Is censorship a lost cause?

According to Aljazeera, the uproar over the cartoons has turned into an international showdown:

Armed groups in the Palestinian territories have threatened to attack Danish, French and Norwegian nationals after cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad appeared in European newspapers.

Two militants groups released a joint statement on Thursday that said: "All nationals and those who work in the diplomatic corps of these countries can be considered targets of the Popular Resistance Committee and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades."

Abu Mudjahid, a spokesman for the "joint command" of the two factions, said the threat was serious and extended to the nationals of all countries that had published the caricatures.

"We demand that the offices and consulates of the three countries concerned close, otherwise we will not hesitate to destroy them," the statement said.

In the Gaza Strip, a dozen gunmen from the militant group Islamic Jihad and an armed faction of Fatah known as the Yasser Arafat brigade surrounded the EU compound and fired into the air. They demanded an apology within 48 hours over the cartoons.

Gunmen have surrounded the almighty, all-powerful EU?? Who'd have ever thought that a few cartoons could be so, so clarifying?

According to the LA Times, the list of "offender" countries now includes "France, Germany, Italy and Spain."

At the rate things are going, the world will be divided into two camps; one believing in free speech, the other believing in censorship. If "all nationals" of all countries in which someone runs these cartoons are to be considered targets, because of the nature of information flow, that will mean every European.

Reading this news, I admit to a growing respect for Europeans, but I do have one question:

"What about the Americans?"

These cartoons have appeared in so many places here that there'd no way to count them all, much less demand individual apologies.

What's going on? Are we considered so hopelessly free that we're a lost cause?

MORE: It should be pointed out that not all Muslims are in favor of censorship. Safiyyah Ally (host of "Let the Quran Speak") thinks the overreaction to the cartoons is making Muslims look stupid:

Those up in arms don't seem to understand that the newspaper is not government owned or produced. It is an independent newspaper, and as such the guarantee of freedom of expression allows it to do what it did. It may be in bad taste and it may be insensitive, but the newspaper has a point: freedom of expression allows individuals to express themselves in ways that may upset or offend others. Yes, that freedom is to be balanced with freedom of religion, but even so, adherents of any faith cannot expect that they will never be offended. That is the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy. Some may claim this is a good time to bring out those old blasphemy laws, but I disagree. In fact, I would argue there are no justifiable grounds for blasphemy laws in liberal democracies.

In any case, why these Arab countries would see fit to demand that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen apologize is beyond me. If one wanted to protest the publication of those cartoons, one could always cancel one's subscription to the newspaper. But to boycott products from the country? Burn Danish flags? Remove ambassadors to express one's displeasure? Those sorts of responses are just nonsensical. The government is not to be blamed for the idiocy of a private newspaper.

Why are we so exciteable anyway? Why even care what a newspaper thinks? The cartoons, horrendous though they may be, need not affect a Muslim's impression of the Prophet, for our tradition clearly shows him to be a man imbued with dignity, morality and goodness. The Prophet was ridiculed from the moment he started receiving revelation in Mecca more than 1400 years ago. The mockery - even the threats on his life - are well documented in the Quran and hadith literature. A few cartoons will do little to harm him - or us.

Some might argue that Islam bars any depiction of the Prophet. Even so, we Muslims cannot force other people to appreciate the Prophet the way we do. We live, for the most part, in free societies, and there are countless opportunities to share with others our own vision of the Prophet and to convince others that he is a man to be honoured and dignified. We can do so by living like the Prophet did, by behaving and speaking in the noble manner of the Prophet himself, and by showing ourselves to be the rightful followers of this blessed man.

The over-the-top reaction just shows me how much excess energy and strength the ummah retains worldwide. Frankly I wonder if Muslims are not doing a greater disservice to the Prophet when we close our eyes to the suffering and oppression in the rest of the world. There are bigger problems to tackle than the publication of 12 silly cartoons. Now, if we could only put our efforts to better purposes...

And here's the New York Times:
The newspapers' actions fed a sharpening debate here over freedom of expression, human rights and what the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, the paper that first published the cartoons last September, called a "clash of civilizations" between secular Western democracies and Islamic societies.

