Sunday, April 16, 2006

Why the Danish Cartoon Affair Matters

Writing for National Review Online, Paul Marshall explains the full importance of the Danish cartoon controversy, and why the recent capitulations by Borders and Comedy Central are more harmful than many realize:

Recent attention to Islamist apostasy and blasphemy rules focused on cartoons of Mohammed published by the Danish newspaper Jyllends-Posten and on Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, a Muslim who converted to Christianity. These cases were troubling to all those who value freedom of speech and religion, but they provide only a small hint of the full, terrifying implications of such charges.

Accusations of apostasy and blasphemy are also a means to silence Muslim reformers wherever in the world they may reside. Their power as an instrument of totalitarian repression may soon make itself apparent. On Wednesday, an organization, probably based in Egypt, calling itself "Supporters of God's Messenger" ("Al-Munasirun li Rasul al Allah") announced it would kill "atheists," "polytheists" and their supporters unless they repented, and it listed its targets, and many of their family members, by name. The communiqué, signed by one Abu Dhar al Maqdishi, identified as the group's media spokesperson, was e-mailed to over 30 prominent political and religious reformers, including many in the West.


Jihadists have taken heart from the many confused and appeasing government responses to the violence over the Danish cartoons and are escalating their offensive. Groups such as "Supporters of God's Messenger" now aim to silence any prominent Muslim who dares to criticize their actions and beliefs and suggest a modern interpretation of Islam.

Appeasement of such groups will not work. If cartoonists rein in their satire, if pundits and politicians carefully guard their language, violent Islamists will accept their victory and move on to demand the next part of their agenda — the silencing or death of those who reject or criticize their program, including, especially, Muslims.

The efforts of radical Islamists to silence expression that offends them are merely part and parcel of their campaign to destroy all such freedoms in the Muslim world. If we allow them to succeed, they will only intensify their assault on free expression in Europe and the US.


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