Thursday, December 29, 2005

Danish Cartoon Update

Last September, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a series of satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The paper was motivated to run the cartoons by what its editors perceived as a creeping wave of self-censorship in Europe regarding the issue of Islam, prompted by fear of violent retaliation from radical Islamists. As the newspaper's culture editor, Flemming Rose, told Frontline-World:

It was a provocation, Rose told me. A provocation to artists, writers, translators, actors and comedians who, he believes, are intimidated when it comes to addressing issues that some Muslims might find offensive.

"The point was that we have some people who submit themselves to self-censorship," Rose said. "And they are doing so not out of respect, but out of fear."

Rose listed several recent incidents to illustrate his point. After the 7/7 bombings in London, the city's Tate Gallery canceled plans to exhibit John Latham's "God Is Great," which featured a Koran (along with the Bible and Talmud) for fear of offending Muslims. And the translator of a new book by Dutch politician Aayan Hirsi Ali, a vocal critic of radical Islam, requested anonymity fearing the reaction of militants. (This is perhaps understandable. Ali previously collaborated on a film about Islam with Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a young Muslim man who claimed the film was blasphemous).

The response to the cartoons has included widespread condemnation from Muslims, and even death threats. Now the United Nations, European Union, and other international organizations are weighing in on the controversy.

Are these august international bodies investigating the death threats, and the climate of fear, intimidation, and self-censorship that prompted Jyllands-Posten to run the cartoons? Of course not.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has stated that "I regret any statement or act that could express a lack of respect for the religion of others." Incredibly, a representative of Arbour's has since asked the Danish government for an "explanation" of the offending cartoons. The EU has taken a similar position.

Thankfully, the Danish government has refused to yield. Since Denmark is a democracy that protects free speech and a free press, the government has nothing to apologize for. Free expression is meaningless without the freedom to offend. Likewise, Jyllands-Posten has also courageously refused to back down.

If Europeans are unwilling to defend their freedoms in the face of politically correct bureaucrats, craven appeasers, and radical Islamists, they will surely lose them. In the face of EU and UN fecklessness, the stand taken by the Danes is most encouraging.


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