Cartoon Debate Cont'd: Iran's Ebadi 'Fed Up'

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has joined Muslim writers who see a Western "double standard" in the publication of Danish cartoons caricaturing the prophet Muhammed. But she also underscores her frustration with extremists on both sides who have come to dominate the debate.

"The starting point of this issue was the decision by the management of a newspaper to start a competition for an issue that to Muslims is as humiliating as, for example, is questioning the Holocaust to the Jewish believers," she writes in Rooz, a news and analysis site favored by Iranian reformists. 

But Ebadi also says Muslims are "fed up" with how the controversy has grown.

She laments the "repeated scenario in the Islamic world" in which debate is "dominated by two groups: non-Muslims who through the use of the media further incite Muslim hatreds, and Muslims who through their violent responses add to the hate against Muslims."

"The principal victims of these two extreme positions, as always, are the majority of moderate Muslims living in the West," Ebadi writes.

By Jefferson Morley |  February 16, 2006; 5:40 PM ET  | Category:  Europe , Mideast , Religion
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Questioning the Holocaust is a matter of humiliating Jewish believers? The only ones humiliated are the idiots questioning historical fact.

Posted by: Dave Bob | February 16, 2006 06:04 PM

I still fail to see any double standards. For some, it's time to grow up and learn to see beyond the patterns that graphite smeared on dead trees may or may not have. Especially one that are as harmless as the ones that were the source of all this costly expenditure of good karma.

Furthermore the only one to incite Muslim hatred are Muslim extremists methinks. I now make abstraction from some far-right ructions, which are deplorable and should be met with a bit of arrest.

Finally I fail to see how moderate Muslims living in the West are victims.

Actually, this 'I'm such a victim' lament is slowly getting a bit old.

Next in our discussion: How to wean the Middle East off extreme Nationalism and Islamism before Global Warming kills us all.

(After this message...)

Posted by: El Tonno | February 16, 2006 06:45 PM

I think Ebadi and a lot of other people are missing the point when they compare Cartoongate to the Holocaust. The Holocaust (as we all know) was a concentrated effort to wipe an entire group of people off the face of the earth. That wasn't focused "humiliation", that's murder. In addition, the gathering of the cartoons wasn't even intended to be humiliating, from what I can gather it was a well intentioned result of an author trying to develop a children's book.

How does that compare to the Holocaust? It doesn't. Nothing compares to the Holocaust.

Hypocrisy exists all over the world and no one has a monopoly. No one, so get over it.

Speaking of hypocrites, where was the esteemed Ms. Ebadi during this furor? Where were the so-called moderate voices? Did they go on Al-Jazeera and advocate restraint, did they lead peace marches? Do they ever? Where were those that rise above the fray and unite with a voice that isn't afraid? They have had ample opportunity over the years to speak and we have heard nothing. I doubt they exist. Our country was built with those voices and they weren't afraid of the consequences.

To stand to the side wringing your hands and wondering why the world views you in the very manner in which you so often portray yourself seems a bit self serving. Certainly she has accomplished and risked a lot, of that there is no doubt, but stop lamenting and do something.

The principle victims are not the moderate Muslims living in the West, they are free to express their views w/o violent reprisal. The victims are the masses being manipulated by a few loud voices. Just not hers.

Posted by: asta | February 16, 2006 07:18 PM

This debate is ridiculous. It seems that there's nothing but morons who can't grasp the simple principles behind the freedom of speech and the press.

If something is said, or printed that you don't like then you can say, or print things that contradict and condemn it. Go nuts start a huge multi-million dollar media campaign. You can also start a boycott and encourage others to join you. Go nuts!

But that's it. Those are the acceptable actions you can take in a free society that depends of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

To suggest anything else, or result to violence (over a cartoon of all things!) exposes your ignorance and YOUR cultural bias.

And while we're at it how about a break for the rest of us who don't care about any religion and just want to live our lives. We're fed up with ALL of you! Stop forcing all of your beliefs down our throats!

By the way if you'd like to truly understand "double standard" just take a look at the political cartoons on Al Jazeera's website from time to time.

Posted by: Infidel | February 16, 2006 07:38 PM

From asta's comments it is obvious one of Ms. Ebadi's fears has come true. Calling moderate Muslims hypocrites only illustrates a prejudice on your part to lump all Muslims into this bandwagon of supporting extremism... explicitly or implicitly. Your suggestion that we stand by wringing our hands and lamenting our marginalization in Muslim politics and society is insulting and reflects a complete lack of understanding of the accomplishments of moderates in suffocating and dangerous environments.
Off the top of my head I can recall about a dozen professors, journalists and authors in Pakistan who have been incarcerated for life or sentenced to death for their moderate (blasphemous in the eyes of our Mullahs) opinions. Your comments disgrace them and others like them who are struggling to bring raise the voice of reason. I suppose it is easier blowing the trumpet of freedom sitting in your overstuffed chair in front of your snazzy P.C. and indulging in small minded criticism.
Yes this country owes its present to the voices of moderation that prevailed over those of extremism and insanity but you forget too easily the years of slavery and discrimination against women and minorities that for a long time allowed the voices of extremism to triumph. Consider that most Muslim countries are barely fifty years free of colonialism; we need time to mould our societies and governments as the West did with its own. After all you have had two hundred plus years to reach your current state.

