Friday, January 13, 2006

Islamic intimidation dashed in Denmark: A firm stand against offended Muslims sets example for the Western world

Review Journal:

Islamic fundamentalists have an arrogance that matches their intolerance for Western values. How else can one explain their efforts to limit free expression in countries that have graciously allowed Muslim immigrants the freedom to follow even the most radical movements within their faith?

In the years since 9/11, Muslim bullies in a variety of guises have had tremendous success squelching negative representations of their faith and of Islamic people in the Western media. Assisted by the forces of political correctness, many of their victories have occurred in the United States, where terrorists are called "insurgents" and television and movie producers would rather cast corporations, Europeans and American military forces as the bad guys instead of Arabs.

But a coalition of Muslim activists, backed by several Islamic states, have encountered an uncommonly stalwart people in the small nation of Denmark.

Last year, Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's biggest daily newspaper, asked 40 artists to submit caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The request was not made to encourage condemnation of the historical figure or his followers, but to test whether residents were afraid of provoking Muslims. The newspaper wanted to find out whether the country's freedom of speech had been eroded by Islamic intimidation.

Danish citizens knew the consequences of their participation could be dire. In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered by a radical Muslim man for making a movie about violence against Islamic women. Van Gogh, who frequently criticized radical Islam as a threat to free nations, was slashed in the throat and shot eight times.

Still, 12 Danes submitted drawings that were published Sept. 30. One sketch showed Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb. Another portrayed him as a schoolboy near a blackboard.

Because Islamic tradition prohibits any depiction of Muhammad -- even positive ones -- Muslims attacked the newspaper. They demanded an apology, then they demanded that the editors and artists be prosecuted. Middle Eastern nations, led by Egypt, tried to make the cartoons an international scandal and demanded that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen hand down swift, severe punishments.

The demands were frighteningly absurd. The cartoons were published in Denmark, not Saudi Arabia or Egypt, so no laws had been broken. The newspaper and the cartoonists have refused to apologize (although a couple of artists are in hiding) because they have nothing to apologize for. And on Saturday, Danish prosecutor Peter Broendt Joergensen reiterated that no charges would be filed against the artists or the newspaper's editors because the drawings were a form of protected speech.

"We cannot understand the decision," said Ahmad Akkari, a spokesman for Danish Muslim groups, adding that the caricatures were a "clear offense to Islam."

Muslims (and Western liberals) frequently speak of the need for a bridge of understanding between Islamic cultures and the West. But Muslims must come at least halfway across that bridge. They must understand that their freedom to practice Islam in the West allows others the freedom to follow another spiritual path, even one that rejects or criticizes the teachings of the Quran. The laws that protect artists' renditions of Muhammad also protect the rights of Muslims to protest those drawings.

Is the Islamic world ready to meet the West in the middle? Unfortunately, Muslims barely have one foot on that bridge. Egypt demonstrated as much when it issued a statement that said its government "respects freedom of opinion and expression" -- as long as those opinions and expressions don't offend Muslims.

The Danes deserve the Western world's thanks for defending free speech. We can best show our gratitude by following their example.

Death threats over Prophet Mohammad drawings

The Economist's Surrender


At 11:55 PM, Blogger Pangloss said...

I sent this to the Danish embassy in Washington DC at

Dear Sir or Madam:

For the last 250 years, free lands in Europe and the Americas have invited those who flee tyrrany in unfree lands to take refuge within their borders. Inevitably, the attitudes and beliefs that spawn tyrrany spread with some of those refugees into the lands that took them in. The freedoms that are enjoyed in free countries are the result of centuries of philosophical and ethical ferment, and have descended to us from Christian principles through the principles of deistic humanism. These freedoms were hard won. We who live in free countries are descended from ancestors who asserted freedom for themselves and for all against the temptation to seize power for themselves alone. And now protests against humor, against freedom, against speech have arisen from those who claim to be victims yet have by their acts proved themselves to be bullies and would-be tyrants. Freedom has one weakness, that freedom can be misused by those who are determined to repeal it. The protests against Jyllands-Posten are not only baseless, they are an attempt to overthrow individual freedom in favor of group identity. Should they succeed, this will in a single step turn back the clock of freedom hundreds of years. When there is no freedom to offend, no freedom to laugh, when hostile generations live on the dole without contributing anything of economic or cultural value, when some people are free to speak and others are not, when the words of a single book weigh more than three thousand years of western theological, philosophical, scientific, and intellectual history, then the people will know that their state has failed them.

I know that standing by the truth is difficult when challenged, especially in a post-modern intellectual climate that has accepted Derrida and the meaningless of meaning, but as you face the challenge please remember one thing. When you tell the truth you do right. When you do not tell the truth you tell a lie. Do not tell lies to the people. If you tell them lies then you shame them and yourself. Speak the truth and be blessed by it.

I wish you and your government all the strength and fortitude and clearness of mind displayed by your farmer, explorer, warrior and knightly ancestors as you maintain the principles of individual freedom that are the very basis for democratic society. Freedom: That is the choice that matters.

Wolf Pangloss


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