Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Déjà vu: cartoon violence (again)

By Grace

Two years ago, I blogged about the controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed being published in Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten.

I wasn't pleased with it then because I thought it was disrespectful towards Muslims and their beliefs, and that it was irresponsible on the part of the editors to put it into print. However, I must also emphasize that I thought the violence that followed was overboard and unmerited and I do not condone any threats against the cartoonist or the publishers.

Last time, I received a lot of negative feedback and backlash over my comments because they were interpreted as being against free speech. Everyone's entitled to disagree with me (but no personal attacks, please). Believe me, I'm as pro-free speech as anyone else, but in the interest of keeping the peace, there is something called "self-restraint". But I digress.

That was then. One could argue that Jyllands-Posten did not have the foresight to anticipate the kind of controversy or world-wide protests and violence the cartoon would cause, and that would be fair. However, this time, they have no excuse.

European newspapers have reprinted the Prophet Mohammed cartoon in response to a thwarted assassination plot by against the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, in Denmark.

I understand the outrage towards wanting to kill an editorial cartoonist. His work was uninformed, but did not necessarily have any ill-intent. There's absolutely no justification for murder. However, re-publishing the cartoon is a foolish way to retaliate against the perpetrators and their supporters, and it's not just because they're dumping fuel on the fire.

The controversy over this issue had largely died down, but now, violence has flared up again. Call it a lesson stubbornly not learned. Since anger has been directed towards Denmark, they've put Danish embassy staff members' lives at risk. Their consulates in predominantly Muslim countries have had to close due to demonstrations and safety concerns (including those in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Syria). The publishers knew this would happen, because events are unfolding in a similar, if not the same way as they did two years ago. It's completely irresponsible and thoughtless.

Muslim leaders in Denmark have denounced the plot on Westergaard's life, but are deeply unhappy that the cartoon has been re-published. Once again, they have to calm their congregations and reach out for an open dialogue.

The violence that has followed is still indefensible, especially where a peaceful discussion would be much more productive.

Want to call it free speech? Fine. It's a right and one that I deeply believe in. But by knowingly provoking violence and putting the lives of Danish government workers abroad in danger, the newspapers that have chosen to re-publish this cartoon have forgotten one very important thing: every right comes with responsibility.

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  • Your point is well taken, but the flipside of this issue is that Europeans are getting tired of bullying and coercion from thin-skinned Islamic radicals who show no reciprocal respect for European sensibilities. As dumb as it may seem to re-publish those cartoons, consider it as part of an angry backlash.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 10:58 PM  

  • Great post Grace. I agree. Just because you have free speech, doesn't mean you have to use it to act like an idiot. I saw no point in publishing the cartoons in the first place and even less point in publishing them now. For one thing, these plotters haven't been convicted, just accused and everyone already knows it's going to set off more violence to gin up the whole sorry controversy again.

    Besides, the cartoons suck on an artistic-political statement level. They're the equivalent of a six year old bully taunting the geeky kid with - yeah your mother is ugly and wears combat boots.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 8:04 AM  

  • Libby, I don't agree. Today, a group of Pakistani students demonstrated in the streets with chants of "Death to the Danes." Now, consider the contrast between an stupid cartoon versus death threats and incitements to violence. This is getting tiresome.

    There is no place in Europe today where one can get away from radical Islamic threats and intimidation. It has grown into an intolerable situation.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 10:39 PM  

  • Hi ,all.
    As a moslem livin in Indonesia I can tell you all clearly that this is not a conducive situation where positive dialogue can grow. Many moslem in my local actually see the west as a more civilized nations (except maybe for sex,drugs, and booze), but this kind of ignorance really put them away. Now radicals can easily say "You see...they don't want to respect us at all!". This shut off the potential doors for a more constructive dialoge. If you can see my point.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:20 PM  

  • Hi Budi,

    Please accept my thanks for your comment. In my culture, blasphemy is no longer considered a reason to kill people. In my culture, we do not consider death threats, bullying, and intimidation as a form of "constructive dialogue." We value freedom of speech above all, even when we find other speech to be offensive. If you want us to respect your traditions, you should also try to respect ours.

    Radicals will always find fault with us no matter what we say. I will not live my life hiding in fear of radicals and neither should you.

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 10:14 PM  


    Thanks for your kind enlightment. Will you kindly please explain more about your statement "We value freedom of speech above all".
    What is this means, please educate me. Is there no law concerning speaking in your country (or rather "in your culture").
    Is there no ethics about how to speak? Hmmmm Dale Carnegie must have lied to me in his book.
    I suspect that there is also apply some "natural consequences" as well as "law consequences" there in your soil.
    The different is (I guess) that many people love many things
    in their life in your country (or "in your culture"), so most of them choose cops over guns and lawyers over knife.
    With some minor exception that did happens, I bet.
    If that is the case then people there should do gratefull prayer than we here, to have more things to love.

    I fully agree to your last statement anyway. My colleague once said, "Gamblers needs no casino!"
    But is that true, no other better ways ?
    Retaliation ? Speaking about civilization,...civilized, educated?
    Let us not fosters and breed any more damns radicals through hattered.
    Thieves can breach from the roof, but we should keep lock the doors.

    Sorry for my bad English

    Yours Budi

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:57 AM  

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