Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Danish Cartoons

On the heels of our conversation about the scrapping of a public sculpture in Venice and Berlin for fear it would offend Muslims, supposed "outrage" is spreading across the Muslim world over cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in unflattering ways. From the accounts I've read it indeed seems the outrage at least began a bit manufactured (i.e., why would it become as heated as it did so immediately only in the same Palestinian cities where the newly elected Hamas party needs some breathing room to sort out how to set up its new, responsible government and yet still save face with its hardliners...nothing like a red meat distraction to buy you time), but unless squashed fairly quickly the anger will most likely morph into real widespread outrage (unscrupulous politicians looking for any wedge issue to advance their personal agendas being the hallmark of our age).

The cartoons (see one example above) were first published by a Danish newspaper as a test of whether the current political climate was impacting the freedom of press Denmark has enjoyed with regards to cartoon artists' willingness to address the tensions openly. The "test" was rather sophmoric in my opinion (here, let me flick your ear again and again and see if you mind), but the principle is an important one. (UPDATE: Please see more fully informed history by Art Soldier in comments.)

It looks now, that militants in Gaza are threatening to kidnap any Europeans they can find (even searching for them in hotels and neighborhoods) and other Muslim countries are now joining in the protest, that the Europeans will risk serious consequences to the unlucky who get found in the wrong place at the wrong time unless they apologize. This is a wholly unfortunate situation IMO, but in the end an apology, regardless of how unwarranted, is indeed the lesser of the two evils.

Just yesterday I was applauding the European papers who reprinted the cartoons in a show of solidarity with the Danes (and prompting one German news agency to proclaim "we have the right to blaspheme"). I couldn't agree more. And although I realize the sensible thing to conclude in this situation is that standing on principle when there are very clear direct threats is moronic, I can't help but think there's an opportunity here to span the gulf between the two cultures.

But the issue is complicated. As FoxNews (yes, I read them else am I supposed to know what the GOP's talking points are?) pointed out, "Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry." OK, so it would be very wrong for the editor of a newspaper or the instructor in an art class to force a Muslim artist to render Mohammed's image, but to suggest that should apply also to nonMuslims is more than a bit misguided. I'll join the European papers in spirit and state here and now, that I will not be blackmailed or threatened into abiding by someone else's religious laws. Full stop. Get used to it. Hell, I only abide by a handful of my own religion's laws. I pointed to a video the other day that made fun of Jesus, and I consider it my right to make fun of Mohammed as well. It's called freedom: give it a go.

Now of course, it's not good to intentionally provoke other people by cruelly mocking their religion, but by threatening to kidnap Westerners in response, these Palestinian fools are only reinforcing the perceptions they want the Western papers to apologize, in part, for promoting.

Here's an idea. Hamas needs to demonstrate to the West that they should be taken seriously. Why not seize upon this issue, calm down the nutjobs donning ski masks and searching Hiltons for tourists, and set an example for all to see that while cultural differences do indeed exist, diplomacy is the way to address them, not violence? In that way, everyone can come out of this pointing in a positive direction.

UPDATE: Someone in the comments objected to my making any recommendations to Hamas. You can read my response in the comments, but let me add here that it's just one idea, meant to suggest constructive thinking is what we need now, not more of the same pulling back into our respective corners and letting the hatred continue to spread.


Anonymous bambino said...

It's really really complicated and fragile issue now. I was reading Turkish newspapers, and comments on article about cartoons, weren't good. All of them against the publishers, and disagree with European newspapers who published cartoons.

2/02/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I know, Bambino.

I think it's one of those issues where both sides feel so strongly about their opinion that they both have to agree to disagree.

In other words, neither side CAN backdown and still be true to themselves, so neither side should be forced to backdown. I'm sure the Muslims are sincere in believing the cartoons were wrong (if you had been taught your whole life that drawings of Mohammed are wrong, it's probably impossible to see the cartoons as merely freedom of expression), but what the Europeans were taught their whole lives is also impossible to just ignore...that is, that unless you're free to discuss God openly and even disrespectfully, you are not free. As much as the Muslims value their culture, so do the Europeans.

It's a stalemate that requires some very careful dimplomacy.

2/02/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you actually giving suggestion to Hamas for how to react calmly and rationally? These people are terrorists, cold-blooded murderers. and you're talking as if they're people who will listen to reason?

2/02/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

This first go around on this flap was in the NY Times the very same day as your eralier conversation on the scrapping of a public sculpture in Venice and Berlin. That day, the NY Times ran an article about a Mid East boycot of Danish food goods which dropped their sales to zero. At the time I thought you were aware of this.

2/02/2006 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


I'm assuming that Hamas will be the government of Palestine for the foreseeable future. I can understand why Isreal doesn't want to recognize them, but I do hope, as most Western leaders have noted, that the responsibility of running a country will make them change their ways. With regards to the violence this cartoon is promting, they have yet to demonstrate they're a real can argue that that's because they're not, but that leaves a huge gap with regards to discussing the reality of the situation...someone has to run the region...a totally lawless solution is no solution. Terrorists and cold-blooded murderers run various governments around the world even as we speak. Sometimes, believe it or not, they do take advice on such situations.

George I was aware of it. My "on the heels" introduction is suggesting that the situation has escalated and become something much more dangerous than it was two days ago...or am I misunderstanging you?

2/02/2006 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

and as soon as I posted that, given the tone of your comment, anonymous, I realized I should have put "Palestine" in quotes, but let's not make this about the I/P problem, please. It's a bit bigger than that.

2/02/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

It's too bad the offended parties can't just respond w/ some scathing cartoons of their own.

2/02/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's too bad the offended parties can't just respond w/ some scathing cartoons of their own.

Hear! Hear!

2/02/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

Damn you E_, I was just about to post on this. ;]

I'm glad you brought it up though because I think it's becoming a huge deal that points to some larger issues.

First, the protests started back in September, when the original cartoons were published, and has continued to gain steam ever since (so it's not simply timed to coincide with Hamas' new leadership). Also, the original impetus for the story (as I understand it) was not to simply "test whether the current political climate was impacting the freedom of press" but was in response to an author who was publishing a book about Muhammad and couldn't find anyone to illustrate it for fear of extremist retribution. So they decided to see if anyone had the balls to create (and have published) a picture of Muhammad.

The disturbing thing about this story is that it doesn't just involve extremist muslims who are reacting against 'being offended.' Rather, there's a widespread boycott (and demonstrations) occuring in several muslim nations by non-extremist muslims, and it's starting to be seen as a sort of 'official stance' of the entire religion. Danish businesses are losing money and people are being fired. If nothing else, this is horrible P.R. for muslims everywhere, who are already struggling against being associated with violent extremists. I have to admit, its hard to sympathize with their position on this issue. Let's hope those wack-jobs in Gaza don't start executing tourists on Friday (the day after their self-imposed deadline for an apology).

2/02/2006 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks for filling in the blanks you have a source for the September info...I was under the impression this was all rather recent (what I get for reading FoxNews, obviously ;=)).

2/02/2006 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I am so glad that Bambino has joined the conversation/come out of the woodwork.


I wonder if Muslims understand how important free speech and press is in the West. It is a bedrock of our society because it is part and parcel of a system for determining the best path forward, and not an inadvertent lapse of control.

It would be great if these incidents could become the basis for a real discussion of what free speech and press are meant to achieve. One of which is creating a functional diverse culture where differences are respected and tolerated.


Not that it is relevant, but I have always taken inspiration from how Islamic artists have responded to restrictions on their output throughout history. Making the most of any siuation they have found themselves in and managing to be inspiring and make f*ing beautiful things despite being forced into narrow territory by theocrats. I wouldn't suggest knuckling under, only that constraints can lead to new discoveries

2/02/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

because it is part and parcel of a system for determining the best path forward

My understanding is that the Muslims who would take Europeans hostage in response to this subscribe to an understanding of their religion wherein the best path has already been determined for them by their God and that the path must be followed by all.

2/02/2006 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

I wonder, if Muslims newspapers would (dont know if thay have already) post cartoons with Jesus, or Pope. How European ecspecially Christian people would react??
I totally agree and support free speach and press.
Unfortunally I am not professional in this kind of situations, where both sides have rights and wrongs.

2/02/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Daumier would be enjoying this furor over a political cartoon.

I guess the depiction of Mohammed is the Islamic version of gay marriage to the Christian right.

2/02/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Edward suggested that the flap over the cartoons was a possible case of manufactured outrage on the part of Hamas. Why suggest in the same breath that Hamas use the controversy to take the high ground? It seems a little optomistic or idealistic, maybe.

That nitpick aside, the whole thing scares the bejezus out of me. I'm just an imbecilic artist, and, as much as I believe in freedom of expression, I also believe in laying low as form of tolerance, too. Why provoke (as the cartoonists and their editors could be said to have done, for example) on principle?

2/02/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

do you have a source for the September info?

Here's a good one that recaps the whole escalating story.

It gives a good picture of the widespread implications of the controversy, has a simple timeline of major events at the very bottom of the article, and even includes Bill Clinton's two cents.

2/02/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...


limits of time and language and me end up simplifying my posts to near dysfunction. I contemplated mentioning all the intolerance in our own society, but decided to keep the point simple.

We all could use a refresher course in what civil liberties are about.

2/02/2006 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Bambino said, "I wonder, if Muslims newspapers would (dont know if thay have already) post cartoons with Jesus, or Pope. How European ecspecially Christian people would react??"

I've always been amazed that the Simpsons, a hugely popular show broadcast on the conservative network of choice, Fox, can get away with relentless parodies of Christianity and just about every other show. I've never seem them do a show with Muslims, however.