Posted by: Zain | February 16, 2006 07:52 PM

"And while we're at it how about a break for the rest of us who don't care about any religion and just want to live our lives. We're fed up with ALL of you! Stop forcing all of your beliefs down our throats!"

Consider the fact that the United States invaded another country under false pretexts, causing by some estimates a hundred thousand casualties, so that it could spread its "beliefs and ideals of freedom and democracy".
Please stop forcing your beliefs down our throats. (Just pointing out a little hypocrisy. Personally I am all for freedom and democracy, but brought about by our own people, not American taxpayers.)
Also note to rabid national security blah, blah, blah.. defenders. I deliberately left out the invasion of Afghanistan. Definitely legitimate concerns there.

Posted by: | February 16, 2006 08:04 PM

Double standards, indeed. The MSM in the U.S. has no problem publishing photos of the "Piss Christ" or the Virgin Mary in elephant dung, fully knowing how offensive this artwork is to many Christians. Yet the fear of offending the madrassa students in Pakistan prevents the publication of a few glorified New Yorker cartoons.

Posted by: dhimmi | February 16, 2006 08:19 PM

"And while we're at it how about a break for the rest of us who don't care about any religion and just want to live our lives. We're fed up with ALL of you! Stop forcing all of your beliefs down our throats!"

Oh and being a self-professed liberal, I could not agree with you more Infidel.. despite my earlier post about the U.S invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Zain | February 16, 2006 08:49 PM

You're just trying to justify one wrong with another. It's a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Nothing changes the fact that the majority of Muslims throughout the world really do not grasp the concepts of freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

The fatwa issued on Salman Rushdie happened before 9/11 and Iraq. There was a European film maker that produced a film critical of Islam that wound up with a knife in his heart. That happened before 9/11 and Iraq. This has been going on for a long time.

But while we're talking about Bush let me make this clear. I include him in the "ALL of you" I meantioned above. He is a born again idiot that thinks he's on a mission from God.

Maybe if he wasn't on a mission from God he wouldn't feel that the ends justifies the means.

Posted by: Infidel | February 16, 2006 08:57 PM

First of all Zain, the fact that you're even responding means that you're sitting in front of a PC too, so stop w/ the dramatics. I happen to chose a stiff back chair for lumbar support...but that's just me.

More importantly though, those very same women and minorities you mention got up off their asses and made a stand. Great leaders step forward after all the years of strife and they make a difference. King, Walesa, Ghandi, Havel, they advocated change w/o violence for the sake of making things better, and it worked. Good for them. Where's your march? Where's your protest? Where are your lobbyists standing outside the Capitol or WH demanding to be heard? Where's your luminary?

The world needs that figure Zain and we would support him. No more BS, no more lamenting, fix your house.

I'm against people who use violence to further their beliefs, especially religious beliefs. Infadel is right, this isn't a new problem just one that has gotten very old.

Posted by: asta | February 16, 2006 09:56 PM

Muslim rage at prejudice and insult is as natural and justified as Jewish rage at prejudice and insult. Those who think not are proponents of "Jewish privilege". Every lawyer know the phrase of using a shield (from insult) as a sword (for attack immunized from criticism) - a practice that many in the Jewish community have honed to a science. Therefore the evolving and self-serving mutation of the "definition" of anti-Semitism from the initial shield against personal prejudice, to a sword defending the Israeli program of aggression and genocide.

The conjunction of Iran, Hamas, and the cartoons spotlights the highly provocative addiction to Jewish privilege in current Western thinking and even law. Iran can't even enrich, but Israel can possess; Likud's genocidal hateful agenda is embraced as a "plan for peace" by the White House, democratically elected Hamas is to be starved into extinction because it dares to legitimacy; it is an appropriate exercise of freedom of speech to desecrate what is most sacred to Islam, not so and even criminal in some places to desecrate what is sacred to Jews. Of course, the "root privilege" is that Jews are allowed - without sanction or reprisal by the West - to dispossess, starve and destroy Palestinian people in violation of every principle of human decency, but the very human efforts at resistance by the crushed Palestinians are condemned as criminal acts.

This is not simple hypocrisy. We are all hypocritical in our own small ways here and there - one would go mad trying to be a slave to consistency.

Oh no! What we see in Jewish privilege is virulent, malignant identity politics based on religion and ethnicity - one set of standards destructive to Muslims, another advantageous for Jews. Not too different than the identity politics in the "black codes" in the former slave states in the US after the Civil War.

The core problem with the US foreign policy vis-a'-vis Israel's destruction of Palestinian society, is that open discussion and debate at important policy levels is virtually taboo. This is not a legal "freedom of expression" issue. This taboo arises from the absence of challenge to the nonsensical insistence of Israel's "supporters" that all issues related to the occupation are "existential" for Israel.

