Proving Jyllands-Posten right
And so the Cartoon War really gathers steam with Danish embassies being burnt and, in London, hordes of young Muslims bearing posters demanding the "beheading" of those who do not respect the Prophet. Some even went as far as invoking imagery of a new 7/7 or 9/11 in retaliation.
I do think it might be instructive to retrace the precise origins of the whole matter. A children's author had written a book, for children, about Islam. The book itself was entirely inoffensive but despite wanting to add to its texture with drawings he could not find a single artist who would represent Muhammad. Why? Not because of deeply-held religious objections (which would exist amongst a number of Muslim artists...more on the exceptions to this later in the week) but because potential artists were scared of threatened attacks. The author complained, publicly, in an attempt to show the hostility of key strains of Islam. Jyllands-Posten, in publicising this story, made a request for any images from its readers which yielded the original twelve cartoons which it later reproduced.
This has lead to the issuing of death threats, the request for terrorist attacks on Denmark, and, later the rest of the Western and non-Islamic world, a boycott of all goods Danish or Scandinavian, the closing of embassies across the Arab world and, most recently of course, the torching of the Danish embassy in Beirut. All these events have shown one thing for sure. The Danish cartoonist was right. There is some truth and some value in the depictions as a way of demonstrating just what the dangers of fringe strands of Islam really are. Thank God our free media gives us the chance to question this.
I have previously questioned whether I, personally, would have published these cartoons in a newspaper over which I had editorial control. I do believe we ought to choose to show respect, on the whole, for people's religious beliefs. Nevertheless, democracy, encompassing a commitment to free speech is one of the central underpinnings of the modern Western world and should be given the utmost of respect by law.
Many of those leading the criticism of Denmark and the free press say this is not about freedom of expression. They then go on to explain how it is actually about respect for their god and Prophet, and how nobody should have the right to disrespect him. I'm sorry, but hearing what you don't want to hear is just what free speech is all about and is therefore a concept the more regressive parts of political Islam cannot conceive of.
Muslims are free in the Western world to refrain from caricaturing their Prophet. Muslims are free in the Western world to go about pursuing their religion and praising Allah as they must. Muslims are free in the Western World to avoid paying for - let alone reading or watching - any media which does caricature their Prophet. What they cannot do is impose the stringencies of the religion they have chosen and in which they believe upon those of us who do not choose it and do not believe in it. Even more, they do not, should not and, to the best of my abilities will not, have the right to dictate what I can and cannot say about their religious beliefs, just as they can say what they like about how I will burn in eternal damnation.
On that note, at least, the only comfort is that even on their reading I won't have to spend eternity burning with any of this lot.
UPDATE: Came across this article and couldn't resist this paragraph
"The problem is that the perpetrators of aggression, suffering from a pathological inferiority complex about the weakness of Islamic culture and firmly believing the lies and libels with which they have been indoctrinated about Jews and the west, invert their own aggression as an attack upon Islam by their victims."