2/02/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward suggested that the flap over the cartoons was a possible case of manufactured outrage on the part of Hamas.

It strikes me as an unlikely coicidence that the most violent reaction is by far by the Palestinians, yes.

I wonder, if Muslims newspapers would (dont know if thay have already) post cartoons with Jesus, or Pope. How European ecspecially Christian people would react??

I think it depends on what the message of the cartoon would be. There are plenty of cartoons in the West with images of God and or Jesus in them. We don't have the same law against it in Christianity (obviously, a good chunk of Western Art wouldn't exist otherwise).

If the image were seen as offensive, you'd have Europeans who protested for sure, but I'm not sure they would kidnap any Muslims as part of that protest. That sort of overreaction seems to be a particularly Middle Eastern phenomenon.

Having said that, some freak in Massachusetts shot three people in a gay bar last night, and while there's no word yet (that I know of) that he did it for religious reasons, the way the religious right in this country rhetorically beat up on gays all the time most definitely contributes to an atmosphere where such things are bound to happen, so...

MAD TV has done very direct and obnoxious parodies of Muslims, PC.

2/02/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Bambino said, "I wonder, if Muslims newspapers would (dont know if thay have already) post cartoons with Jesus, or Pope. How European ecspecially Christian people would react??"

We would bomb the s*t out of the place, but first (or should I say Frist?) we would spend a couple of years cooking up some phony reason to justify it.

(I have been an atheist since high school for just this sort of reason)

2/02/2006 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

but first (or should I say Frist?) we would spend a couple of years cooking up some phony reason to justify it.

Hmmm...I think you're confusing the sanctity of Christ among the Western powers with that of Exxon, Tim.

2/02/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

another interesting link:

Mohammed Image Archive

It features a history of images of Muhammad as well as more recent instances of satire (that have yet to cause similar controversy).

I think this has much less to do with Hamas (Pakistani groups were protesting as early as last November, as well as a ten nation coalition that complained to the Danish Prime Minister back in October) and more to do with the fact that European newspapers purposefully made an issue of the situation in response to death threats against the Danish paper. It seems that Muslim-Christian relations are even worse in Europe than they are here.

2/02/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Dont watch Simpons that often but I believe it was an Indian guy who owns a deli or something like that, isn't?

Also I think it's different between when you make jokes or criticism of your own religion, color, gender comes from yourself or from somebody from different status, color, religion etc. You would usually find something offensive when you'll see, hear criticism, statements by person who is different than yourself.

2/02/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for this extra info, AS...but I'm still curious why all the reports of protest and violence are centering on Gaza and the West Bank (the protests everywhere else pale in comparison). It reads as if the protest were incubated there, on purpose. Something, if only our perception of "where the Muslims live," is certainly twisted here.

2/02/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I think religion has a bigger pull on these clowns than that. The crusades weren't about oil, nor are abortion bombings or OKC type bombings.

I think part of the problems we're facing now are because there are too many true believers in power, seemingly all over the place. The Catholics are said to have an unwritten policy; keep the true believers on the front lines and fill positions of power with pragmatists.

But you're saying that it is demagoguery, on all sides. I can't really disagree with that, but a rational demagogue would stop short of doing actual damage to his own cause. We aren't seeing that either.

2/02/2006 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Has anyone read anything from a Muslim perspective that encourages tolerance regarding the cartoons? Is Islam a less tolerant religion than others? Or does it simply have more demagogues, even, than we do?

2/02/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Has anyone read anything from a Muslim perspective that encourages tolerance regarding the cartoons?

I had read somewhere that a Jordanian paper asked for reason here, but not sure where. Maybe the Fox article.

2/02/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Ed, re my earlier comments, no, I probably read you to quickly, I was on my way out the door.

What if this issue wasn't about a cartoon of Mohammed, but something closer to home like using the N-word, or a Black Sambo cartoon? Would every one insist on republishing it just to make a point?

I think publishing the cartoons was a mistake and the publishers should have used better judgement.

2/02/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

I really don't think that this is about Hamas demonstrating power to the rest of the world. Of course, Gaza is a hotbed for violence, but the events in Gaza have occurred only today, while protests and boycotts throughout the muslim world have taken place earlier. It seems like just about every Islamic nation has become involved. Islam and censorship have a long history of clashing (consider what happened to Salman Rushdie).

Non-hamas activity (copied and pasted from news articles):

Syria has called for those behind publishing the cartoons to be punished.

More than 300 students demonstrated in Pakistan, chanting "Death to France!" and "Death to Denmark!"

Other protests were held in Syria and Lebanon.

Supermarkets in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all removed Danish produce from their shelves. Arla Foods, a Danish company with annual sales of about $430 million in the Middle East, said that the boycott was almost total and suspended production in Saudi Arabia.

In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hizbollah said the dispute would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.

The Justice Minister of the United Arab Emirates said: “This is cultural terrorism, not freedom of expression.”

Libya joined Saudi Arabia in withdrawing its ambassador from Copenhagen.

The Danish Government warned its citizens about travelling to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and withdrew aid workers from the Gaza Strip.

Iraqi Islamic leaders called for demonstrations from Baghdad to the southern city of Basra following prayer services Friday.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai condemned the images, calling the publication an "insult ... to more than 1 billion Muslims."

Iran summoned Austrian Ambassador Stigel Bauer, representing the European Union, to protest the publication.

Vebjoern Selbekk, editor of Norway's Magazinet, said he had received thousands of hate e-mails, including 20 death threats, since printing the drawings and was under police protection.

In October ambassadors from ten Muslim countries complained to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, who refused to interfere with the press’s freedom.

Libya closed its embassy in Denmark and the Egyptian parliament demanded that its Government follow suit.

The Kuwaiti and Jordanian governments called for explanations from their Danish ambassadors.

President Lahoud of Lebanon condemned the cartoons, saying his country “cannot accept any insult to any religion”.

A Jordanian newspaper took the bold step of running some of the drawings, saying it wanted to show its readers how offensive the cartoons were but also urging the world's Muslims to "be reasonable." Hours later, the owners of the weekly, Shihan, said they had fired its editor and withdrawn the issue from sale, and the government threatened legal action.

2/02/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think it was a mistake to publish them in the first place, George. Mostly because it was a false test and there had to be better ways to make the point.

But after that, the issue morphed into a true test of free speech. From the BBS:

Jordanian independent tabloid al-Shihan reprinted three of the cartoons on Thursday, saying people should know what they were protesting about, AFP news agency reports.

"Muslims of the world be reasonable," wrote editor Jihad Momani.

"What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

As Art Solider pointed out, that didn't end well for that editor, but at least the sentiment was there in some form.

And the point the French paper Le Soir was making?

France Soir, alongside the 12 original cartoons, printed a new drawing on its front page showing Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy figures sitting on a cloud, with the caption "Don't worry Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

That's an inclusive, not exclusive, statement. It's saying to Muslims, don't take it personally, we simply believe it's OK to speak freely about should try it, you might like it.

Art Soldier, you're still not pointing to anything that can hold a candle to the level of intensity that seemingly sprung up in Palestine. I think the other examples are tense, but essentially non-violent (well, except for the death threats, but we see those here for similar issues in the US).

2/02/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Our way or the highway.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

It was the wrong thing to do at the start. Trying to prove a point about free speech when there is significant tension between two cultures just escalates the problem and is wrong

2/02/2006 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I am remembering that, in response to the Koran flushing incident, Muslims burned US flags. That is not a very persuasive reaction.

What ever happened to the idea that it is stronger to shrug off insult than to empower the insulter by reacting in kind.

I know, I know, it's the demagogues again.

2/02/2006 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

you're still not pointing to anything that can hold a candle to the level of intensity that seemingly sprung up in Palestine

You're right that the actions in Palestine have definitely racheted up the ante. What I'm arguing is that it's important to realize that this isn't simply a 'Palestine v. Europe' confrontation but 'Multi-Islamic-Nation v. Europe.' Islamic leaders are spewing some pretty heated rhetoric towards European leaders. I guess I'm most concerned with how this will affect relationships between Europe and Islamic nations (as well as Islamic populations within European nations). If there's violence in Palestine this weekend, things could get ugly.

(Not) to be alarmist, but: Has a war ever broken out over a cartoon?

2/02/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"I am remembering that, in response to the Koran flushing incident, Muslims burned US flags."

Tim, I thought they were just nostalgic for our sixties :)

2/02/2006 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

I wonder, if Muslims newspapers would (dont know if thay have already) post cartoons with Jesus, or Pope. How European ecspecially Christian people would react??

Just a clarification: Islam doesn't allow images of any prophets, and they do consider Jesus, Abraham and a host of other Jewish and Christian figures to be prophets. When I was dating an arab, who was still pretty new to this country and our culture, he was really offended that we had movies with actors playing Jesus. To him it was "wrong." They feel very, very strongly about this. Of course, this is the reason we have such amazing ly beautiful Islamic calligraphy.

2/02/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Interestingly the Muslim rulers of India encouraged, even collected paintings of Indian deities. So there are gaps in the prohibitions.

Christian art went through an iconclastic period where images of saints and religious figures were prohibited. The whole "graven image" evil. But the newly Christian converts of Europe were illiterate and needed the pictures to learn the stories. The graven image ceased being evil and became a vital propaganda/evangelical teaching tool.

But if we must wait to mock or to ridicule the ridiculous until no one is offended, then we must all stay silent all the time.

2/02/2006 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Well, it seems the OIC and the Arab League are going to the UN for satisfaction.