This taboo has echoed into the media and the general populace and in most quarters, outside academia, frank airing of disapproval of anything Israeli is a sure-fire way to make sure you are never invited again. Even Jewish peace groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, and academic examination in our most revered universities, are under virulent attack. Those that stray in the media are publicly and viciously attacked by a well-orchestrated legion of ADL pit-bulls enforcing Jewish privilege.

The result is that far too many Americans in politics, media and the informed public fear the ADL or one of its army of local "minders" will publicly attack them as "anti-semitic" if they speak bluntly about what they really think about Israel's crimes. This fear, deliberately stoked by the ADL, obstructs the self-examination and self-correction in government, in the media, and among the politically-active public, that is an essential self-correcting mechanism of bad policy in a healthy democracy.

We Americans are far off-course in our pitiable and weak-kneed fear of finding, and talking about, the real "root causes" of Arab/Islamic hostility to the West - 90% of which is the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians. The longer we are cowardly toward the need to straighten out Israel's pathological destruction of Palestinian society, the further off and predictably the more dire the ultimate correction.

The same thing happened in the 1840's and 50's - rational discourse about slavery was impossible because the South insisted it was an existential issue for the way of life in the South. It took a catastrophe, the Civil War, to get our society back on course.

I think the probability of a catastrophic resolution of today's antagonisms is at a scary level.

I have a simpler way of putting it: The Palestinians are not the Cherokee (notwithstanding Herzog and Jabotinsky). They will resist their genocide until either they have true national justice, or we earn the forever-long national shame that befits any successful genocider.

Posted by: Timothy L | February 17, 2006 01:18 AM

Asta, you apparently understood nothing from my post and I do not really find that surprising. I addressed your concern about what moderates in the Islamic world are doing. Leaders like King and Gandhi are not churned off an assembly line or put in storage for nations to pull out when they need them. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was a committed secularist and a leader in the mold you desire. We moderate Pakistanis lament the fact that the face of our society and politics could have been so different had he survived even few more years after independence.
By the way who is to say that all those brilliant men and women who have been imprisoned and killed through the years for their moderate (read extreme for mullahs) views were not the kind of leadership we needed but were denied?
We will put our house in order Asta, just not on your timetable (or the Idiot in Chief's aka U.S Prez). After all to be moderate and advocate peace is by nature a process that occurs through discourse and therefore will take time. The lack of a visible glamorous leader advocating these positions does not mean that the efforts are not being made and does not mean that our efforts will be in vain.
Just to restate a point that I made in my earlier post that you ignored. It took the women and minorities several hundred years after independence to get to where they are now. Our nations are young and likewise need time to overcome the taboos, prejudices and evils that have ensconced themselves into our society.

Posted by: Zain | February 17, 2006 07:13 AM

I have two words for Timothy L: Oy vey! I'm Jewish and I was totally unaware of all my privileges! Damn, to think I worked myself through college, and that here I am slaving away 11 hours a day to provide for my family and my children's future, when I'm a member of the priveleged elite!

Golly, I have to call our national office and find out why haven't gotten the word. Tell me, Timmy, do we get actual cash dividends for being Jewish? BTW, I have some good reading for you -- if you haven't read it, try the Elders of the Protocol of Zion. It contains all the paranoid fantasies you've spewed here. Maybe you can republish it along with all the other paranoids and get a regular pogrom going again.

I am hesitant to dignify your diatribe with anything more than it deserves, but I want to point out that the rightwing in this country thinks the left-wing (which it includes most of the media) is anti-Israel. And you argue it is unabashadly pro-Israel. Fools hear what they want to hear and are incapable of analyzing actual facts. Yours is just one more perspective coming from the other direction -- just more flatulence in the breeze.

Posted by: AlexL | February 17, 2006 11:18 AM

Does anyone see the outright idiocy of the islamos. Don't print cartoons of our prophet(and especially violtent pics) cause that's not how we are. Lets prove it with violence. These extremist are idiots

Posted by: PeteB | February 17, 2006 01:24 PM

TimothyL is on target with his comments. The arab world now hates us for our policies and actions(we invade,bomb,torture,etc)towards arab countries. The modern day holocaust is on the Palestinians and the cowardly members of congress spurred on by Christian fundamentalists and pro-Israel lobbying groups continue to add to our shame and world insecurity. Pay no attention to Alex who is apparently just a naive kid. Those of us with experience in this arena just simply know better. The U.S. allows Israel to do whatever it wants(they have now closed off access to the Jordan Valley area). We pay for their bad behavior. Do you know that Israel wants the U.S. to pay $1.3 billion for the Gaza evacuation? That is about $600,000 per household moved out of Gaza(illegal settlements according to international law, which of course, Israel ignored) The fact that when this gets to Congress there won't be one objection reinforces Timothys points. And our people along the Gulf Coast?

Posted by: JohnG | February 17, 2006 01:50 PM

Pay no attention to JohnG who apparently is a complete idiot, and, based on his comment regarding Alex, without the excuse of youth, inexperience or naivete.

Posted by: RC | February 17, 2006 02:33 PM

Timothy: "...the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians." Holy crap,the Israelies are systematically rounding up all Palestinians and executing them all until their very race will be extinguished?!?

Hmmn... Perhaps you are exaggerrating just a tad. Or maybe a whole, whole lot. Moron. Peoplle who state such monumentally stupid and hateful things immediately undermine the credability. Hell, you could have posted the true formula for cold fusion and I'd still think you are a fricking idiot.

Posted by: GvK | February 17, 2006 03:37 PM

Why is the excuse for burning down embassies in Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Beirut the US invasion of Iraq? If Muslims all over the world are justified in committing violence against all non-muslim Westerners because of some cartoons in Denmark, isn't the logical extension of this that the West has a right to commit violence against any Islamic country based on the 9-11 attacks? And the anti-American crowd wants to believe that Middle Eastern countries are peaceful and wish no harm towards the United States. The security threat is real, people. It was real in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is real in Iran and Syria. Wake up.

Posted by: Amy Lin | February 17, 2006 03:48 PM

The point is that anyone in any religion that decides to destroy property or kill because a characature of their God was printed in the free press is wrong. They are bad people. Dangerous ignorant idiots that should be locked up.

Every one keeps talking about the double standard. But I've never heard of a group of Jews getting together by the thousands and fire bombing because someone did something anti-semetic. I've definately heard of law suits, and protests, ad infinitum. And I've definately seen Jews be over zealous with their claims of anti-semetism.

But to compare the Jews use of legal methods via the ADL to protest, object, and try to prevent things they find objectionable to the fire bombing, and destruction of life and property that the Muslim hoardes employ is absurd.

And don't bring up Israel attacking Palestinians in this discussion. It's an entirely different topic. That is a war. It's different. The Israelis aren't attacking Palenstinians because the Palestinians draw funny pictures of Jews, or call Jews bad names. Israelis attack Palestinians because Palestinians attack Israelis. Blood has been drawn on both sides.

Debate has raged on for 50 years about who started that fire. But I know one person who had nothing to do with it. Me. And I'm extremely sick of hearing about it. The only control I have over US foreign policy is who I vote for. I voted against Bush both times (and against his father too). But something tells me that if I were to encounter a terrorist they wouldn't make that distinction.

So what am I to do? I'm going to live my life and be true to my ideals. My ideals say that freedom of expression and the press is far more important that offending Muslims. My ideals say that Muslims are the square peg trying to fit into the round hole and THEY need to change. We don't need to turn the clock backward and adopt their idotic ways of doing things.

Censoring the media because a religion doesn't like what it printed? That is ridiculous. If America was like that the right wing Christians would ban all video games that are remotely violent. The artist that did 'piss christ' would be in jail getting flogged. And Larry Flint would have been executed decades ago.

No. I like the way it is. And I'll fight to death against any Muslim hoarde that tries to violently force me to bend my knee to Islam. Just as I would fight any Christian, Jewish, or Hindu, Buddhist, etc... hoarde to the death that tried to force me to follow their ways at the knife point. Because I don't believe in any religion. And I refuse to be forced to do what some idiot's book of fairy tales tells me to.

And we all know pretty soon we're all going to be fighting for our lives in this culture clash. So in the meantime while I'm waiting for Iran to develop suitcase nukes, and give them to terrorist to detonate here in my city and kill me I think I'll just go out and enjoy the freedoms that we have here in America as long as I can.

I suggest you all do the same.

Islam. The religion of peace. Yah. Make sure you put that on my headstone after the terrorist get me. K?

Posted by: Infidel | February 17, 2006 04:36 PM

I don't believe in sugar-coating so here goes, (sensitive muslims should skip this for their health and continued denial). Rioting, killing, chanting death threats and burning flags are all aspects of intimidation. That is islam's m.o., even going back to their 'glory days', those who don't believe are subhuman, and since that hasn't changed in centuries, it never will. The real question is what the hell makes them think these tactics are effective, and unfortunately we have ourselves and our Euro cousins to blame for that.

The same mentality that spawned 9/11 is thriving yet again. Terrorists should be tried in military tribunals, not courthouses, the NSA isn't listening to you unless you are talking with our enemies, Iraq is a strategic locale that if successful could have damaging effects on the tyrannical governments of Syria and Iran, (that would be sweet). Yet what do we hear from most media outlets? Iraq is a Viet Nam-like quagmire, the NSA is violating the privacy of all American citizens, and all U.S. detained muslims are innocents being tortured by the evil W's minions.

Islam, (capitalized only b/c of sentence location), sees these debates as those of cowards. I think they are wrong, but it stands to reason that western nations will grow increasingly tolerant of the violent tiffs these people are so accustomed to when they don't get there way, and what will we have then? Ask our buddies in France. I'm not saying its imminent, but this violence, as the violence before it, is a test. Right now, we aren't doing very well.

