So the Arab world is upset at “offensive” cartoons published in a Danish daily. They’ve been boycotting Danish products, burning Danish flags, and threatening to kill Danes abroad as well as bomb the offices of the newspaper in Denmark. It seems that instead of typing “PBUH — Peace Be Upon Him” every time after mentioning Muhammad, the newspaper made fun of the guy. In September.
Now other newspapers have come out in support of the Danish paper’s right to print anything, no matter how blasphemous, by reprinting the cartoons themselves. Provocative, to be sure, but not without reason, and making an excellent point. I’d like to see more newspapers do the same.
I understand the offense. Mixing sacred and profane, obliterating taboo — that’s nasty business for believers. Officially registering offense is an appropriate measure; boycotting is an appropriate measure — but threatening violence?
Most strikingly this shows that there is a real disconnect in the Muslim world about what democracy and freedom of speech is. This is highlighted by the calls from Islamic nations for the Danish president to punish the newspaper.
Government ministers from 17 Arab nations have asked the Danish government to punish the Jyllands-Posten newspaper for what they called an “offense to Islam.” (Washington Post)
It’s what they would do, and so it’s a logical request. But it’s not a request — it’s a demand, backed up with threats of death and mayhem.
What is really pathetically ironic about the situation is that the protests that “Islam is not a violent religion and this cartoon presents stereotypes that it is” are shown to be so empty by the behavior of so many Muslims around the world: bounties placed on the head of the cartoonists, calls for targeting Danish soldiers in Iraq. We are painting the Muslim world with broad strokes, they say, then express their desire to kill Danes who had nothing to do with the cartoons themselves, for clearly all Danes hate Islam.