The Muslim world’s two main political bodies, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League, said yesterday they were seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions.

2/02/2006 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Well, we are at war with part of the Muslim world. I see this as much a propaganda event as an exertion of the rights to freedom of the press. The EU newspapers which published the second round of 'cartoons' did so knowing it would offend the Muslim world.

It was a "f#@% You" act of defiance which said 'we won't be intimidated. Action

So part of the Muslim world said "f#@% You" back and for good measure we'll back that up with violence. Reaction

This is a great way to resolve cultural differences.

2/02/2006 08:46:00 PM  
Anonymous onesock said...

I dont know if this was mentioned ( Ia m so tired from teaching I cant read much t'nite) But I read earlier that a Rabbi from France defended the protesters. Perhaps not for their actions but certainly for the insult they feel. Hows that for irony?

2/02/2006 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Off topic but a somewhat similar issue... had a littke piece about HR683:

"....HR 683 has just passed the US House of Representatives, and is now being considered in subcommittee hearings prior to presentation to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This new law, if enacted, will severely restrict the rights of your readers to portray trademarked items and phrases in their work. Quite literally, if someone paints a picture of flowers in a Coke(r) bottle, they may be liable for damages under the proposed statute...."

More info here

2/03/2006 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger squiggy said...

Regarding the Muslim cartoons outrage; I think the GOOD MEDICINE religious cartoons are MUCH funnier! See what I mean:

2/03/2006 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger Betta Under the Radar said...

Hello Edward, I'm an artist in Malaysia and I've been reading your blog for awhile now. Coming from a post-colonial country, which is also officially an Islamic nation, I feel compelled to comment on your blog (which I have enjoyed immensely) for the first time.

Firstly let me say that in Malaysia there is no boy-cott or intense feeling of violent outrage towards this issue. I have a distinct feeling that you have all associated Muslim countries with extremism and violent action. There are many other types of moderate Muslim countries, such as ours, which happens to also be multi-racial. I am a Chinese Malaysian, my religion is Buddhist. But I've grown up with Muslim friends, and know almost as much about it as my own religion.

To me this is a question of ownership and post-coloniality. Edward, I'm going to quote a bit of your ealier post:

France Soir, alongside the 12 original cartoons, printed a new drawing on its front page showing Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy figures sitting on a cloud, with the caption "Don't worry Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here."

That's an inclusive, not exclusive, statement. It's saying to Muslims, don't take it personally, we simply believe it's OK to speak freely about should try it, you might like it.

'You should try it, you might like it'. I have a big problem with that. This is what the British also said, when they came to our shores and decided that our centuries-old Sultanate was archaiac and indeed, barbaric.

To that, I say: To Muslims, any depiction of God is prohibited. Sure, in an artistic urge, maybe I'm dying to do a portrait of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him), but knowing that this will insult and offend my Muslim friends - to continue to do so would feel a great deal like self-indulgence. We do not restrain ourselves because we do not believe in free speech, we do so out of respect. So about restraint, 'give it a try, who knows, you Americans and Europeans might just like it'.

Another issue I have with the comments is that of ownership. In western thought it seems that all images, symbols and customs are universal, therefore a free-for-all, a bazaar of representations to be plundered for your art, your MTV, your movies, your fashion, your shopfront windows. The HUMAN (not Western) right to freedom of expression and speech is one that we should all believe in, yet why must non-Western cultures be the ones who must subscribe to YOUR notions of 'tolerance' and YOUR notions of 'freedom'? It would seem that the 'universal' is forever yours, but the only the 'local' is ours.

I would like the clarify that the world 'Islam' itself, means 'Peace'. It is a religion that doesn't simply 'encourage' tolerance', it 'orders' and 'prescribes' it. It is Islamic law to allow a free practice of religion, even in an Islamic country where Islamic (S'yariah) law is practiced and is constitutional (such as Malaysia). 'There is no compulsion in Islam'. If you read the Quran you would find this in there. Learn to separate the doctrine of the religion from the perverse actions of humans who use the name of God to their own ends. I beg of you all to kindly deepen your understanding of Islam before you venture forth such opinions as 'is Islam a less tolerant religion?'. Why don't you go find out?

I support heartily any freedom of expression. This also means the the freedom to protest what one might see as an insulting and ignorant gesture. Do not suppose that I support threats of violence. We protest with what we have, with words and firm statements. (Although I cannot describe to you how it feels to need to 'tell you how I feel with the language you have given me'.) Do not insult these protests by insisting that we should be more tolerant, and to laugh at a joke even though we do not find it funny.

I would like to state again that I am not a Muslim, I am a Buddhist, living in an Islamic country. Once, walking on a hip street in Australia, I passed by a trinket shop that had a big figure of the Buddha in its shopfront window. It was drapped in lovely clothes and had jewelry displayed in its folded hands. The sacred symbol of my religion had been turned into a shopfront display. Western friends say 'But we have a t-shirt saying JESUS IS MY HOMEBOY on it, wassamatta?'.

Sorry for the long post, everyone. Cheers and I continue to love your blog, Edward.

2/03/2006 03:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thank you for the very thoughtful and thought-provoking comment Betta. I see now that although you and primarily agree on most of the points you've made that I was more than a bit sloppy in the way I made my comments. I'd like to clarify a few of them.

First, I made a big point of stating on the other post on Islam that the vast majority of Muslims live in Asia (my boyfriend comes from a moderate Muslim nation in Central Asia) and that it's wrong to consider a tumultuous country like, say, Iran as typical of the Muslim world. I'm sorry for not remaking that point in this context.

'You should try it, you might like it'. I have a big problem with that. This is what the British also said, when they came to our shores and decided that our centuries-old Sultanate was archaiac and indeed, barbaric.

I totally agree with the sentiment that the West needs to pull way, way back on exporting its values (especially where such efforts lead to fiascos like the invasion of Iraq), but my interpretation of the French paper's statement was that it was addressed to Muslims who had moved to the West, not those who have remained in their Muslim nations. Regarding those who have emmigrated I think there's an obligation on the side of their new home to respect their religion and let them practice it freely, but I think there's equally an obligation on the side of the immigrants to understand and respect the values of their new country. The question this incident raises is how to reconcile those two where they will obviously clash. This is a very good example of a situation where respecting the faith of the immigrants and respecting the values of the host country at the same time seems damned near impossible.

This is not just an incident of the West being intolerant or insensitive to the Islamic faith (although there are plenty of instances of that, this isn't one, in my opinion). This is actually a culture that sees something it values (the right to blaspheme, to put it bluntly) being eroded through fear of retaliation.

We do not restrain ourselves because we do not believe in free speech, we do so out of respect. So about restraint, 'give it a try, who knows, you Americans and Europeans might just like it'.

That in a nutshell is the primary difference between the two cultures, I think. Part of me totally agrees with you and I thank you for raising this. From the Muslim friends we have and talk to it's clear you're right, the West is seen as disrespectful and obnoxiously unrestrained in the eyes of many Muslims. And perhaps it would be a good thing for the West to introduce a bit of restraint (especially with regards to comsumerism at least), but the question then becomes who's going to dictate where that begins?

I think the West is actually hearing that message loud and clear from the Islamic world: "you're decadent and disgust us." But the West looks to what we feel Muslims have sacrificed in order to maintain that discipline, especially what their women and gays have sacrificed, and we're equally offended.

As in most clashes like this, it's clear that both sides could learn something from each other. But I think it's very important to note that I would never consider moving to a Muslim country without accepting that I would need (out of respect and just plain need) to live by their values and rules. In one respect that's all the Europeans are saying to the Muslims who've moved there: "we value our right to blaspheme...we won't let you curb that just because you disagree."

I agree with the Europeans. Again, the original idea behind the cartoons was poorly thoughtout because it was unnecessarily provocative, but the principle remains a very important one.

2/03/2006 07:59:00 AM  
Anonymous curious said...

Edward, you brought up something I've been wondering about. Is homosexuality tolerated by the more moderate Muslim countries? Sorry to be so ignorant, but I'm wondering how Bambino deals with being a gay Muslim. Is this acceptable in his home country? Is it like being a gay Catholic here?

2/03/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

no, curious, it's much less tolerated than being a gay Catholic here.

Following is based on personal experience, not actual credible data:

Homosexuality seems to be very popular throughout most Muslim countries (I've met enough gays from the Middle East and elsewhere to convince me the practice is just as widespread there as elsewhere), but as far as I know it's consistently condemned throughout the Muslim world. You'll find a good deal more tolerance in Turkey (at least in the Western parts) than elsewhere, but you're unlikley to see gay weddings in Istanbul any time soon.

2/03/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...


i think it's totally two different issues here, freedom in Christian and Muslim worlds, and freedom of homosexuality in two different worlds.
In both places it;s still difficult to be who you are, even though in States where everyone is so proud to be free, unfortunally gay people are still facing discriminations by institutions, religion groups etc.

And I am proud to gay Muslim, have been and will be. Cause I am human been, who respect anyone without separeting them by color, age, sexuality, status, etc.
My point is saying you are free with everything and blame other cultures or countries that people dont have sam rights IS WRONG. Cause we dont have it here if fully condition for everyone. Straight people look down to gay people, we dont have same right as straigt people.

2/03/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think Bambino's making a very good point. I get a lot of sh*t on conservative blogs when I fight bias against Muslims where they'll insist I'm deluded because most Islamic countries would treat me, as a gay man, like a criminal. The implication in this is that I get treated so much better here in the US that I should side with the anti-Muslim crowd. Besides being a non sequitur, that implication ignores that these are generally the same folks who want to have Lawrence v. Texas reversed and enact a Constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

2/03/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Here's a twist. WCBS (NY) reports Bin Laden Artwork [as Christ] Now Hanging in New York. The page has an image, but you may need to look closely for it.