Posted by: Capitalist Bob | February 17, 2006 04:53 PM


If you really cared about genocide, instead of inventing a fictional one amongst the Palestinians, you might focus your energies on a very real one in Darfur that makes Gaza look like Club Med. It may not interest you, since the perpetrators are Arab. Alas, there are no Jews to blame.

Posted by: dhimmi | February 17, 2006 05:35 PM

Re: Genocide

Israel and the US, along with most other nations, signed on to the definition of genocide in the UN Convention for the Prevention of Genocide. I rely on that definition, since Israel adopted it. Please note item (c).

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means ANY of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

By the way, I love the insults - proof positive the commentators can't refute my facts and arguments.

Posted by: Timothy L | February 17, 2006 08:03 PM

Re: Genocide

Israel and the US, along with most other nations, signed on to the definition of genocide in the UN Convention for the Prevention of Genocide. I rely on that definition, since Israel adopted it. Please note item (c).

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means ANY of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

By the way, I love the insults - proof positive the commentators can't refute my facts and arguments.

Posted by: Timothy L | February 17, 2006 08:06 PM


If Israel was intent upon "DELIBERATELY INFLICTING ON TEH GROUP CONDITIONS OF LIFE CALCULATED TO BRING ABOUT ITS PHYSICAL DESTRUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART", they've done a pretty bad job, seeing that over one million Palestinian live in Israel proper with no threat to their physical well-being. If Israel was really waging genocide against the Palestinians, what explain the existence of this healthy and growing Arab population in Israel proper?

Consider yourself refuted.

Posted by: dhimmi | February 17, 2006 09:04 PM

Also Tim,

By the UN's definition of genocide, wouldn't Iran, Hamas and other Palestinian committed to the destruction of Israel be guilty of the same genocide against Jews?

Posted by: Amy Lin | February 17, 2006 09:29 PM

Hmmm. . . And I foolishly thought this blog was about an Iranian human rights activist debating a "double standard" in the Western press. . . Instead we get to hear about violence and religion.

As to the comics and the double standard, just what would happen in Denmark or Germany if some Neo-nazi published commics promalgulating the extermination of Jews? I believe Germany has very specific laws barring and punishing this sort of behavior.

And things are different in the West. We had a reformation and an enlightenment. Other areas of the world did not (and have no interest in experiencing such phenomenon). Failure to realize and understand these differences lead to predictable violence.

What I find most disturbing is not a double standard, but a basic failure by individuals who should have known better (and by all evidence did know better) than to publish such materials. Certainly some were funny, but is there any way to read Muhammad with devils horns on his head? What would American fundamentalists do if the NYT or Washington post placed pictures of Jesus with demonic characteristics on its front page?

And in the Middle East, rioting is the ONLY form of free speech. There is simply no other outlet for such communications that don't get one arrested, imprisoned, exiled, tortured, and like as not killed.

Posted by: Chris | February 17, 2006 09:49 PM

So, Chris, I guess that makes it okay to be violent?

Posted by: Amy Lin | February 17, 2006 10:28 PM

Infidel said:
"Islam. The religion of peace. Yah. Make sure you put that on my headstone after the terrorist get me. K?"

By your logic all Christians should be looked at in the light of the Spanish inquisition and other atrocities that occurred during the medieval ages and perhaps all the descendants of European nations should be judged by the fact that their countries colonized and enslaved a major part of the world. Please try not to paint everyone with the same brush because as the girl in Anthony Shadid laments:
"Do you want to silence voices of moderation, of coexistence?" she asked this week. "And this is what the generalizations of these cartoons do. It silences any individual as a Muslim and groups me along with everyone else."
I had absolutely no sympathy with the people protesting (and I am not even talking about the violent protests), being a non practicing Muslim myself, until I saw how the majority of posts on almost all the major forums I frequent were lumping all Muslims into this extremist stereotype and how easily people in the West were lapsing into a mindset of racial prejudice and, in some cases, downright hate. If I must take sides between two evils, it will be my own people.

Posted by: Zain | February 17, 2006 11:20 PM


Regarding your point on Neo-Nazi restrictions in Germany: every culture has a right to its own taboos. In Germany, it may be against the law to preach Nazism; in Saudi Arabia, it may be against the law to preach Christianity. As long as one culture does not attempt to impose its will (and its taboos) upon another, there is no problem.

Those who are upset over the cartoons are absolutely attempting to impose their cultural taboos upon another.

Regarding your question on how Americans would react to Christian blasphemy, perhaps you should ask CNN what happened when they ran this story and accompanying imagery:

Posted by: dhimmi | February 17, 2006 11:37 PM

The cartoons may have been ill advised, but what happened to the saying 'Sticks and stones...' etc? Haven't we learned that violence in reaction to words (or pictures) does not resolve anything and is not sustainable as a human race?