Indeed, the culture editor, Flemming Rose, said in an interview: "This is a far bigger story than just the question of 12 cartoons in a small Danish newspaper.

"This is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society....

The cartoon I republished below takes issue with the idea that suicide bombers are "rightful followers" of Mohammad, and not only disputes the "religious" notion that they'll be rewarded with 72 virgins, but speculates that so might Mohammad.

But what causes offense is not the debate over what Mohammad might think, but any depiction of Mohammad at all. Perhaps it is being forgotten that Islam forbids idolatry, which includes any and all depictions of God or any of his prophets. This includes Jesus Christ. Thus, a crucifix is seen as blasphemous, and whether an artist (like Andres Serrano) depicts it in a disrespectful manner is secondary.

How many Americans even know that many Muslims consider a crucifix to be idolatry as well as blasphemy? The crucifix is blasphemous because it denies the Koran by depicting the crucifixion of the prophet Issa -- an event the Koran claims never happened.

(But these are all matters of religious doctrine, which Americans for hundreds of years have been free to follow or disregard.)

MORE: Wikipedia has now published the cartoons.

MORE: On Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ":

the ability to apply criticism and ridicule are the basic rights of anyone living in a western democracy. As a society we should expect citizens and artists alike to apply a measure of good taste. It is very hard to argue that the Jyllands-Posten's cartoons were offensive, but a case could be made that Serrano's "Piss Christ" was testing the limits of that somewhat arbitrary 'taste measure'. But we didn't kill Serrano, we didn't destroy his career, we didn't ask him for damages and a rectification, no, we debated it and we are still debating it today, twenty years on. That's freedom, that's democracy.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

UPDATE: The Netherlands is now added to the stew.

MORE: The Drudge Report is now displaying one of the inflammatory cartoons.


AND MORE: From Hezbollah, as inane a statement as I've seen so far:

In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizbollah said the row would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.
Oh, yeah?

I think it might have made it happen sooner!

MORE: Zombie Time's Depictions of Mohammed Throughout History is a remarkably comprehensive collection of Mohammed imagery. Amazingly enough, many of the depictions were rendered in Muslim countries by Muslims.

AND SPEAKING OF CRUCIFIXIONS.... Via Pajamas Media, here's Stephen Pollard:

On further reflection, the Danes should surely apologise for the cartoons and for their media in general. The Islamic press would never, ever publish a cartoon which might conceivably offend another religion's believers. Never, ever.

This cartoon, for instance, would never, ever appear in Al-Quds:


God forbid that anyone's religious sensibilities might be offended.

UPDATE: Postrel to Islam: grow up. (HT Justin.)

UPDATE (02/03/06): Add Spain to the growing list:

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's leading newspaper El Pais on Friday became part of a growing international row by publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad on its front page.

The cartoon, originally published by France's Le Monde, portrayed the head of the Prophet Mohammad made up of lines which say "I must not draw Mohammad" in French.

Newspapers in France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Hungary have reprinted caricatures originally published in Denmark, arguing that press freedom is more important than the protests and boycotts they have provoked.

Did the Madrid bombings create a Spanish backlash? Hamas's promise to "take back" al Andalus?

MORE: Indonesia? According to that article, an Indonesian newspaper printed the cartoons:

A Jakarta-based newspaper was criticized by hundreds of protesters on Friday for showing cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad originally published by a Danish newspaper.

About 200 members of the Islam Defender Front (FPI), a radical Muslim group reputable for vandalizing nightspots, gathered in front of the office of the Rakyat Merdeka (independent people) newspaper to vent anger over the cartoons on its website Thursday.

Protesters demanded that the newspaper withdraw the cartoons and make a public apology, Detikcom on-line news service reported.