2/03/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I would have never seen OBL in that painting...even being told I have to squint to see any resemblance.

I loved the responses of the people he interviewed in the video regarding the piece though ... people truly worthy of their freedom of speech.

2/03/2006 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous pc said...

Betta, thanks for your comment. Many of us are ignorant, as you point out, about Islam, me included. Some of the discussion before your post was splitting hairs among people who agreed. I liked hearing a different perspective. But I had some thoughts on your comment, "why must non-Western cultures be the ones who must subscribe to YOUR notions of 'tolerance' and YOUR notions of 'freedom'? It would seem that the 'universal' is forever yours, but the only the 'local' is ours."

It seems an error to lump tolerance and freedom together. Tolerance is not something you can impose on someone else, it's something you give to them. We are not asking Muslims to like the cartoons, and we're not asking them not to protest them, either. We are asking them to tolerate them, to give us the gift of disagreeing with us as forcefully as possible--without using force in any way. In a way, we are asking you to ignore us, to leave alone anything that doesn't actually harm you. Tolerance is and should be a universal ideal. Tolerance could be termed a passive value: it hurts no one, it can't be imposed. (This is not true of other values, like freedom--a little on that below). It is as desirable and beneficial for non-Westerners as it is for us. To ask to prohibit a Western cartoonist from depicting Mohammed is very close to forcing Islamic beliefs on the cartoonist and the publishers involved. Some things are universal, and not just because the West says so.

Freedom is much more complicated, I think, and more subjective because it can mean many things, including the famous distinction of "freedom from" and "freedom to," never mind the US government's ideas about democracy. Not many people will argue that granting freedom can lead to chaos and as such is not a universal good. Tolerance, on the other hand, is much closer to being a universal.

2/03/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Anonymous George said...

I am in agreement with Betta.

An older meaning of 'tolerance' was 'to endure', to bear or put up with something, especially something not liked. Of course this only has meaning from one side, slavery was a practical way of obtaining free labor, it was good for business and the slaves should just 'tolerate' the practice. Not what you meant I bet. OK, let's try something closer to home, why doesn't the American press use racial slurs, or better, what happens when they do? Again, that depends on when the event occurred, fifty years ago, the insulted were forced to tolerate the indignity because they had no power to respond. I daresay, if this was to occur today, the response would be different.

So why shouldn't the west (for lack of a more precise term) 'tolerate' a Muslim belief banning images, in particular, defamatory images of Mohammed? Because it infringes on our 'freedom of press?' Let's answer that question with a yes.

So, we are saying "we know this will offend you deeply and we expect that you will protest, boycott our goods and use other means to express your disapproval but resorting to violence is not something you should do just because you are mad at a few journalists?" In other words "f#*k off!"

Where is OUR tolerance in this issue? We have NONE, we are trying to prove a point or test a theory, but our actions are INTOLERANT of a cardinal belief of another religion, it's just RACISM in a different shirt.

Actions incur reactions, the common good is arrived at by a combination of both tolerance and understanding this issue lacks both.

2/03/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...


The American press doesn't use racial slurs because it's a sign of intolerance! When a public figure is caught doing so, they're pilloried.

The West does indeed tolerate a Muslim ban on images of Mohammed. No one is saying believers should stop the ban. Tolerance is passive. It's saying leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. It's not prescriptive. The publishers of the cartoons are saying, "Let us do what is sanctioned by our culture and meets our norms. It does you no harm, only offends." It's stupid, perhaps, for the pro-cartoonists to force this issue, but the principle of tolerance stands.

George, are you suggesting violence is justified? For offending?

2/03/2006 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Edward,

I believe in the right of freedom of artistic expression that universally applies to every artist in every country on this planet. I don not believe that any country has the right under law - the Sharia, for example - to put an artist to death for creating images that "offend" some religious sensibility.

I have posted a rather long response on my site for those who are interested -

I greatly appreciates Betta's contribution to this dialogue. I'm offering mine from the perspective of having lived and worked in Qatar, Suadia Arabia, Dubai, of the U.A.E., and in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Again, I appreciate you furthering this dialogue.


2/03/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

George, are you suggesting violence is justified? For offending?

Justified, no. Given the current tensions, an expected result, yes. Why should we be suprised by the the potential for violence? In a perfect world everyone would act rationally.

2/03/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

My Choctaw Indian grandmother in Mississippi taught me the above when I was 5 years old after I was called a "hanta ofi" - white dog in Choctow - by a Choctaw child on the reservation near Philadelphia, Mississippi, while we were visiting some of her cousins.

In my perfect world people have the right to express themsevles openly and freely, and especially artistically, without the fear - and reality - that they will be killed for doing so.


2/03/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

The reaction of Muslim's seems to be based on a mis-understanding of their own religion. They are banned from making depictions of God, not us, we aren't Muslim. Besides, if we want to condemn ourselves to hell who are they to make it happen faster?

This has very little to do with religion, nothing to do with spirituality and every thing to do with demagoguery (did I say that already?)

Hey Betta, everyone here is being very tolerant of you. If an American had made those arguments we would have ripped them up. Edward is being polite to a guest. Most Americans do not carry rifles, dress in green, or invade other countries, you'll have to trust me on that. Your view of America and Europe is colored by your own corrupt leadership seeking to hide their own venality behind a bigger target.

We have enemies in common. They try to confuse us with this talk of cultures and tolerance and disrespect. It is all BS (American for deliberately misleading lies) It is camouflage for the global war of dominance being fought at all of our expenses.

2/03/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hey Betta, everyone here is being very tolerant of you. If an American had made those arguments we would have ripped them up. Edward is being polite to a guest.

I wouldn't phrase it that way at all Tim. Unknown to Betta, I've been a quiet fan of her blog for a while. I think her arguments are politely made and worthy of our consideration too.

I disagree on where she draws the line with regard to restraint (i.e., I feel essentially "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" such that the European papers have every right to publish what they want, and the Muslim papers have every right to publish what they want in return and no one visiting either country should try to change what they publish through violence or intimidiation, but that it would be wrong for European papers that distribute in Muslim nations to insult their readers there). What I think the protesters of the cartoons fail to grasp is that the European papers see their demands as a threat to their very values. Seriously...this is how wars get started. At a certain point I think the protesters need to let it go.

2/03/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...


I shouldn't have spoken for you. I am sorry.

I was a teensy steamed

2/03/2006 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

not at all Tim

It's a very emotional issue for both sides...I've had to stop and rewrite what I've wanted to say several times.

Again, as angry as the protesters are I think they're very much underestimating how much worse relations will be between our cultures if they succeed in forcing the papers to apologize. It will be a slap in the face.

I know the protesters feel the cartoons were a slap in the face already, but someone has to back down here. I'd rather the side that's fighting for freedom of expression not be the one to do so.

The protesters can dismiss the cartoonists and papers as infidels and get on with their lives. The papers can't back down without seriously jeopardizing how they're perceived by their readers.

I mean it's not as if a European paper is likely to publish other cartoons of Mohammed as a test any time soon.

It was a mistake for the Danes to publish them (it's an artificial test and moronically provocative), but I think it was right for the others to show their support by repubishing them once the protesters starting making threatening ultimatums. We can't have our press being blackmailed/bullied this way. Boycotts are fine...don't buy Danish products, don't buy that newspaper, don't advertise in the newspaper, but threatening peoples' lives and such over it ... on that front the protesters can shove it (to put how I really feel mildly).

2/03/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...


Roger L Simon today gives a book report on While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within, by an author named Bruce Bawer. I can't vouch for the book or its author, but I don't think these two men and their readerships would be considered "conservatives who want to reverse Laurence v. Texas." Mr Bawer's biography says he lives with his partner in Oslo, having been born in NY.

2/03/2006 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

In an age where people feel it's right to murder a director for making a film, I'd say it's time for everyone to at least consider the message of Mr. Bawer's book, Henry. BUT I haven't read a political book in about 10 years that wasn't mostly a few facts dressed up to be an alarming cautionary tale (we live in an era of induced "outrage"), AND I would also caution everyone that the plural of "anecdote" is never "data" no matter how alarming.

When all is said and done, we have much more in common than we have to hate each other for. I believe that will save the day.

What I believe we're witnessing is the same sort of frustration-dirven activism that gave rise to Communist activists, civil rights activist, etc. etc. (slightly different narrative, same old alarmist rhetoric on the side of the keepers of the status quo and sometimes misguided overenthusiasm on the side of the activists, plus a whole cast of shady power-grubbing characters willing to exploit and manipulate the true believers toward their own agendas).

Some of these movements succeed and get mixed into our new collective value set, and some of them fail and serve as tales parents tell their children to get them to behave.

It's a clash of cultures. It will sort itself out. The way to ensure it does with the fewest number of people getting hurt is for folks to be alert but work to avoid being constantly alarmed. That's a sensationalistic title on Mr. Bawer's book...but then what's not sensationalistic these days?

2/03/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Ed said:

"It was a mistake for the Danes to publish them (it's an artificial test and moronically provocative), but I think it was right for the others to show their support by repubishing them once the protesters starting making threatening ultimatums."