Posted by: marion | February 18, 2006 07:04 PM

Marion said:
"Haven't we learned that violence in reaction to words (or pictures) does not resolve anything and is not sustainable as a human race?"

Its about time people (read non-Muslims) stop generalizing and stereotyping. No one, except the minority of extremisits and thugs, thinks that violent protests productive or justifiable. Most Muslims have called them downright reprehensible. People who keep bringing up this patently false, prejudiced and bigoted view of Islam and Muslims, are nothing but the other side of the coin that is the firebrand, hatred spewing Mullah.

Posted by: Zain | February 18, 2006 10:25 PM

Zain: Your response is my point. :-) The comment IS for those that respond in this manner, whatever their colour, form, creed, race, country, sex, etc etc, etc.

Prejudice comes in many forms. I am handicapped, and the prejudice I encounter EACH day in the response to that handicap from ALL races, colours and creeds often makes me want to resort to fury and even some violence (and I have in my youth yelled at people a couple of times). What is the point?

Let us all, as reasoning human beings, understand that these are the few (please see history for other examples NOT linked to creed and I would be happy to provide some lesser known ones), and not the many.

NOW, how do we help the few to understand that this type of violence is not sustainable as a human race. Not if we wish to survive. One person of violence with the power of a large military and you and I are .... literally.... history/dead/ended. All of us.

Posted by: Marion | February 19, 2006 08:28 AM

The cartoon debate...Interesting, but maybe that is the problem. I think we should stop debating, and start posting. Seems terror has taken control. Check out the toons on my website at Also, check out the documentary I put together.

Posted by: Curtis Stone | February 20, 2006 10:08 AM

Look, if you read the story behind the publication of the cartoons, the publication of the cartoons was VERY WELL advised. The whole point was to show to the world that radical Islamists threaten free speech, and the point was made quite clearly.

This is not a debate about the abhorent US policies in the Middle East. This is a about FREE SPEECH.

We regularly lampoon Christ and Christianity, black comedians make good money lampooning themselves, and ISLAM WILL NOT BE AN EXCEPTION.

Words should be met with words, but violence and the threat of violence should be met with the ruthless retaliation of free people who would defend their HARD WON freedoms.

The preachers of violence have spoken out. We know their names, we know where they live, we know the mosques from which they preach. It is the grim responsibility of the free to now take them out. Liberty is more important than any religion, and cannot be compromised.

Posted by: Scott | February 21, 2006 05:35 PM

I don't entirely agree with the assertion that "The principal victims of these two extreme positions, as always, are the majority of moderate Muslims living in the West". I would argue that the principal victims are those killed and injured, and those whose property has been destroyed, in these atrocious, hate fuelled acts of violence in the Muslim world.

Moderate Muslims do need to find a stronger voice if the militant, fundamentalist Islam is to be overcome. Just as moderate foreign policy advocates need to find a stronger voice in opposition to militant foreign policy doctrines in the US. The clash of ideals between these two groups of fundamentalist is fast escalating to a dangerous conclusion.

I denounce fundamentalism of any kind: Christian, Islamic, even sporting fanatics. To blind one's logic through unquestioned belief is intellectually lazy, to then try to force these beliefs on others through violence is criminal. Fundamental beliefs can too easily be manipulated by power brokers intent on furthering their own means. Never let others control your own beliefs, for fear of the loss of self.

Posted by: Fraser | February 22, 2006 01:13 AM

"The preachers of violence have spoken out. We know their names, we know where they live, we know the mosques from which they preach. It is the grim responsibility of the free to now take them out. Liberty is more important than any religion, and cannot be compromised."

Of course...Just like the wonderful job the U.S has done in Iraq. Now just out of curiosity... was it planned that by "taking them out" you would fuel the fundamentalist movement and give them more ammunition to not only attack Western interests but also viciously lash out against Muslim moderates?
The world is not made up of absolutes, even though the Idiot in Chief seems to think he can fit everyone into his chart of good and evil. The problems faced by the Muslim world are not going to be solved by a crusader mentality...going into battle against the evildoers. I am not by any means dismissing the concerns of the West or Muslim moderates, but I just do not see this antagonistic approach working in the Muslim world.

"Liberty is more important than any religion, and cannot be compromised."

There is a huge gap in one side understanding the culture of the other, and you cannot even begin to resolve this problem until that gap is closed. The solutions will have to come about within the framework of each culture's respective boundaries. Over time these boundaries will have to be adjusted but the sort of reasoning you and some other Westerners have displayed will just not cut it. Once again, like it or not, the world is not made up of absolutes (That's why I could never be a conservative/republican :-)).

Posted by: Zain | February 22, 2006 09:00 AM

From New Nation Online Edition

Editorial Page
Who's fault is the Danish boycott?
By Svend White
Sat, 4 Feb 2006, 09:31:00

When I look at analysis of the Danish cartoon controversy, I'm struck by how so many otherwise well informed and intelligent commentators simply don't get it. The basic reasons for and issues involved in this crisis are pretty easy to grasp, but one is nonetheless hard pressed to find them in most discussions of the saga in the media. Instead, one finds all these ethereal discursions on freedom of religion and freedom of speech, ideals that actually have precious little to do with this lamentable turn of events. This is about politics and prejudices, not constitutional rights.

