I'm surprised that there hasn't been much coverage in our press about the whole hullabaloo surrounding first a Danish newspaper and then a small Christian newspaper in Norway --and now, today, papers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and surprisingly of all Jordan! --publishing caricatures featuring the prophet Mohammed, some of which showed him in a most unfavourable light. For Muslims, it is not acceptable to do any rendering of the prophet pictorially --it is considered to be a great sin and an insult to do so. The crux of the issue lies in Western values of free speech versus what Muslims see as a violation of their religious beliefs and a great insult. The West has been somewhat taken by surprise, it seems, that the response to the publication of these images would spark boycots of Danish products, death threats, burning of the national flags of Denmark and Norway (and as of today France --although the editor of the newspaper in the latter country got sacked as a result of the publication so I'm not sure why France got included and not the other countries who took no such steps...), and calls for a holy war to be waged against these countries and any and all of their citizens. The newspapers, outside of Denmark and Norway, acted in solidarity with the Danish newspaper to say that free speech, even speech that offends, is a strong tenet of western values. Being myself a strong proponent of free speech (hey, I absolutely hate that people spew the kind of hate that the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis in the U.S. spew --after all, these folks would happily see me dead for being a Jew --but I will fight for their right to spew it and for others to er spew in opposition to them) I was particularly proud to see that a Jordanian paper broke all taboos and reprinted some of the caricatures, stating:
"Muslims of the world, be reasonable," said the editor of the weekly independent newspaper Al Shihan in an editorial alongside the cartoons. "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?" the editor, Jihad Momani, wrote.
I was proud but I worry about the fate of what the editor will be. I am going to be watching closely to see what the fall-out of this will be and I wish our press were paying a bit more attention to it.
**Interestingly, it now seems that a lot of the outrage was spurred by radical Danish muslims who toured Arab countries and brought along not only the 12 original caricatures published by the newspapers but also 3 additional ones (seemingly of their own creation) which depicted the prophet with a pig snout and ears, one of him engaging in pedophilic acts and another of him engaging in sex with a dog, in an attempt to really fire things up. The Brussels Journal here and here has one of the best write-ups on this evolving incident.