It is an important issue and deserves to be aired and debated in the open. Was there a more diplomatic way to bring it up? I don't know, but it did require an actual transgression to make the point. The West puts reason above religion. We believe that is a more functional, sustainable and just model for society. It is fundamental. This is an on going debate in this country, too. (as mind-blowing as that is) and Europeans must feel between a rock and a hard place just now. Provocation is, maybe, the only way to break through and open an honest debate.

Self-censorship is no different than government censorship if it is done under duress or threat of violence

2/03/2006 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Was there a more diplomatic way to bring it up? I don't know, but it did require an actual transgression to make the point.

Good point. I'm not sure what a better entry into the dialog would have been, but I do applaud the Danes for having the courage to begin it. I just wish it hadn't been something so likely to blind well-intentioned Muslims to the value of the dialog.

2/03/2006 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Was there a more diplomatic way to bring it up? I don't know, but it did require an actual transgression to make the point.

What are we 'bringing up'? Will this offend you? how about this? or this? If you know a certain cultural group will be offended by an image, well you have laid the groundwork for some editorial responsibility. If we are testing whether or not we can publish such an image in a book, how would you go about it? What is the intent of the image, to illustrate, poke fun at or insult? In my opinion, Mohammed the BombHead was offensive. It is not the same as a cartoon taking a stab at a political figure (which they rightly deserve) This, in particular the BombHead cartoon, is the defamation of an iconic religious figure, it is not the same as insulting a living politician.

Somewhere in the process of this "test" things got out of hand, poor decisions were made, for what I suggest, are reasons beyond freedom of the press.

2/03/2006 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Lotus blossom said...

An interesting take on this from LA Weekly's Doug Ireland.

Having grown up in the South with a primitive Baptist minister grandfather on one side and a speaking in tongues grandmother on the other, I appreciate the intense desire people have to control their lives (via religion) but have no tolerance for those who try to control mine. Happy Darwin day, y'all. His birthday is coming up.

2/03/2006 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

George said...

"'Was there a more diplomatic way to bring it up? I don't know, but it did require an actual transgression to make the point.'

What are we 'bringing up'? Will this offend you?"

We put reason ahead of religion, debate ahead of piety, open exchange above received wisdom. Free press isn't a failure to control it is a hard fought right which we believe leads to a more just society and a more functional one, and we will not give it up to be 'polite' to you. Thank you very much.

2/03/2006 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Lotus Blossom said...

So do you think Carl Rove is behind the uproar - getting folks riled up for poltical gain is his hallmark.

2/03/2006 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

I ended up posting about this issue anyway. Considering the recent acts of violence in Syria, the conflict doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.

I reached the following conclusions:

1. Censorship of the press is always wrong -- no exceptions, and should be fought against at all costs.

2. Muslims have every right to be pissed off -- the Danish newspaper was deliberately attacking their belief system.

3. Muslims have no right to respond with violence -- it is disgraceful and only weakens their cause and confuses the issues.

4. Both sides have behaved shamefully, and in this conflict there will be no winners, only losers.

Let's hope everyone starts apologizing soon, on both sides!!!

2/04/2006 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Let's also hope that everyone in the art world begins to rally around a definition of Freedom of Artistic Expression that applies to every artist living in every country on this planet.

Every artist should be able create according to their conscience, free from the fear of the state (or religious authorities) having the legal right (under the Sharia, for example) to detain, arrest, imprison, torture and execute that artist for creating an "offensive" or "blasphemous" work of art.

Theo van Gogh had every moral and creative right to be as offensive and blasphemous as he wished. If a work of art offends you, then you have the right to respond with words, not sticks, stones, knives, pistols, machine guns and fire bombs.

And there is especially no moral right or justification under the sun that allows a person offended by a work of art to murder, or theaten to murder, the artist who creates such a work.

There is no shame in creating provocative or blasphemous art. There is nothing but shame in reacting violently to it.

Theo van Gogh owed no one an apology for his work. Those that murdered him, or condoned his murder, will never apologize for what they did and supported. And worse, the art world that to this day continues to offer half-apologies for his assasination only allows totalitarian and authoritarian states a free pass to continue to repress the universal recognition of Freedom of Artistic Expression.

James W. Bailey

2/05/2006 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

The right-wing New York Times chimes in: Islam on the Outskirts of the [European] Welfare State.

2/05/2006 12:07:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

There is no shame in creating provocative or blasphemous art.

I have to disagree here, because horrible art can be pretty shameful. For instance, what if an american artist created a work of art that was largely perceived as expressing the artist's joy at the suffering of the minorities who died in the New Orleans flooding -- wouldn't that be pretty f*cking sick and shameful? And yet I agree that we would have to fight tooth and nail to preserve the right for its existence (even though we think it shameful). The same can be said for the KKK's right to freedom of speech -- they're sick racists who most people find repulsive and yet we owe it to ourselves to allow them the right to free speech.

My point is that many muslims are probably as outraged (or more) with the derogatory images of Muhammad as we would be with the acts of the racist fictitious artist or the KKK. What the Danish newspaper did was reckless and shameful, especially considering the sensitivity of muslim relations in the region. I'm not saying that they deserved the conflict that has ensued (in fact they don't), but I don't think what they did is in any way comparable to what Theo van Gogh did by exposing the mistreatment of muslim women -- his position was much more defensible, and you're right, I agree that he didn't owe anyone an apology for his work. The difference is that Van Gogh offended with the purpose of exposing oppression, while the newspaper cartoons where simply meant to disparage an entire religion's god for the sake of making a point about free speech -- what a ham-fisted and boneheaded gesture with much to lose and little to gain.

2/05/2006 01:36:00 AM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

I support the legally unrestricted right of every artist in every country to express themselves no matter how sick, how repulsive, how offensive or how blasphemous their work may be, and no matter who they offend for whatever reason. I do not believe that any nation, or religion, has the moral or legal right to execute an artist for expressing themselves in an offensive or blasphemous way, as many Islamic states claim to have under the Sharia.

I also do not support the right of any individual to respond to offensive or blasphemous art with violence.

Every political and religious institution needs to be disparaged. All of them have participated in perpetrating human rights crimes. The most racist of artists could not begin to disparage the major systems of religious and political control in any way that would exceed the horrendous damange that has been perpetrated through history by these entities.

If artists are not going to (or be allowed or encouraged to) mock, disparage, parody and viciously strip away the thin veneer of these repressive systems so they can be revealed for the shallow and fearful tools of control that they are, then who will do so?

I'm from New Orleans. There's not an artist on this planet that could begin to create an offensive work of art regarding the tragedy in this city that would exceed the vulgarity and blasphemy of the performance art project response exhibited by one of the leading performance artists this country has ever seen - President George W. Bush.

Stew Albert, the 60s Yippie radical, (and a person I counted as a friend) just recently died. He once ran a pig for President of the United States of America. We need more artists running pigs for world-wide office.

It's ok to be offened - but if someone's offense leads to them committing violence, then I would seriously suggest they need a serious injection of a bountiful sense of humor. Having a pig serve as Mayor, President, Prime Minister, Pastor, Priest, Pope, Imam or local dog catcher might create more smiles and less anger.


2/05/2006 02:11:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

j.w.b.: I obviously agree with everything you wrote (well almost everything -- I'm don't think I would consider W a performance artist, and we already have way too many pigs in office). Violence is never justified as a response to offense; artists should continue to disparage political and religious systems, and should always have the right to do so. But we're not talking about whether the Danish paper had the right to publish the cartoons, I think we can all agree on that. They should have the right to publish whatever inflammatory content they want.

And yet never in a million years will you ever see an image in a Danish newspaper glorifying Nazi torture of Jews. Never, never, never. Why? Because it would cause hurt and pain to so many of its readers and probably would result in the paper being ostracized and everyone involved would be fired. While we allow the right to free speech, as a society we will still find certain acts to be crude or shameful. The paper had no intention of critiquing some hypocrisy of Islam or exposing its oppression, but simply wanted to offend all Muslims by breaking one of their sacred beliefs in order to make a point about free speech that probably didn't need to be made. This doesn't mean that anyone involved deserves to be thrown in prison or subjected to violence, but all actions carry political consequences. Free speech doesn't occur in an idealistic vacuum. Perhaps the actions of the newspapers republishing the cartoons in solidarity behaved more shamefully than the original publisher because they knew the hurt that would result and yet they did it anyway.

The Europeans involved in this conflict want to turn this into a fight between secular and theocratic government -- a fight I couldn't be more sympathetic to. Theocratic rule is disgusting and oppressive, an affront to human rights everywhere. But I don't think they've picked the right battle in which to try to win this war. Both sides are doing more damage to their arguments than good -- the Europeans by being myopic and the Muslim protestors by responding with violence.

An article (that George recommended to me) in the Times Online argues that when free speech is abused it actually threatens its own existence. It's an interesting point to consider. He writes that when freedom of speech is used egg-headedly or shamefully by a newspaper it gives more fuel to those politicians who would like to enact law inhibiting free speech. If this is the case, then one better be pretty damned sure that the offensive speech is so necessary as to justify the political repercussion.

2/05/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Art Soldier,

I absolutely respect your opinion and think you make many valid points.

However, the starting point in this debate always seems to come back around to the point that all of us should accept that these cartoons are offensive. I do not accept that. And not every Muslim finds them offensive because not every Muslim believes that the Sharia forbids them.

I've had some incredibly insightful discussions the past few days with Muslim artists in New Orleans about this issue. Although none are happy about the way events have gone, some have expressed their belief that at the end of the day the line for what is legally acceptable under the Sharia may in fact be redefined (in certain countries) for the better.