Mona Eltahawy writes in Can we finally admit that Muslims have blown out of all proportion their outrage over 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad published in a Danish newspaper last September?

Umm, no we can't. At least not in the way you mean. Eltahaway, like so many other liberal Muslim commentators at the moment--it seems everyone's working overtime to prove to non-Muslims how secular and progressive they are by defending the Jyllands-Posten outrageous and irresponsible attacks on the Prophet Muhammad--overlooks basic political and cultural context to those cartoons, and ignores the significance of the openly hostile way they were presented in the first place.

In recent years, Denmark has been lurching rightward and turning increasingly hostile to Islam and Muslims (who now make up about 4% of the population). It is becoming increasingly common to see headlines about prominent Danish figures openly expressing prejudice against Islam, and mainstream parties are working increasingly closely with hardline nationalist (and, of course, Muslim-baiting) parties that were once rightly viewed as fringe and beyond the pale. It's gotten so bad in Denmark--and I'm sorry to say so as someone whose maternal side of the family is there and who has long taken pride in Denmark's once enlightened policies--that a prominent pundit in neighboring Sweden declared Denmark the most xenophobic country in Europe. By all accounts, inter-communal relations in Denmark (which for the most part are Muslim/non-Muslim relations) are becoming worryingly strained and beset with prejudice and misunderstandings. This is the political and social context that Jyllands-Posten's attacks on the Prophet occured in, and which is conspicuously absent from the MWU piece.

Then there's the *way* this so-called defense of freedom of speech was launched by Jyllands-Posten. They didn't simply defy the traditional Islamic ban on portraying the Prophet--as any lover of Persian art knows, there are many classics of Islamic art which also completely ignore this taboo; a few mundane sketches of the Prophet by aren't going to roil the Ummah--with predictable drawings, they chose to attack his character and portray him as a bloodthirsty killer. Not so long ago during the 1980s, many American Christians were up in arms for much, much less in Martin Scorcese's infinitely more respectful rendering of a religious icon in "The Last Temptation of Christ".

There's another fundamental problem with this apologia--it rest on a demonstrably false assumption that other religions are routinely treated in this manner. For all this, if you'll forgive the ironic choice of words, pious talk by the secular intelligentsia about how other religions are supposedly subjected to the same withering treatment that Islam and Muslims are now weathering, you'll be hard pressed to think of many comparable examples.

For example, how many times have you seen a portrait of Jesus Christ portrayed in a deliberately offensive and controversial manner in a Western publication that is read by millions? How many times have you seen a portrait of Christ that is remotely uncomplementary? The closest analogue I can think of to this controversy in recent American history is the furor over the "Piss Christ" art exhibit (which, while admittedly disgusting and offensive, pales by comparison to the bile of Jyllands-Posten's "defense" of free speech)? Did the New York Times include an insert of photos from that exhibit? Was it televised on ABC? Has it since been repeatedly republished by other media outlets?

How about Buddha? Moses? Abraham? Can't think of any public mockery of them in the mainstream media? Okay, how lesser known religious figures, like Guru Nanak (the founder of Sikhism), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), or Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science)? Still none? Hmm, how about even L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology)?

Really, try to find deliberate, open assaults on these revered figures that were dignified by publication in the major outlet. Find a case where a person revered as a spiritual guide by many millions of people is intentionally and openly pilloried in the crudest terms in a major newspaper. You won't succeed. My guess is that you'll be hard pressed to even found a case of such an icon being affectionately parrodies with a fake nose and glasses, so reverent is media mainstream coverage of these revered figures. There's a reason for this. As Edward Said has pointed out long ago, Islam and Muslims are the perennial exceptions to the rules of consistency, objectivity and scholarly rigor in contemporary Western policy debates. A newspaper can crudely and deliberately malign the Prophet Muhammad at a time when Muslims are increasingly being mocked and discriminated against throughout the West--and in a manner guaranteed to stoke the flames of prejudice and hatred--and we're all supposed to stand by it in the name of freedom of religion? Give me a break. Get back to me when Jyllands-Posten runs comparably offensive cartoons about Jews, Christians or even Rastafarians. Then I'll understand the "bigger picture" here.

Eltahawy observes:

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was right not to intervene, insisting the government has no say over media - the argument used by Arab leaders when they are asked about anti-Semitism in their media, by the way. But in a New Year's speech, Rasmussen condemned "any _expression, action or indication that attempts to demonize groups of people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background."

To portray this as a simple choice between state intervention or freedom of speech is to miss the whole point, I'm afraid. It's also an example, in my opinion, of how blind liberal Muslim commentators can be to the dynamics of power in Muslim/non-Muslim relations today. Like a white intellectual discussing American race problems in abstract categories of right and wrong ("Black racism is just wrong!"), such overly philosophical analysis overlooks the messy ethical nuances and pyschological twists introduced by great disparities of power and preexisting histories of discrimination and marginalization. It is always tempting to discuss such thorny problems in a historical vacuum--in fact, this is the preferred tactic of Muslim bashers--but this condemns the analysis to irrelevance in the real world. But that's another discussion.

The problem was not Prime Minister Rasmussen's stance against censorship--which I support and I don't think many Muslims would be terribly surprised by--but his unwillingness to openly disavow this outburst of rank prejudice and xenophobia by a major Danish publication. His refusal to meet with the host of ambassadors from Muslims states worsened the situation greatly, sending the message that the Danish government was so indifferent to the concern of Muslims around the world that it couldn't even *discuss* the matter and giving hardliners on the other side the perfect pretext for stirring up conflict.

This damage can only be done through diplomacy that demonstrates that this has been a collosal misunderstanding. I don' t think the spectacle of European media rallying to not only implicitly endorse but to greatly increase the distribution of the scurrilous drawings that caused the rift in the first place will help much. Jyllands-Posten's tawdry case is unworthy of this grand and politically risky gesture.

Also, it must be said that this cause is being exploited by Middle Eastern governments to burnish their often dubious credentials of respect for religious tradition. As one Danish commentator Rune Engelbreth Larsen noted , Jyllands-Posten should rather have exercised its vaunted right to freedom of _expression not to denigrate Islam, but to mock these dictatorial and hypocritical regimes, which are now cynically exploiting this crisis for domestic political consuption. But that fact that doesn't change anything. Two wrongs, as they say, don't make a right. Leaders also meet constantly with representatives of important consistencies (and, as the calamitous impact of this brewing boycott has shown, those ambassadors definitely represented an important constituency). Unfortunately, the government under Rasmussen sent a clear political message to Danish Muslims and Muslims around the world by refusing to take these concerns seriously until it was far too late.

The other thing that many observers fail to understand is that this is basically a case where hardliners lashed out, as they periodically do, at an already scapegoated and vulnerable minority and, for a change, found themselves on the receiving end. It's not unlike a bully who makes a habit of picking on the smallest kid in the schoolyard finding himself in hot water when he happens to pick a child with a large family. Zealots picked a fight that they thought was safe and now we're supposed to agonize because that they're suddenly outnumbered? It's also my hope that Denmark, whose political climate has really taken a nasty, xenophobic turn in recent years vis-a-vis its Muslim minority, learns something from it. As they quite understandably rail against Denmark's suddenly precarious situation--Danish business leaders are in a panic at the prospect of a boycott, security officials are increasingly worried about the risk of terrorist attacks in retaliation, and there are cases of hackers indiscriminately attacking websites in Danish--I think rank and file Danes ought to stop in the midst of all this mayhem and ask themselves, "Have I played a role in bringing this confrontation about? Do I tacitly support the denigration and scapegoating of immigrants? Did I condone Jyllands-Posten's entirely unnecessary public _expression of contempt for Muslims and their beliefs?" If you did, I submit with all due respect you're not a completely innocent bystander after all. Some would argue that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. Perhaps, you need to reexamine your attitudes towards your Muslim neighbors to ensure that you're not part of the problem that landed Denmark in this bizarre mess.

Finally, regardless of what side we come down on, let's get something straight: We all have a right to boycott the products of those who we feel insult us. This insight applies especially to all you libertarians and other promoters of the free market as pie-in-the-sky solution to all the world's problems. (Boycotts are your omniscent Invisible Hand at work, people.) It is not extremism or terrorism. (I'm reminded of all the claptrap by pro-Israeli apologists in the American media in the past about the great "injustice" and "extremism" of the old Arab boycott against Israel, as if Israel had a right to Arab money while it built settlements on Palestinian land and regularly ignored Palestinian human rights.) In all but the most unusual of circumstances, boycotts are a peaceful and legitimate protest. In fact, they are often the only effective means of protest left to the masses in our day of globalization, unrestrained multi-national corporations, and co-opted media. It's often the only way the little guy can be heard (just ask Selma Park).

The bottom line is this: Shortsighted leadership (by an administration that is, it should be noted, allied with hard-liners) let what should have been a minor local hiccup in inter-communal relations mushroom into an international, geopolitical cause celebre and icon of Muslim frustrations. Prime Minister Rasmussen's ham-handed response has made Denmark, no doubt unfairly, into the latest poster child for the Clash of Civilizations. Frankly, it should come as no surprise that a boycott should be in the works, tragic though its consequences for normal Danes may be. Muslims didn't start this fight--obnoxious hardliners on the other side did.

Hopefully these unsavory elements in Denmark (and bigots and xenophobes everywhere) will remember this lesson next time they're tempted to score cheap points at the expense of a small, embattled community. It's a small, interconnected world. Like in kindergarten, you never know when your bullying might backfire on you.

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Posted by: svend | February 23, 2006 04:51 AM

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