They've apologized, but Indonesia is a Muslim country.

posted by Eric on 02.02.06 at 07:12 AM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is censorship a lost cause?:

» Furor Over Cartoons Mocking Muhammad Portends Future Problems from The Moderate Voice
Usually cartoonists like to get a rise out of their readers. It's no
disgrace for a political cartoonist or caricature artist to learn that a reader threw his cartoon across the room. In fact, sometimes it's welcomed like a badge of honor.
... [Read More]
Tracked on February 3, 2006 1:02 AM
» Theres a Storm Coming from Blue Star Chronicles
Now that some of the other European countries are lining up in support, it will be interesting to see if the European Union, the United Nations and Bill Clinton continue to pressure Denmark to appease. Or will they also decide that freedom of speech sh... [Read More]
Tracked on February 3, 2006 1:30 AM


So they're lumping Norway into their ever-expanding enemies list, despite the fact that the Norwegians have come down FOR censorship? Now we know where appeasement will get us...

Raging Bee   ·  February 2, 2006 8:41 AM

I think the problem is that despite the talk, Norway has failed to enact laws to prohibit such cartoons.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 2, 2006 9:11 AM

Also, I just read that Norway's foreign minister had apologized, but the Prime Minister refused to do so.

Raging Bee   ·  February 2, 2006 11:24 AM

Yeah, trust Matt Drudge to publish the dumbest of all the offending cartoons. A day late and a few million brain-cells short. What an idiot.

Raging Bee   ·  February 2, 2006 3:16 PM

At today we open it up like this....

Suddenly, incredibly, swooping down from Western skies, a specter is haunting and agitating all Islam. Western men (well, a few, anyway) have defied not only white progressives and their multy-culty political correctness, but, far worse, the mooslim code. That is, they dared to rejoin Western civilization, exercising free speech on a religious figure. White progs do this too, of course, but with Christianity. This time there's a kicker. The target is not Jesus or the Virgin Mary or Jerry Falwell, or what is being billed as an NBC-TV 'Crucifixion Comedy.' This time it's the prophet Mohammed (said not to be an idol.) Some Western men are indeed living dangerously. Mooslims are boiling over with the insult to Mohammed (said not to be an idol.) Mooslims, as you know, venerate, and would not worship an idol.

Maybe it's all little Denmark's fault? On September 30, 2005, its biggest newspaper did what liberals, lefties, most Republicans, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush and "Pinch" Sulzberger's New York Times would not dream of doing: Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons satirizing Mohammed (said not to be an idol.)

This is strictly a no-no for mooslims (as novelist Salman Rushdie could have explained when he went into hiding for two years after getting fatwa-ed for writing the "Satanic Verses.").....Contd.

gringoman   ·  February 3, 2006 1:21 PM

I have no problem with various Muslims protesting. They can protest until the camels come home. Fine. Knock yo-selves out. The problem is when they seek to impose "correct" thought via government fiat and violence directed at assorted "infidels". The third peoblem is a convenient hypocrisy of many Muslims. It is OK to call Jews and Christians bloodsuckers etc. etc. and to trash their churches, and to deny them the right to assembly and practice their faith freely without harassment (a common feature of regimes under the "religion of peace"), but all of a sudden they are holier than thou and breathing fire over a few cartoons that pale in comparison to daily fare provided by government run media in the Arab world.

The fourth problem is the cowardly appeasers of the US and Europe, who have no problem portraying the most sacred persons of elements of Christianity in the most disrespectful or negative way, but are now falling over themselves trying not to be "offensive". Oh for now some talk a good game about "press freedom", but the subtle censorship has already started. Bold CNN for example refuses to show the cartoons, although I seem to recall it showed quick glimpses of the infamous urine jar and elephant dung "art" during THOSE controversies.

A short distance away are the Washington mealy-mouthers, feeding well at the trough provided by Saudi largesse, to glibly spin yet more "road maps" and "plans" for "peace in our time". Just a piece further down are the legions of Hollywood hypocrites and educrats hastening to administering yet another "teaching moment" to the benighted about "tolerance" and "diversity". Somehow said legions never get around to showing much interest in the victims of genocidal Muslim "tolerance" and "diversity" in places like the Sudan where the bones of over 1 million dead blacks gather dust. When will we see much attention to "road maps" and "teaching moments" for these victims of the "religion of peace"?

enrique Cardova   ·  February 4, 2006 12:56 AM

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits