apologist for the aggressions of the west: from colonialism to the latest invasion of Iraq, the United States and the West have often and easily trampled on the rights of Muslim peoples.

The hue and cry about the cartoons and threats by militia men is a cold finger, however, into our societies. These backward morons are telling us just where our free speech should end. If I can ask clergy in the south to live with Piss Christ (and no one called, seriously, for the death of the artist: we operate under the free country principle. The controversy was rather about whether public funds should go to such art. I believe they should, but that’s another discussion), then I’m sorry, Muslims around the world will have to live with their prophet, their God, their sacred symbols being mocked. They must understand that these are our values. Just as I am not going to strip their mothers of their burkhas (in the nations that have them) or their veils or make them sell pornography at the end of a spear, they are not going to limit our free speech. If they cannot allow for that and threaten us with violence for their emotional insult, then a conflict of global proportions may indeed occur. Because a cartoon isn’t as important as the idea it represents: that we are strong and free people precisely because we can say and tolerate anything. To give into masked bandits with machine guns in Gaza (as many French newspapers have done) is to abandon our core tenants in the fear that we may offend someone. As the ACLU reminds us everyday, “I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We must not cower just because a few masked madmen may take us at our word. We will, as generations before us have, pay that price.

// posted by Dileep

Anonymous said...

I have thought more about this situation since my last post. I think I was too flippant. Upon further reflection, I think that this cartoon issue sheds light on some much more serious principles.

Dileep sees the Arab protests as them trying to undermine our values by pushing theirs. I hadn't thought of it that way. I think Dileep has a good point. However, I see it as an example of where we exercise our rights without exercising responsibility. This is a theme that I hit on in my post about people getting ejected from the State of the Union because they were wearing tee-shirts with messages.

Freedom doesn't give anyone carte blanche. And if you go back to John Locke you will see that even he accepted limits to freedom. That is the basis of social contracts. Those were necessary for the smooth functioning of society. In a world so tightly linked by trade, communication, and transport, we no longer live as small national societies. We live in an international community that transcends national borders. What we say, publish, or sell can arrive in seconds or minutes rather than months or days. And the consequences are immediate. We have to start thinking differently about how we co-exist in the world. I think the reaction of the Muslim world is evidence of how this new "global order" is affecting us all.

Look at France. It struggles with balancing freedom of religion with freedom of expression and its legal requirement of a secular state. Le Monde today, in an editorial supporting the publication of the cartoons, quoted Article I of the French Constitution where it says, "France is an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic. She assures equality before the law for all citizens without distinction based on origin, race, or religion. She respects all beliefs."

Le Monde, like Dileep, says that "Religion are systems of thought, spiritual constructions, beliefs that respectable as they are, are not above analysis or critique even if such things turn to ridicule." But how can you say that you respect all beliefs, but then say it is acceptable to offend those beliefs by characterizing them as evil? Those cartoons were more than ridicule and they weren't analysis.

While I found some of the cartoons amusing, I also found a couple a bit insulting- and I am not Muslim. I think the one depicting the Prophet as an evil looking man with a bomb on his head was over-the-top. The message was that Islam is a faith of death, war, and terrorism. It used negative Western stereotypes of Arabs and it not only portrayed the Prophet, but it mocked him as some type of Jaffar character. So the cartoons were insulting on several levels. In fact, I take back what I said before about the cartoons being harmless. Their message was very powerful. This is the language of the crusades. It isn't constructive. It is downright irresponsible in the current political environment. It has enflamed fundamentalists.

Commentators lament the rise of Hamas in Palestine and the strength of Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, but fail to see how things like this make it very hard for moderate Muslims to get any type of foothold. We just aggressed the followers of Islam and the more fundamentalist of them will then take up the holy obligation to defend themselves through Jihad.

Our freedoms are not absolute. And that means having the good sense to exercise wisdom in our decision to exercise them. In Germany, you will get police attention if you are seen passing out Nazi literature. Is that a violation of freedom of speech in a country that claims to be a democracy? Yes. But in the German estimation, it is a necessary and logical limitation.

Considering that Muslims make up the largest minority in France and that Islam is the fastest growing faith in several other European countries as well as the US, I think we may have reconsider how we exercise our freedoms of speech and expression.

France recently suffered riots in the streets of its cities, it can't really afford to further anger its marginalized Arabs. France is not alone in its responsibility to respect its Muslim citizens. Tolerance doesn't work only one way. The cartoons do not set a good example of how our precious freedoms of speech and the press are being put to good use. How will we ever convince those in the Arab world that democracy is worth having if we use it to beat them with? If they are lead to believe that democracy means trading their own values for someone else's why would they want it?  

// posted by Uswest

Anonymous said...

"France recently suffered riots in the streets of its cities, it can't really afford to further anger its marginalized Arabs."

Cheese Eatin' Surrender Monkeys!

I agree with Dileep (obviously). US West misses a big part of Dileep's point. It is precisely BECAUSE the cartoons are powerful and offensive that we must allow them - even defend them. They hurt no one. No one had food taken from their mouths, no one was cut or bruised, no one even had to know these things were printed if they didn't buy the paper (we're talking about the second biggest paper in DENMARK! THIS AIN'T THE NEW YORK TIMES!). The cartoons have been elevated far beyond their neccessary impact by the rapidity and violence with which so many of the Middle Eastern elites jumped on this issue. Indeed, I would guess that these cartoons have enjoyed far greater circulation in the Middle East than in North America.

Middle Eastern elites have fetishized victimhood. This is a trait they share 100% with Bush and his Bible waving zombie army. I'm increasingly convinced it is a frequent symptom of religion.

Take our blog's favorite animated show, The Simpsons. They make fun of Christianity in really powerful and offensive ways in nearly every show. They make fun of Hinduism fairly often too. Where were the principled threats to murder people when Apu sang about the "extra arms on Vishnu?" Or when they devoted an entire show to mocking the rite of baptism? Or engaging in broad stereotypes about Jews, Germans, homosexuals, academics, etc?


// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by USWest's response. Perhaps wrongly, I interpret USWest's remarks as having some sympathy for the position that it was wrong to publish these cartoons.

I've looked at the cartoons, and I don't see anything as nearly acerbic as what is printed in US newspapers every day. Other than the fact that they depict Mohammed, and that Muslims say this blasphemy, there is nothing even close to hate speech.

I am extremely angry about the response of (some) radicalized Muslims to these cartoons, and the demand for death of the publishers etc. Freedom of speech means the freedom to print blasphemy. Criminy, we nullified the blasphemy laws here in America decades ago, such as in Massachusetts .

Here's the current Massachusetts statute (unconstitutional but still on the books): "Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior."

Oh yeah, they used to prosecute communists under this law until the 1960s (and those in other states), in case you thought this was just a colonial throwback.

Do we think that what Bhutan did was rational?

The Danish cartoons (cartoons!)are a simple matter of free expression. People are allowed to say "Mohammed" and draw pictures of him. Period. I am reminded of the scene from "Life of Brian" where they are about to stone an old man for saying "Jehovah." He says "Jehovah" again. Then John Cleese says "You're only making it worse for yourself." To which he replies, "Worse? How could it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!"

Bottom line: voting for Hamas and cheering Bin Laden is part of free speech in the Arab world. So is republishing a f*@$**!! cartoon. What's the problem with showing Mohammed with a bomb on his head? Sure, it's provocative, even mean, but over the line into forbidden hate speech? You've got to be kidding me. I saw that cartoon and thought, "Well, that's what Bin Laden (and millions of radicalized Muslims, including many in Europe, by the way) thinks, isn't it? That Mohammed wants them to bomb innocent people?" And so what if it is "offensive" to muslims? The answer to bad speech is more and better speech, not banning speech. Freedom of speech means that we can offend each other. Nobody has a right to never have their feelings hurt, and certainly no right to threaten to kill other people over hurt feelings. I'm a Christian. If you show a picture of Jesus dressed like an Arab suicide bomber in Tel Aviv with a bubble saying "Now, it's payback!" I'm going to be offended by that, but you can print it. As Dileep rightly pointed out, the Piss Christ was free speech (my personal reaction to the artwork was that it was so desperately trying to be provocative as to be humorous, and a reminder that Jesus didn't mind humiliation so long as his message got out, and that message wasn't to hate hate hate the people who humiliated him, but to love them).

And speaking of cartoons, ever seen cartoons of Jews in the Arab world? You know, big noses, grasping hands, money bags. Now that's hate speech.

As the Brussels Journal says "We are all Danes now." Here, here!

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Well, I am the odd man out because I think it was totally irresponsible.

Those cartoons were published in September in Denmark. No one cared. Then all of Western Europe decided to publish them recently and now they have become a firebrand. It wasn't just one cartoon. It was a series of them all at once in a neat little collection. You don't think that the reason to do this was to anger countries, like say IRAN after the failure of non-proliferation talks? You don't think that Chirac's statements about nuclear arms were an intended provocation?

You see a free speech debate and I see a global security issue. You are so enraged, you are failing to see the bigger picture. I think there is a lot more going on here besides a free speech issue. Someone made a conscious decision to be provocative and they did it for more than free speech reasons. If you wanted to set up a war of civilizations, you just did. None of you have addressed the idea that we have to exercise some moderation and respect in the Global Community. That doesn’t mean we pass laws restricting free speech in our countries. But we should not go out of our way to disrespect others, especially in the current environment.

So I will play devil's advocate here on this one. That's all I will say on the issue because I think by now my point should be clear. You don't have to agree.

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

To my last post I would just add that I suspect Europe is setting itself up to participate in whatever armed action may be taken against Iran. The plans are in place; we know this because as I have said before, Seymore Hersh published that in The New Yorker in 2004. If Europe can provoke some terrorist act, then it can justify helping the US in any future conflict in the region.  

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

I hardly think this sets up a war of civilizations! Aside from the fact that I don't buy Huntington at all, here's the thing: If a few cartoons in a newspaper can make a war, then the war was going to happen anyway. This is just Salman Rushdie all over again, only that, at least, was literature. It's more than free speech, it's about core Western values. This is the message: CARTOONS HAPPEN. DEAL WITH IT. Same thing we are telling Israel about Hamas. Don't be babies. No trantrums. Just grow up. Deal with it.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

I want to address two parts of what US West wrote. I agree that moderation is what we should aim for and, with the bulk of what is expressed by our ‘western’ societies we do. I don’t think the majority of the speech in nations like Denmark, the rest of Europe, and the US, reflects a hatred of any group or ‘hate speech.” The problem I have with US West’s arguments are that there is a conflation of two ideas: the freedom of speech and its principal recognition that acts upon speech and speech itself are disjoined and the politically motivated uses of said speech.

When radicals enter the fray and threaten death, the rapidity of this conflation increases and we can mistake them for one action. The reprinting of the cartoon can be seen in many ways, but if one adheres to a principle that free speech is just that, free when it does not cause bodily harm, then the exercise of that cannot be construed to be strategically inconvenient nor can its reception be weighed against its exercise. The classic case is yelling ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre. This is not considered a protected act of free speech because its only directed action would cause bodily harm; there is no other interpretation or practice of this speech that has any use whatsoever. The condition of the crowded theatre engenders a necessary threshold of direct danger to which this speech is a functionary release. What binds us to restrict this speech is that it has no other function than to be that release and cause harm. The cartoons as printed, even in bad taste, can not and shall not be construed as such speech because it necessarily has another utility, political expression.

If we are to say that political expression by some, that offends a large number of people, is not protected, then we no longer live by principle or the rule of reason but on the basis of mob action. Speech that does not please us must still be protected for the strength of our society. The answer, as Law Talking Guy points out, is reason and speech. Debate, if practiced, yields a reasoned result. The halting of debate only strengthens the hand of those that threaten the greatest and most extreme reprisal if they are the targets of free speech. We cannot and should not aid that mode of redress or interactive political action.

That Europe and the US now face Iran in an arms showdown is hardly news nor is their linkage of these issues. It’s a brutal political reality that Iran and many predominantly Muslim nations, have seemed to lack the political and media savvy to advance their agendas or positions in the Western world. It is an equally brutal reality that the US and Europe have the tinnest of ears when it comes to addressing the citizens of these Muslim nations. Is this a truth? Probably not, each has been playing to its domestic audience, which is willfully stupid given the stakes of the issue. Nuclear proliferation is hardly a political football, and yet we see it treated as such.

// posted by Dileep

Anonymous said...

BTW, Hi Dileep! How's it goin?

OK, at the risk of piling on poor US West here...While the cartoons were origionally printed in September, it is not true that no one noticed until they were reprinted. It is only the US media that didn't notice until they were reprinted. This has been a front page story in Denmark off and on since the original publication. Death threats and bomb threats and local demonstrations have been going on for months in Denmark.