I wish I could take credit for the Bush as performance artist critique. Actually, DSYKE beat me to it:

George W. Bush is arguably the most influential and controversial performance artist in the history of Western art. Born as the son of George HW Bush senior, he learned early on how politics works. After studying at Yale and Harvard, he chose politics as his medium for art. In the 80s, like many other artists of the time, he was influenced by the French postmodern theorist Jean Baudrillard. He was particularly interested in the following passage in the book “Simulacra and Simulation”:

“Go and simulate a theft in a large department store: how do you convince the security guards that it is a simulated theft? There is no “objective” difference: the same gestures and the same signs exist as for a real theft; in fact the signs incline neither to one side nor the other. As far as the established order is concerned, they are always of the order of the real.”


What I have found to be so lacking in this debate so far is the opinion and impact on the cartoon artists who were commissioned to create the cartoons. They are who I support.

In today's Outlook section of the Washington Post the Economist's magazine's editorial cartoonist, Kevin Kallaugher ("Karl"), offers a wicked insight (through a cartoon) from the perspective of a cartonnist. His point (I think) is that the line has now (for good or bad) been crossed. There's no going back across that line for cartoonists now.

In the Battle of the Pen versus the Sword, I will always stand with the artists who weild the pen, especially as they travel into the Muhammad Free Zone.

For me there is no free speech that can be more shameful or offensive than the inhuman words and actions committed by organzied governments and religions.

Free speech encourages free speech. If free speech results in repressive limitations being imposed, then free speech demands that that reality be confronted as well.

But I do admit this: if the art world is going to side with the Bush administration and Pope on the issue of these cartoons, then free speech is indeed in for a rough ride.


2/05/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

back around to the point that all of us should accept that these cartoons are offensive

Of course they're offensive, otherwise the paper wouldn't have printed them -- the editor's intention in publishing them was to make a public display of freedom of speech by shoving these images in the faces of Danish Muslims. If they weren't offensive he wouldn't have printed them in the first place because he specifically wanted to break an Islamic taboo. That was the point of the exercise -- to offend Muslims in a public display of free speech. But you and I don't think they're offensive. Personally I think the whole thing is stupid, and anyone getting so pissed off over some crappy cartoons in a small Danish newspaper needs to grow up and get a life. Unfortunately the reality is that there are thousands (if not millions) of Muslims around the world who don't agree with me.

if the art world is going to side with the Bush administration and Pope on the issue of these cartoons, then free speech is indeed in for a rough ride

Thanks for lumping me in with the Bush administration -- appreciate it. What the Bush administration did by releasing a statement condemning the cartoons was an international political act -- a cynical act meant to kiss-up to the offended Muslims while unsurprisingly aligning itself with those who seek to oppress free speech.

I'm doing nothing of the sort. I'm simply trying to understand both sides and have concluded that both sides have made mistakes and am hopeful that this doesn't result in a stupid war. I'm not taking sides, I think both are wrong and both need to back down before some seriously bad shit goes down. If I was forced to choose sides I would of course stand with free speech, but I don't have to so I'd rather try to be empathetic. Now, if you want me to determine who I think has acted more shamefully, I would of course have to say those who perpetrated (and encouraged) the violence. Violence in response to cartoons is ridiculous. The whole conflict probably would have died out a long time ago if certain Islamic political leaders weren't so intent on making a political issue out of it -- perhaps they've acted the most egregiously. But I still think the Danish editor (and those who republished in solidarity) acted shamefully by abusing free speech in such a myopic way.

2/05/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Art Soldier,

I understand your overall point, but respectfully disagree with some of your more salient points.

I was born and raised in Mississippi during the 1960s. I lived as a child during a time when it seems as though every 3rd or 4th white dude I knew was either a member of the Klan or strongly sympathetic toward the Klan (a Klan that practically ruled the local politics of the area of Mississippi where I lived.)I'm more than familiar with the concept that says "go slow because we don't want to offend these white people." Nina Simone covered it quite well in her song, "Mississippi Goddamn!"

If a little black child named Ruby Ridges, who was born in Mississippi, could bravely march into a public school to challenge the religious and political intolerance of fanatics who screamed, yelled and issued death threats, then I think that at the very least the adults in the art world could come together to do the same to challenge those who would issue death threats against artists who create "offensive" work.


My mother was all for it. My father wasn't. "We're just asking for trouble," he said. He thought things weren't going to change, and blacks and whites would never be treated as equals. Mama thought I would have an opportunity to get a better education if I went to the new school - and a chance for a good job later in life. My parents argued about it and prayed about it. Eventually my mother convinced my father that despite the risks, they had to take this step forward, not just for their own children, but for all black children.


Or at the very least stand in full solidarity with those artists (cartoonists) who put their name on their work and the newspapers that dared to print that work.

It is sad to me that the art world thinks this issue is so murky. There is nothing murky about it. Crossing the line will always offend someone.

Thank God for children like Ruby Ridges and for adult artists like Theo van Gogh who were willing to cross the line to challenge ignorance. I also believe the cartoonists in question have crossed a line and I fully support them in doing so with absolutely no qualifications, rationalizatons or apologies.

I also greatly appreciate the civil tone of this conversation. Again, I'm very thankful to Edward for initiating this important dialogue.


P.S. I did not mean in anyway, Art Soldier, to imply that you are alligned with the Bush administration. You are right on point with your analysis of Bush's reasons for issueing the statement regarding this matter. I'm very glad we have the right to artistically express oursleves in New Orleans with caricatures - Bush's contorted mug is painted on just about every other refrigerator sitting on the sidewalks in front of tens of thousands of destroyed homes down here!

2/05/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"I think both are wrong and both need to back down before some seriously bad shit goes down."

oops, too late. Just ask mothers in London, New York, Baghdad, Kabal . . .

How far back do you want to go? 1000 years, 2000 years, 30,000? Its the same old fight, now with video. Superstition abhors reason, can't really compete, so resorts to violence. Eventually reasonable people are forced to take a stand. If history has taught us anything, it is that appeasement and negotiation only allow the foolish to grow stronger. The sooner the battle is joined the better, the less lasting damage will occur.

This week, I am guessing, reasonable Muslims throughout the world are discussing ways to take this argument out of the hands of fools and return reason to its rightful place at the head of the table.

The Dane's point has been made all to clearly. Too bad it wasn't made more forcefully a lot sooner.

2/05/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

In a black and white world, gray is an anathema.

2/05/2006 05:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Protests Over Cartoons Leave at Least 4 Dead

2/06/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I saw that "anonymous" and although it's a tragic result, I stand by my original opinion. If you have some comment to make via that story, though, I wish you'd make it more explicit. If that sounds defensive, perhaps it is a bit. But I think it's important to stand firm here. Just because those who disagree will turn to violence doesn't make those of us on the other side wrong.

2/06/2006 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

You are right Ed. I wanted to share my thoughts about this issue. I've read and listend everyone who had to share opinion on this subject on your blog. What I think is. it's ok with Western countires ecspecially the United States, where mostly of population is Christians and could make fun or jokes about religion and include Jesus. But living in Turkey for long time, I've never seen any cartoons with Islam religions characters. I think it's differents in culture, one side could afford to make cartoons with religion, and the other side is impossible. And all of us should respect that. I understand and respect reaction of people in Muslim countries, and so sorry about tragic result. Freedom of press doesnt have to hurt believes of millions of people around the world. Maybe everyone just have to understand that in Islam everyone more respectfull ot each other.
It's just a thought.

2/06/2006 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I know what you're saying Bambino (having travelled with you through Muslim countries) but I think your statement will confuse some Westerners who only think about Muslims when the criminals or activists do something violent, so the idea that everyone is more respectful won't make sense to many Americans, I'm afraid.

I understand as well that the Danish newspaper could have chosen a better way to illustrate its point, but what I don't think many of the protesters understand is that it was frustration in Europe (i.e., they were feeling like their way of life was being threatened) that led to the cartoons. If the protesters would acknowledge that frustration, I think a more productive dialog (and perhaps even an apology) could be reached. If the protesters simply claim that the Europeans have to respect their religion, but they don't have to return that respect with regards to the European's values, then I'm afraid there will only be more violence and possibly against both sides moving forward. It's in everyone's best interest to calm down and act more rationally.

2/06/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

I've been continuing to read about the conflict and think Edward is right when he wrote "It's in everyone's best interest to calm down and act more rationally."

It's obvious that the violence is wrong and is only hurting those intending to protest peacefully. It's also obvious that there is some seriously f*cked up oppression to free speech in many Middle Eastern theocracies (note what happened in Jordan).

But I can't help coming back to whether it was right or wrong to publish these cartoons in the first place, or especially to republish them in solidarity with Denmark to make a 'point'. It seems that some on the comment board are suggesting that a newspaper should be able to publish whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and this is all perfectly fine because it's protected by free speech.

Yet, there are many, many things that all of us would find offensive if they were to be published in newspapers (even if legal). For instance, we would all find it to be a terribly irresponsible use of free speech if the NY Times were to print cartoons that were anti-semitic, anti-homosexual, or anti-female.

The key is that the protestors are not just upset because Muhammad was pictured at all, but it seems that their greatest outrage is over the cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb for a head. This cartoon isn't simply breaking an Islamic taboo by printing an image of Muhammad, but goes a step further by associating Islam's God with terrorism. In effect, it says "FUCK MUSLIMS, THEY'RE A BUNCH OF TERRORISTS." It's blatantly anti-Islamic. If the paper were to have printed an anti-semitic cartoon the whole world would be outraged. (the french cartoon depicting leaders of various religions doesn't even come close). I think what pisses of the Muslims the most is that there so keenly aware of this hypocrisy.

Edward was right on when he wrote:

I think it was a mistake to publish them in the first place, George. Mostly because it was a false test and there had to be better ways to make the point.

But then he wrote:

But after that, the issue morphed into a true test of free speech.

I think you were specifically talking about the editor jailed for reprinting in Jordan, but do you still think it's right for other nations to keep publishing them? If it was a mistake in the first place, how is it not a mistake now?

Like I said before, I care less that the image of Muhammad was printed, and am more concerned with the anti-Islamic sentiment behind it. How is it not as equally shameful as anti-semitism?

Another issue this brings up is whether or not anti-Islamic cartoons would be acceptable in an art environment such as an art museum or a art gallery. I think definitely YES. Anything goes in the context of art, but a newspaper plays a different role in society, has a different set of political concerns, and a different kind of responsibility to its readers. As a society, we expect something different from the media than we do from art.

2/06/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

"Another issue this brings up is whether or not anti-Islamic cartoons would be acceptable in an art environment such as an art museum or a art gallery. I think definitely YES. Anything goes in the context of art, but a newspaper plays a different role in society, has a different set of political concerns, and a different kind of responsibility to its readers. As a society, we expect something different from the media than we do from art."

Are you kidding? Ever heard the phrase 'fourth-estate'? Are you aware of the role the press played in our own revolution? Do you realize we live in such a glorious state of relative freedom from needless and egotistical oppression because people gave their lives for those freedoms and to establish a rule of law based on enlightenment values that includes freedom of speech and the press (not to mention religion)

Allow me to interpret the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb head for you. The cartoonist is challenging rational Muslims to differentiate themselves from their violent brethren and denounce these tactics for what they are, evil. Why does world-wide Islam continue to stand behind violence and refuse to denounce the perpetrators? If you are not a bomb-throwing culture then stand up and declare it so. Otherwise, this is how you appear to us right now. This is what Mohammed has come to represent in the West.

Don't you see, this is like Geo B and Co excoriating the left for using bad language when they themselves are destroying civilization with every ounce of their effort. The fundamentalist, violent Muslims are using this issue to hide their own completely egotistical power plays.

To match offensive speech with violence is un-supportable. To fail to rise to this challenge would only require rising to a larger challenge down the road.

2/06/2006 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Let go and let flow.

I’m sorry, and perhaps I’m biased, prejudiced and racist, but I honestly believe that more non-New Orleanians of all creeds, colors, religions and sexes need to spend more time in New Orleans. I suppose outside of New Orleans the natural reaction to "racist" stereotypes and “demeaning”, “offense” and “blasphemous” images is to threaten, arrest, imprison, fire bomb and murder.

Inside New Orleans, we don’t react that way.

Inside New Orleans, one of the most revered of Mardi Gras institutions is the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a primarily African-American Mardi Gras organization that has been masking in black face since the days when it was illegal to do so in Louisiana.

Yes, black folk (standing next to whites, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, you name it, on their floats) masking in black face and nobody’s firebombing Zulu’s headquarters – and if they did we would run their asses out of town so fast it would make your head spin.


Proclamation -

His Royal Highness, King Zulu, Beloved Defender of the gods of Fun and Toleration, by the authority vested in him and all Mardi Gras Day Regents by Act 42, Louisiana Legislature; and signed by Black Lieutenant Governor Pinkey Benton Stewart Pinchback on April 23, 1872, does hereby ordain and decree:

That in proper consideration for the glory of his regal state and the desires of royal subjects, daily laborers shall be suspended and all impediments that may interfere with public enjoyment on Mardi Gras Day, shall be removed.

To further implement this determination, he therefore enacts the following guidelines to be observed during his glorious reign.

1. Utmost respect for the laws of the City shall prevail.

2. All cares, hatred, quarrels, and prejudices are hereby canceled.

3. Law-abiding citizens shall direct every effort towards fun and merry making, and shall not confuse Mardi Gras with other issues.

4. All spectators on the route of King Zulu's Parade are hereby declared Loyal Subjects.

5. Official currency of Mythical Zululand, Province of Orleans, is the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club Doubloon.

6. The Weather Bureau shall exert every energy and influence toward providing the City of New Orleans with a bright and beautiful day.


Being from New Orleans I cast my vote to install King Zulu as the ruler of the art world, specifically charged with bringing merriment from chaos by liberally sharing the virtues of #1, 2 and 3 throughout the universe – with the recognition that the laws of the city referred to in #1 are the laws of the City of New Orleans, a place that embraces the belief that expressing yourself, no matter how wickedly you do so, no matter how offensively you do so, and no matter how deliberately you do so, is all fine and good because everyone who wants to do so is free to do so, as long as you do it without violence.

Offense is where you find it.

Joy is where you make it.

Humor can turn offense into joy. And it always will do so if given half a chance.

Maybe it’s because I’m from New Orleans, but I honestly don’t understand why anybody would want to live any other way – unless it’s because they want to control how others live.


2/06/2006 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Well, no one in Denmark is dying to prove a point.

2/06/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Come on, George. Spell it out. Give us something to respond to. Do you think the cartoonist is responsible for the violence? Are you sure no Danes have died in this ongoing conflict? Does this mean all conflict should be avoided? When would you think a response is appropriate? How do you push back against violent oppression? Isn't marginally offensize speech a more civilized answer than killing people that had nothing at all to do with your oppression or perceived slight, or the violent death of your brother?


2/06/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

First off, I support free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of artistic expression but I also think some one has to speak to the other side of this argument or we become a mob for our own views.

** Regarding freedom of artistic oppression, I oppose HR683 which corporate America is trying to use to legislate away our rights to portray trademarked items and phrases.

According to Google news, so far, four people have died in Afghanistan, they were not Danish.

Is the cartoonist responsible…? No, he just made the cartoon which I believe is his right to do. I also believe the Danish and EU newspapers have the right but not the obligation to publish the cartoons.

The editors of the right wing Danish newspaper (according to chose to publish the cartoons, one of which was potentially offensive and inflammatory. After a period of time had passed, the issue suddenly flared up again followed by more vocal protests from the Muslim world. Coming right after the "unexpected" election results in Palestine seems oddly coincidental (without suggesting who might have helped it along).

So the next question is did the UK newspapers have the right to publish the cartoons? To this I would again say yes, they had the right but not the obligation to publish the cartoons. Should they have expected a strong, potentially violent response, I think the answer is yes. Why at this particular point in time, with the existing tensions between the Muslim world and the EU, did the newspapers feel it was necessary to take such a firm stand to protect their rights of a free press?

What would have been the consequences if they had chosen an alternative response? Would this have been abdicating their right to a free press. I don't believe it would. If the newspapers had taken a different, more moderated course of action, can we speculate on the possible results and compare them with the path determined by current course of events?

Finally, to answer the question, "is violence an appropriate response"? Of course not. Should we expect that violence might be the response? Of course.

2/06/2006 08:37:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

tim said: Are you aware of the role the press played in our own revolution? Do you realize we live in such a glorious state of relative freedom from needless and egotistical oppression because people gave their lives for those freedoms and to establish a rule of law based on enlightenment values that includes freedom of speech and the press (not to mention religion)

I make a distinction between art and newspapers and this is the response I get? No need to get so nasty. What I was getting at is that society depends on the media to be an unbiased distributor of information -- something we don't expect from art. Freedom of speech is indeed a glorious right, but also a very serious responsibility. I consider the cartoon in question to be motivated by an anti-Islamic position and thus irresponsible for a newspaper to publish. The editor defended that particular cartoon (the one with the bomb head) by saying something to the effect of "hey, we didn't ask for offensive cartoons, we just asked for any depictions of Muhammad and this is what we got" -- as if to say that if he were to make editorial decisions about including certain material and exluding others then he would have been in opposition to free speech. That's total bullshit and he knows it. Newspapers self-censor themselves all the time in the name of good journalism. I believe the cartoon is anti-Islamic and by publishing it the newspaper aligned itself with an anti-Islamic position -- a position that sounds more like that of an oppressor than a beacon for freedom. But if you don't see the cartoon as anti-Islamic then that's where we differ.

If you are not a bomb-throwing culture then stand up and declare it so... This is what Mohammed has come to represent in the West.

This is anti-Islamic rhetoric. Most people, including myself, don't feel this way. There are around 1 to 1.5 billion Muslims in this world that we all share and 99.999% of them are completely peaceful and have no sympathy with terrorists. They don't have to prove anything. Even most of the protests were intended to be peaceful but were ruined by extremists looking to further their own stupid agenda.

To match offensive speech with violence is un-supportable. To fail to rise to this challenge would only require rising to a larger challenge down the road.

As far as I know, no one in this comment board has come even remotely close to condoning the protester's violence, so why keep repeating this? And yet you seem to be the one advocating violence as a solution to silencing the protestors. We can't just start overthrowing Islamic governments and replace them with ones we prefer -- err... wait, I guess someone's already trying to do that.

j.w.b. said: I suppose outside of New Orleans the natural reaction to "racist" stereotypes and “demeaning”, “offense” and “blasphemous” images is to threaten, arrest, imprison, fire bomb and murder.

Again, who on this comment board is implying this? No one. You seem to be talking right through me, instead of responding specifically to anything I wrote.

I think your story about New Orleans is intended to argue that racist speech/acts and sexist speech/acts and speech/acts that defame a person's religious beliefs aren't damaging to society (or, at least in your idea of a utopian N'Orleans society). I wish this were true, but unfortunately it's not. Racist speech begets racist oppression, sexist speech begets sexist oppression, and religious prejudice leads to religious oppression. I consider at least one of the published cartoons to be motivated by religious prejudice -- an indication of the anti-Islamic sentiment that has been growing in Europe and may eventually lead to the oppression of innocent, non-violent Muslims.

