February 2, 2006
The Jyllands-Posten Cartoons
Our founding fathers struggled to create a government structure that would establish representative democracy, when the rest of the world was mired in monarchy, theocracy, and oligarchy. So here in the United States we often take the provincial viewpoint that we are sole spokespersons for democratic institutions, such as freedom of expression. But much of the world has caught up.
Many Europeans are concerned that militant Islam is becoming too powerful a damper on freedom of expression in Europe. Their news outlets have been pussy-footing around the Islamic problem. In Italy, the court system attacked Oriana Fallaci for speaking out.
Late last September the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten commissioned a series of editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. This was a very deliberate assertion of the right to freedom of expression as seen by the western world.
In the first place, Muslims are forbidden from representing human images in their art. Worse, from an Islamic point of view, was the insult of joking about Mohammed. As expected, many narrow-minded Muslims were insulted by the cartoons, just as we were insulted when Muslim-American citizens burned the American flag in New York City and ground the ashes under their feet. But that's "free speech."
The Mohammed cartoons stirred a firestorm of controversy. A French newspaper editor found the courage to reproduce one, and generated renewed hope for the French press. Then his newspaper fired him for doing it. Recently, several European outlets discovered the fortitude to republish the cartoons.
And -- glory hallelujah -- there is the Blogosphere. The story of the cartoons is sweeping the globe. No one intends to insult sincere religious practice. But we all do intend to say, "Lighten up. Look at life from your point of view, and from our point of view. And learn to live in the big world without forcing everyone to adopt your point of view."
You can see all twelve of the cartoons here:
One of the first courageous blogs to stand up for freedom of expression was In The Shadow of the Olive Tree. It is a visually beautiful blog and worth visiting for that reason alone. Even as Jyllands-Posten succumbed to mounting Islamic pressure and pulled the page of cartoons off the Internet, the author of this blog created a page to display all of the cartoons, and posted this notice:
Jyllands Posten Muhammed Cartoons copied to show support and nail my colours to the mast...
And Barking Moonbat Early Warning System weighed in with this observation:
Imagine that? Euro-Peon newspapers republishing cartoons poking fun at Mohammed to show they will not be cowed by MOOS-lim rioters and protestors. Is it possible that Jacques and Heinz have finally grown spines? Sacre bleu! Mein Gott! Will miracles never cease? In a related story, The Skipper is waiting with bated breath for ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX to show the cartoons live on TV. They better hurry 'cause The Skipper is waiting to exhale ....
The Columbia School of Journalism's weblog, CJR Daily, has some advice for the thin-skinned militants:
Army of Bloggers Pounces on Muslims Upset With Comic Gal Beckerman
We have some advice for the PR department of Islamic fundamentalism: Get yourself some bloggers.
The blogosphere's response to the political firestorm ignited by a Danish newspaper's decision to run a series of cartoons caricaturing the prophet Mohammed has been decidedly one-sided. There's even a blogger's petition circulating that expresses support for the newspaper, the Jyllands Posten, which has been beset with death threats.
Many of the European bloggers who have commented are proud of the fact that other newspapers stood up to defend the Danish paper by reprinting the cartoons in their own pages. West of the Moon makes this point: "Ironically, the images that caused this latest furor are now being widely republished around the free world. Hurrah. If people resent this, perhaps they should ask themselves whether complaining vociferously was such a clever idea in the first place. Freedom of expression cuts more than one way."
And that is the tamest of the comments. Most see the incident as a battle in a war between secularism and theocracy and are offended that Muslims would try to chill freedom of expression....
You really can't beat an army of bloggers when you need some good defense. ...
Cross-posted at the American Daughter Media Center.
Posted by at February 2, 2006 6:00 PM