My understanding of the time line is that the European wide repuublication occurred AFTER a resurgence of threats and demonstrations in the Middle East. I suspect that the blame for really fanning the fires on this one is going to land with sources like Al Jazerra who are only exercising THEIR free press rights to the extent that they can.

One other thing. Lest we forget that this is a common problem to ALL religions. There is this story about a Christian group  here in the US that's upset because some sit com or other is "mocking" the crucifixion.

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

No worries. I don't feel piled upon. I know that the view I am expressing is unpopular. But someone needs to express it. I like this Reuters   because I think it shows how everyone, Europeans included, are taking actions to continue this story. And the longer the story continues, the bigger it will get.

Maybe I am incorrect in my assessment, but I sense quite a bit of hostility toward the perspective of Arabs in these comments. I will go so far as to say that I see a lot of defensiveness wrapped up in sophisticated arguments. Do you all understand the Arab perspective? Or is that you reject their perspective out of hand or that you simply don’t agree with it? You all seem to treat the current upheaval as theoretical theological problem and that Arabs are being big babies (as we have come to expect) and that it will all blow over with little consequence. That isn't dialogue and it isn't going to help us.

I agree that there are core principles here that are worth debating. I always advocate that.
But we have a set of conflicting core principles. How do you resolve that? On one hand you have freedom of speech. On the other, you have mutual respect. It isn't hard to respect others. We do it all the time. We don't go out and make horrid jokes about the Holocaust. In fact, we shun those that do. It is sacrosanct. I criticized Arabs for their double standards in my first post. But we have double standards of our own. And we have our own taboos and sacred cows. We express our anger differently. Granted, it is extreme to be making death threats and what have you. But, as RBR pointed out, this is Arabs exercising their rights. Making the treat is harmless, after al, just as harmless as making cartoons. Don’t' discount that as simply some twisted form of Arab hysteria. We run the risk being guilty of that which we critique. Our fervor for protecting our rights is perhaps equal to that of the Arabs who are trying to protect theirs.

Do we have the right to publish what we want? Yes. Do we have the right to say what we want? Yes. And that was very easy to defend absolutely when we lived in our little nation states without the internet and high speed telephone lines and satellite dishes. We no longer live in nation states of old. This is the wonderful miracle of GLOBALIZATION. We live in a global community were we have to find a way to cohabitate even with those we do not agree with- as your mothers all taught you. This is why Human Rights law is so sticky. You have clashing value systems. How do you deal with each system respectfully why protecting each one? That is a difficult task. And I haven't seen any comments here that seem to address this. Why is it "us against them"? We are all in it together. There is a little saying that I remember from International Law. "Your rights stop at the end of my nose." The idea was that when you have gone one step to far, you no longer merit your rights. We constantly accept limits on hate speech. Germany has laws about this. And we accept that speech is more than just words. It is expression as well. Cartoons fall under that umbrella. If you are a secular society, why are you using religious symbols to get an idea across? Why do you need to do that with the options available to you? What is wrong with being reasonable people about how we exercise our rights. This is, after all, the legal standard that we in this country use.

Dileep seems to say that I am confusing pure speech with actions. The cartoons don't hurt anyone, so they are harmless. That is a dangerous compartmentalization of what has happened here. For the Arabs, there is no such separation. Speech, expression, creation of art is action. We use speech to negotiate, we use words, pictures, etc, to communicate ideas and sentiments that we often can't express any other way. If the U.S. wasn't supporting Israel; if we weren't fighting in Iraq; if we weren't taking Iran to the UN Security Council; if GW Bush hadn't talked about a crusade and the axis of evil; if racism wasn't rising in Denmark and Holland; if France wasn't threatening the use of nuclear weapons, then perhaps the Arabs wouldn't care so much about the cartoons. We in the West fail to understand that the past is ever present for Arabs. We see the Crusades as history. They see them as today because the reverberations they started continue today. (for the record, I have never read Samuel Huntington.) In this climate words, pictures, cartoons mean something and there is plenty of action to show how we think of Arabs.

As for pragmatics:

I am satisfied that Dileep recognized this and that he recognized that Arab governments have to respond to popular sentiment in order to maintain their power. This is the reality- power and strategy. The reaction by the European ministers are calculated. They may be supporting free speech on the surface, but I am convinced by the events of the last 4 months that there is a strong political and strategic reason that goes beyond the free speech argument. If your goal is accommodation if not peace in the Middle East, you don't accomplish that by being insensitive and in effect, suffocating dialogue. You don't make business deals by being offensive to the client and you don't make peace by being insensitive to your counterparts. Since this is common sense, I have not other option than to think that there is something a but more sinister at play here.


// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

I think USWest might appreciate this commentary from Denmark , and I recommend it, because I found it very thought provoking. It looks at what "freedom of expression" means more critically than most of the talk about this subject.

"Same thing we are telling Israel about Hamas. Don't be babies. No trantrums. Just grow up. Deal with it.  "

Are we actually telling Israel this? All I've heard about is us dictating to Hamas to reject violence or face the consequences.

It is worth noting that the context described at DailyKos makes the offending cartoons more inflammatory, I think:

"Danish writer Kare Bluitgen wrote a children's book about Mohammed, but was unable to find any artists willing to illustrate his children's book....Jyllands-Posten invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to 'draw Mohammed as they see him.' "

(The context is also helpful in understanding the cartoons, which are radically different from each other in style and message.)

As has been mentioned before, most of the outrage about these cartoons, and the outrage about the outrage, and so on, has been more speech and expression, which we're all pretty tolerant of. Some of that speech has been hateful, from the depictions of Mohammed as a violent lunatic to the death threats, but it seems to me a relatively small amount of actual violence has occurred.

I don't mean to discount that violence -- waving guns in people's faces because some cartoonist denigrated your prophet is wrong, and I'm not going to defend or justify that, or anything worse that's been done in any god's name.

My point is just this: I think that USWest is justified in asking if it was wise, if it was prudent, if it was the most appropriate thing to do, to submit and publish and defend some of these cartoons. Was it legal? Sure. But while I will defend to the death your right to say something, that is not the same as defending what you say.

"And speaking of cartoons, ever seen cartoons of Jews in the Arab world? You know, big noses, grasping hands, money bags. Now that's hate speech."

I haven't seen these cartoons, so they could be quite awful. But it's not clear to me from your description how they would be hate speech, but the bomb-turbaned Mohammed isn't. If you tell me that in fact you glossed over the worst parts, and that the Arabic cartoons of Jews are actually must nastier than just depicting them as rich, greedy, and big-nosed, I am happy to take your word for it. I bring it up because what you've written just doesn't sound as bad to me as depicting the founder of Islam as a murderous lunatic. 

// posted by Bob

Anonymous said...

Question to US West and Bob...How violent do I have to be before people stop doing or saying things I don't like?

What would Bob and US West say if a bunch of Danish Neo-NAZIs started searching every Arab news source they could to find the most inflamatory stuff and then started demanding that people be murdered for it and making bomb threats? Would you be telling the Arab radicals who published the stuff to "be tolerant of the Danish NAZI perspective"? I doubt it.

I'm all for being progressive and stuff but it is simply not the case that all perspectives have equal value. NAZIs and their ilk are not deserving of patience or tollerance whether they are Germans, Danes or Arabs. Like Woody Allen once said, "Sure I'm a bigot...but for the left!"

BTW: The threats against Danish targets are coming from people and groups who have followed through on such threats before - in the US, Spain, Turkey, the UK, Egypt, Tunisia etc. To downplay this because there hasn't been sufficient blood shed yet is absurd.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

I enjoyed reading this discussion very much. I wrote up a long comment about how to approach cultural misunderstandings when I realized the problem: this probably isn't one.

The offense was almost certainly intentional, not inadvertent. Denmark is a well-educated nation and I find it hard to believe the Danes were ignorant of the culture they were mocking. I suspect they knew damned well what they were doing. And I think any claims that it was about free speech are spurious; that right has been secured for the Danish for a long time, and nobody doubted the legality of the publication before or after.

Of course the Muslims would react angrily to an intended offense! If the Danish newspaper does not like it, they should either apologize for the intentional offense or explain how it was an inadvertent misunderstanding.

But as for me, I would prefer the Danish newspaper embrace the message and accept the consequences. Because it offends me that Muslims should be morally offended by a depiction of the prophet Muhammad as a suicide bomber, yet not offended by an actual suicide bomber. And poking Muslims in the eye with that particular hypocrisy (and others) was, I think, very much the message of the Danish newspaper.

I support that message. So I think I will buy some nice Danish blue cheese tomorrow. Gud Bevare Danmark.

Anonymous said...

I think Dr. Strangelove raises an interesting question. I also think the newspaper did this on purpose more or less. This particular paper is generally regarded as being afiliated with the center-right more than the center-left. They are kind of like the Washington Times of Denmark (well, maybe not that bad).

That said, I doubt they expected such a global reaction. As I said before this is the second largest newspaper in a very small country. In fact, I would bet that the Washington Times has a similar circulation. So we're not talking about a paper that is used to being in the global spot light. Add to that that the paper is printed in Danish (expcept for their posted editorial/semi-apology which was posted in Danish, English and Arabic). There are only 5 million or so Danish speakers in the world and all but a few hundred thousand of them are Danes. Most of rest are senior citizens living in old folks homes in the American midwest - and THEY'VE never heard of Jyllands-Posten.

These Arab fanatics that are making a big deal of it had to do a fair amount of research on this to get offended in the first place.

I also agree 100% with Dr. Strangelove about this hypocrisy being shown by so many "responsible" Arab leaders. It is particularly annoying that community leaders in the Middle East are silent about or outright approving of political and genocidal murder let along publishing anti-western and anti-semitic editorials that are far more offensive than these and yet make a grand show of moral outrage over a few cartoons.

My favorite is the one showing a bunch of men in Arab dress carrying weapons. The leader says, "Relax friends, when it comes done to it, it's just cartoon by an infidel South Jutlander." (South Jutlanders are considered something of a bunch of hayseads in Denmark - the translation provided in the posting of the Cartoon I saw, was really poor) 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

To respond to RBR's question about how violent people have to before people stop doing a saying things I don't like? Ideally, you shouldn't have to get violent at all. As the Daily Kos article said (thanks for that, Bob!),the idea of mutual respect should be all it takes. This is about more than governments.

RBR were talking about this last night. He asked where you draw the line? When does self-censorship start to infringe on free speech? I didn't have an answer. This is because, as Kos points out, Free Speech is the law, it is protected. But then there is the "common decency" standard that governments can't enforce, nor should they try. In an ideal world, as I said above, people just know better and have enough respect for each other that they think before they open their mouths or publish.

RBR also says that Arabs went looking for something to be angry about. Well, I beg to differ. Arabs live in Denmark. They read papers. They call their friends and they pass e-mail links just like we do. That is what I mean when I talk about globalization and mass communication. And let me tell you, Arabs have very clear communication networks and a very particular way of looking at things without technology. I learned the hard way. We gave a presentation to a group of Arabs and in the 5 mintues it took us to walk back to our office my boss had 7 phone messages from people who either saw the presetnation or heard we had given it. And he had had calls coming to his house all evening because everyone was in an over-dramatic tither. Tome it was just unbelievable that people would get so worked up over a simple information session. But that that over-excitablility is how it is. They have a few point people that they know to call to get the word out and boom! It is everywhere, over dramatized and sometimes wrong. That, RBR, is how they find out about something printed in some insignificant newspaper.

That aside, news today is that the Danish embassy in Syria was tourched. I just shake my head. It's wrong. It's over the top. It's unfortunately typical in these times.

For an interesting Arab perspective, which I th ink would be usefull, I invite you to read danish Cartoons, not pasteries  .  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

I find gratutious references to Danish pasteries to be culturally insensative. I urge you to use restraint, "common sense" and mutual respect to self censor yourself.

The double standard here in favor of the Arabs is disgusting and indefensible. They have no right to be outrages about any activity sensative or insensative that occurs beyond their borders and is legal where it occurs. What's next? Insisting that American women where hijab? 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

They have no right to be outraged about any activity sensitive or insensitive that occurs beyond their borders and is legal where it occurs. 

That's preposterous. Consider the case of this cartoon, discussed at this link , which is definitely anti-gay, but certainly publishable within the laws of the United States. Are you saying that gays (and others) can't be outraged about this?

The difference between these cases is that many in the Muslim world are calling for government censorship of the Danish paper, which won't happen.  

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

Bell Curve,

I overstated my position. People have the right to be outraged. They don't have the right to incite violence over it. And they don't have the right to insist on censorship either. So if you are suggesting that Gays or those who advocate equal treatment of their Gay friends and relatives should push for censorship of this - I will disagree. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Someone up the list said, "Considering that Muslims make up the largest minority in France and that Islam is the fastest growing faith in several other European countries as well as the US, I think we may have reconsider how we exercise our freedoms of speech and expression."

I beg to differ. Considering that Muslims are a minority in France and considering that Islam is a minority in and foreign to the founding values of all of the Western countries, as well as the US, I think Muslims may have to reconsider how they exercise their religious speech and expression. We may not be as readily violent and brutal as they are but they can only push so far before they will get stuffed back into their hole. 

// posted by ...Tim?

Anonymous said...

They cannot and should not push for government  censorship. But they can, and should in my opinion, pressure the newspapers to publish more sensitive material. As the Republicans would say, let the market take care of it.

To state my position more clearly: if you object to something you see in a newspaper, go ahead and write the newspaper to complain. Organize a boycott if you are especially motivated. But you can't resort to violence or ask the government to censor the newspaper. I guess you could boycott Lego if you wanted, but I don't think it would have much of an effect... 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

Uh...I just want to respond to ...Tim?

I don't think that sort of inflammatory statement is useful in this discussion. I mean what or who are we going to 'stuff' back into their hole? All Muslims who are outraged? I have no problem with them being outraged: it's their right to feel whatever they want. I am speaking out against the brandishing of their anger with physical threats. That crosses a line.

Just because Muslims are a minority, that does not mean they have to watch how they practice their religious speech and expression. Those are both protected under our Constitution in the United States and in most European countries. I also would disagree that the values of Islam are contrary to the founding values of this country (which included slavery, btw, a custom that is forbidden in the Koran). They are at times different, at times in agreement and at times at odds. Hate speech is another thing; it has to be ‘watched’, so to speak, by all religious groups, majority and minority.

There are many sects of Islam (the Wahabis are the most cited in the past few years, but there are others) that are backward and antiquated and call for norms and standards and interpretations of their religion that are clearly at odds with our values and we have to be careful not to allow repression and the stripping of our values from individuals in our countries under the guise of religion. That is contrary to our founding.

// posted by dileep

Anonymous said...

My opinions in brief summary:

"Responsible self-censorship": If we were talking about hate-speech or shouting "fire" then I might be on board with this. But these cartoons are well within the bounds of historical depictions of Mohamed and are nothing like as nasty as even a WWII era Bugs Bunny cartoon about the Japanese. At some point we have to say that the responsibility for self-control lies with those who profess the outrage - especially if their demands are so great, so restrictive and prone to exageratin and escallation.

Mintority Rights of Muslims: Muslims are perfectly entitled to live in Europe and practice their religion as they see fit within the bounds of the law. If they object to the editorial policies of particular papers, they boycott that paper's advertisers or better yet, launch their own paper to provide an alternative point of view. But demanding that voices with which they disagree be silenced is out of bounds.

Violent reactions to violent protest: My sincere hope is that if violence breaks out in Europe the police response will be professional, measured and effecitve without being brutal. Order should be restored quickly (not like in the recent French case where authorities dithered about and allowed things to get worse) but not brutally (i.e. not something along the lines of "Bloody Sunday" in Northern Ireland). 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Dileep - "what or who are we going to 'stuff' back into their hole? All Muslims who are outraged?" I think it is clear from my comment, Dileep, but I'll clarify it further. I refer to those who "push too far". Being outraged is their right, being physically violent "pushes too far".

"Just because Muslims are a minority, that does not mean they have to watch how they practice their religious speech and expression". *sigh* You didn't really read my comment, did you? The implication in my statement is that if these violent attacks are, indeed, supposed to pass for expression of religion or speech, then they need to be rethought. Free speech, freedom of religion? Of course! The right to attack me as an expression of your religion? Over my dead body.

If you will notice my wording, I simply took the words of another comment (your's, I believe) in the forum and flipped them (adding my own inflammatory statement as the last sentence) Your exact wording was, "I think we may have reconsider how we exercise our freedoms of speech and expression." I simply suggest that perhaps THEY, being the ones carrying out all of this violence, should be the ones to do this... not us. My use of that loaded word "minority" was simply mirroring your own use of that word. 

// posted by ...Tim?

Anonymous said...

Those discussing this thread should state whether they have seen the cartoons are not. For the record, I think that other than the fact that they depict Mohammed, they are quite tame. And the taboo on depicting Mohammed is wrong to be impose on non-Muslims.  

// posted by LTG

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