You wrote: unless it’s because they want to control how others live.

Religious oppression, racism, and sexism are methods of controlling how others live. Words (and especially images) are powerful and can encourage such abuses when used recklessly. When tolerance is abandoned, oppression takes over. Free speech should not be used as an excuse to demean another's way of life. When it is misused, freedom is threatened rather than created.

2/06/2006 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Art Soldier,

What's damaging to society is when people are killed for expressing themselves. I support the legally unresticted right of people to express themselves, no matter what their "motivations".

What's race? What's sexism? Who decides? And more importantly, who legislates against it? Who judges violations of these laws making certain speech illegal? Who imprisons the violators? Southern Baptist preachers in Mississippi? The Pope in Rome? Imams in Iran?

Free speech is a fundamental moral right for all of humanity. Free speech, unfortunatley, is only legally protected within the bounds of jurisprudence of limited countries.

I understand the arguments for "tolerance". I also understand that someone has to stand up for INTOLERANCE when it comes to authorities legally preventing people from expressing themselves non-violently. I am extremely intolerant of countries, religions, political systems or individuals who suggest or advance any argument that would deny this fundamental right.

Free speech does not enslave; it liberates. Free speech doesn't have the capacity to enslave because it allows for even the most obnoxious, reprehensible and disgusting of views to be judged openly for what they are.

Free speech should exactly be used to demean another's way of life, if an artist feels so motivated. The Southern Antebellum way of life (slavery) is but one of thousands of examples of a disgusting culture that was mercilessly ridiculed by artists and writers intent on destroying it.

When free speech is excercised to the extreme it touches to the utter core of the most fundamental thing it is to be human. Free speech excercised to the extreme shatters the hypocritical illusions that power structures have constructed to maintain their dominion.

I do not accept for one second that free speech "causes" or "leads" to anything but the expression of thought.

My point about New Orleans is, again, you find offense where you look for it. You find humor when you look for that. People in New Orleans long ago found humor in a lot of things that set the rest of the world on fire. We celebrate that humor in a free party called Mardi Gras. I understand visitors travel to New Orleans and thing they get it with our culture. Maybe you have to live here for more than a drunken weekend of revelry to really understand how it is we came to tolerate the most blashemous of behavior in others and why we are so intolerant of anyone who tries to legislate against it.

I kid you not, Art Soldier, there are straights and gays of all colors and faiths running nude and wild on Bourbon Street tonight, some with fake beards plastered to their faces pretending to be Jesus, Mohammed, or others. We're all laughing and having a good time. Nobody is burning the building down on this party. We won't allow it.


2/06/2006 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

What's damaging to society is when people are killed for expressing themselves.

This is where we differ, because I can think of a lot more things damaging to society than just "people being killed".

Racial, religious, and gender minorities are discriminated against every day in this country and discriminatory speech encourages and enables such acts. There are many ways that descrimination can destroy lives without the use of physical violence. For example, racial discrimination played a big role in who was saved and who was left behind during the Katrina disaster. There were those in certain outlets of the media who expressed racist attitudes by declaring that the minorities in New Orleans somehow deserved their fate because they "didn't obey" the orders to evacuate. Also, some media outlets very selectively published discriminatory images of minorities "looting" as they called it, while whites were described as "finding food for their families." Such use of free speech is of course guaranteed under our laws and deserves to be protected, but these actions are still shameful and hurtful to society.

I think George was on to something when he described the Danish newspaper as right-wing. I hadn't even considered it. But sure enough, do some research on the paper and you'll find that it has a long history of right-wing activity (including support for the Nazi's and Mussolini). Apparently the paper was a key instrument in helping the current conservative administration come into power in Denmark. An issue that the administration made key during its campaign was to enact strict anti-immigration legislation -- in fact, it has been successful at passing some of the strictest anti-immigration law in Europe. It seems likely that the right-wing Danish newspaper was using "free speech" as a smokescreen to further its anti-immigration agenda -- an agenda that is essentially anti-Islamic.

2/07/2006 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous George said...

"Free speech doesn't have the capacity to enslave because it allows for even the most obnoxious, reprehensible and disgusting of views to be judged openly for what they are."

Nonsense. The "most obnoxious, reprehensible and disgusting of views" of many a tyrant have been used to incite the populace to action, Adolf Hitler for one. Or closer to home, the use of the "obnoxious, reprehensible and disgusting views" by the KKK to incite lynching. Yes, they had the freedom to express themselves but when this expression incites others to break the bounds of morality, (not specifically the law, but morality, we would agree that lynching are immoral?) then we enter the gray zone.

Freedom of the press is more problematic. The press is an extension of speech with an implicitly wider audience. I would suggest that as the size of the audience increases so does the responsibility to consider the implications of what is said. Not a censorship of the press but a requirement for responsibility on the part of the press.

I am assuming the Danish newspaper did just this, that in advance they considered the implications of publishing these cartoons. Judging from the images, no limits on artistic freedom had been imposed on the cartoonists, they expressed themselves as they saw fit.

The editors of the Danish newspaper, choose what they will print every day, they have some sort of an editorial policy which they use to decide what is newsworthy and what is not. To the point of the first publication last September, the cartoons had only been seen by a limited number of people. The newspaper has no responsibility or obligation to publish any or all of them, that is a strictly editorial decision. So I must assume that their decision to publish all the cartoons, including the most offensive ones, was a specific editorial decision. This implies that publishing the cartoons fit their editorial agenda and that they had some idea what the response would be. It was an attack.

A more important question has remained unconsidered by both sides of this argument. Is this issue really about free speech and freedom of the press or is some more insidious political agenda at work here? As I mentioned before, the timing of all this leaves me suspicious of the motives of the people involved. Why is this now rearing its ugly head, why not last September when the cartoons were first published?

2/07/2006 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Art Soldier and George,

What's anti-Islamic are images of innocent people being kidnapped and executed on video tape, broadcasted for the world to see on Aljazeera.

What's anti-Islamic are images of Jill Carroll begging for her life.

What's anti-Islamic are images of "suicide bombers" (I really love that politically correct phrase - what they really are are mass murdering manicas)who kill innocents in the name of Allah.

What's anti-Islamic are images of theocratic thugs running the Islamic states who claim to speak for what is Islam.

What's anti-Islamic are the myriad of anti-American and anti-Jewish cartoons that regularly appear in Islamic state controlled newspapers that the leftist artist community in American refuses to even acknowledge, let alone condemn.

What's anti-Islamic is that a gang of Islamofacists jerks have not been run out of town on the rails for hijacking Islam.

Anyone who would argue at this point that the 12 "offensive" cartoons are not news worthy is just plain seriously deluded. I believe that every newspaper in the world ought to run those 12 cartoons on the their front page right next to 12 radomly selected virulently anti-American and anti-Jewish cartoons featured everyday in the Islamic state controlled press and let the people decide what's really blasphemous to Islam.

So now the official leftist party line is that the Danish newspaper is a tool of the Nazis? I guess that makes the cartoonists members of Hitler's Youth Brigrade. Who would have imagined it. As the fataw death threats continue to mount against the cartoonists in question, I guess we'll be hearing more and more how it's all their (the cartonnists) fault.


2/07/2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I rest my case

2/07/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

Bye J.W.B., sorry for wasting your time. I thought it was possible to have a respectful discussion, but that last comment (sermon) was a little too irrational and inappropriate (not to mention unrelated to anything I wrote) to merit a response. I appreciate your passion, I really do, but you're attacking instead of conversing.


2/07/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

I'm sorry you both feel that way. I support the cartoonists with no apologies.


2/07/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Grand Ayatullah Sistani (leader of Iraq's Shi'ites) made the following statement:

In Iraq, the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site [] and dated Tuesday.

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.

He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

"Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said.

Source: Associated Press

2/07/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

The argument that you should not publish something because you will be attacked is the same as the argument that you should not wear certain clothes because you might be attacked. It is a different argument from saying you should not wear certain clothes because you are attending a funeral or going to church.

Inappropriate clothing may be punished by raised eyebrows or wagging fingers, but by physical attack. The attack must then be condemned in much harsher terms, the same way we would condemn an abusive prison official.

Hammurabi said an eye for an eye, at most. (Many people miss the fact that he was saying "no more than an eye for an eye.") He might have said "a strongly-worded letter for a cartoon." Which by the way is what the Joint Chiefs of Staff politely sent the Washington Post last week.

2/07/2006 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

It's so sad that this issue got so far. I've reading Russian and Turkish news online. Everyone is talking only about this. And the news from Afganistan is depressing. I wish people would just grop up and understand that this games are playing by someone who are taking advantages in personal purposes.
It seems like this issue is getting deeper and deeper. Hopefully will end asap and piecefully. It seems endeless blaming from two sides.

2/08/2006 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Here's a reason to be more optimist Bambino. Both sides are now criticizing their own people in some places...which is probably the best way out of this:

Chirac slams media 'provocation' in printing Mohammed cartoons


Islamic Groups Call for End to Riots

2/08/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Hmm, looks like the cartoons may have been printed before. In Egypt

2/08/2006 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger tootia said...

it is really sorrowfull newspapers have done such a work, it just harm more than 1 bilion muslim whole over the world and lead the position to get worse.I want whole people in peace not in a destructive situation.

7/29/2008 05:33:00 PM  

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