Thursday, February 09, 2006

flames and riots

I just don't know what to make of it all.

I just know that I strongly beleive in freedom of the fucking press. I guess you know that about me by now.

And I can't help but totally admire Fleming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish paper that started it all in Sept. 2005.

Adding Newsprint to the Fire
Craig S. Smith
Published: February 5, 2006

EUROPEANS hoisted the banner of press freedom last week in response to Muslim anger over a dozen Danish cartoons, some of them mocking the Prophet Muhammad. But something deeper and more complex was also at work: The fracas grew out of, and then fed, a war of polemics between Europe's anti-immigrant nationalists and the fundamentalist Muslims among its immigrants.
"One extreme triggers the other," said Jonas Gahr Store, Norway's foreign minister, arguing that both sides want to polarize the debate at the expense of the moderate majority. "These issues are dangerous because they give the extremes fertile ground."
How did it begin? Oddly, with a decision by a Danish newspaper to commission, and then print, cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad in whatever light cartoonists chose to put him.
The newspaper's culture editor, Fleming Rose, says he intended simply to test cartoonists to see if they were self-censoring their work, out of fear of violence from Islamic radicals. He cited a Danish comedian, who said in an interview that he had no problem urinating on the Bible but that he would not dare do the same to the Koran.
"Some Muslims try to impose their religious taboos in the public domain," said Mr. Rose. "In my book, that's not asking for my respect, it's asking for my submission."
Mr. Rose wrote to the Danish Cartoonist Society, inviting cartoonists to depict their interpretation of the Prophet — whose likeness many devout Muslims believe should never be depicted. Some refused on the grounds that the exercise was a provocation, but a dozen complied.
Mr. Rose said not all 12 drawings would offend Muslims: one depicted a Danish anti-immigration politician in a police lineup, and another lampooned Mr. Rose as an agent provocateur.
"It wasn't meant to insult or hurt anybody's feelings," Mr. Rose said, drawing a distinction between criticizing religious authority, "which goes all the way back to Voltaire and the tradition of the Enlightenment," and the "far greater offense of denigrating a specific ethnic group."
But this did not take place in a political vacuum. Hostile feelings have been growing between Denmark's immigrants and a government supported by the right-wing Danish People's Party, which has pushed anti-immigrant policies. And stereotyping in cartoons has a notorious history in Europe, where anti-Semitic caricatures fed the Holocaust, just as they feed anti-Israeli propaganda in the Middle East today.
In the current climate, some experts on mass communications suggest, the exercise was no more benign than commissioning caricatures of African-Americans would have been during the 1960's civil rights struggle. "You have to ask what was the intent of these cartoons, bearing in mind the recent history of tension in Denmark with the Muslim community," said David Welch, head of the Center for the Study of Propaganda and War at the University of Kent in Britain. Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, put it this way: "He knew what he was doing."
The reaction, in any event, was clearly deliberate. A group of Denmark's fundamentalist Muslim clerics lobbied the embassies of 11 mostly Muslim countries to demand a meeting with Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. When he refused, the clerics took their show on the road, shopping the offending images around the Middle East.
The clerics inflamed the response by including in their presentation far more offensive cartoons that never appeared in any newspaper, some depicting Muhammad as a pedophile, a pig or engaged in bestiality.
The result: Boycotts of Danish goods spread in the Middle East, while newspapers across Europe reprinted the offending cartoons as an act of solidarity with Mr. Rose's newspaper.
And there was agonizing over what it meant for both press freedom and tolerance. "The limit to freedom of expression is the point at which there is an intent to harm a person or a community," said William Bourdon, a French lawyer who has handled high-profile freedom of speech cases. "It's not because there was a reaction that there should be a presumption of intent."
But Mustafa Hussain, a Pakistani-born Danish sociologist, said the cartoons showed how far to the right Europe's debate has swung. "Switch on the television and you have the impression that Muslims are all fanatics, that Muslims don't understand Western liberal values," he said.
Mr. Rose offered a distinction between respecting other people's faith, which he favors, and obeying someone else's religious taboos, which he said society has no obligation to do.
But whether his exercise had achieved his stated goal — of forcing citizens to think about their submission to someone else's taboos — it was clear that it had helped extremists on both sides who would keep Europe and the Muslim world from understanding each other.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Okay so I was in Norway when this happened, and it really upsets me!

This article references a little about the political context in Denmark, but doesn't get across the entire picture.
See, many of the Danes have been gigantic racist assholes lately. The most powerful political party in Denmark today has accused all Muslims of being criminals. and not once, this is happening all the time. The immigration and refugee laws have become more stringent, nearing pointless cruelty. There is also widespread systematic discrimination, to the point where Muslims cannot even get job call backs for having "arab sounding" names, not to mention it is next to impossible to find a decent place to live. Government welfare support and programs for the non-ethnic danes and immigrants have been slashed. A leader of the most powerful political party is Denmark have compared muslims to pedophiles and then refused to apologize, the woman still holds her post in the party. Simply put, Denmark is the MOST RACIST country in Europe today. It is REALLY REALLY bad over there right now. It isn't just exteme right people who hold these views, they are quite wide spread. Which is not to say they are universal, there are still Danes who are progressive and supportive of the Muslim population. But overall, the situation over there is really bad and the whole newspaper thing was clearly meant to incite the Islamic population. Everything possible has been done to insult and degrade them, and I cannot support that environment in any way. Its one thing to exercise freedom of speech, its another to be a racist asshole.
Its kind of like if Jerry Falwell somehow was able to recruit even vaster amounts of the population and his crazy rhetoric became an accepted, and popularily used, part of the political debate. Not to mention having what amounts to veto power over all legislation.

sorry, angry rant...i'm sooo pissed about this...

but, I should add, I in no way condone the violent response to the cartoons. neither party wins here, both are in the wrong. but the Danes are in the worse if you ask me.