(((((( Melanie Phillips's Diary Update: The moral maze of Hamastan ))))))
February 02, 2006
The moral maze of Hamastan
Anyone who would like further enlightenment about the intellectual feebleness, confusion and downright moral bankruptcy that now characterise British public debate should grit their teeth and listen to last night's BBC Radio Four Moral Maze, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/religion/moralmaze.shtml> in which I took part, and which discussed the implications of the creation of the democratic republic of Hamastan.
Posted by melanie at February 2, 2006
It was back in November when I first wrote about the Danish cartoon furore. At that time, Muslims were rioting in Denmark over the images published in Jyllands-Posten and no-one was taking any notice. Now the issue has snowballed into a conflict which is spreading across Europe.
It is worth reminding ourselves at this juncture what the issue was about from the start of the affair. Gratuitous offensiveness towards Islam or any other religion is not to be approved of. But not only is censorship of such offensiveness another matter, and violence and intimidation arising from it another matter still, this was not in any event gratuitous offence.
The offending cartoons, playing on the violence committed in the name of Islam, illustrated an article about the perils of self-censorship on the subject of this religion following the difficulties encountered by a children’s author in obtaining any illustrations for his book on the subject because the artists he approached were frightened for their lives. It was to draw attention to this disturbing state of affairs, in which people were being intimidated in the name of Islam into censoring perfectly innocent free speech, that the cartoons were published. They were therefore levelling a satirical criticism not at the Prophet but at the intimidation being practised in the name of the religion, a very different matter.
The truth behind that criticism has now been reinforced and amplified many times over to create an international crisis. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, took a commendably firm line when he said: ‘I will never accept that respect for a religious stance leads to the curtailment of criticism, humour and satire in the press.’ Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten bravely held the line, saying ‘We will not apologise, because we live in Denmark under Danish law, and we have freedom of speech in this country. If we apologised, we would betray the generations who have fought for this right, and the moderate Muslims who are democratically minded.’
But the Muslim world then targeted Denmark for intimidation. Danish Muslim leaders and imams fomented hatred against Denmark within the Islamic world by distributing vile pictures of the Prophet which Jyllands-Posten had never published. This outright fabrication and incitement by Danish citizens appalled Prime Minister Rasmussen, who said: ‘I am speechless that those people, whom we have given the right to live in Denmark and where they freely have chosen to stay, are now touring Arab countries and inciting antipathy towards Denmark and the Danish people’.
The cartoonists then received death threats, along with Danish citizens in Saudi Arabia. Denmark was threatened with human bomb attacks. Danish goods were boycotted around the Arab world. The Saudi and Libyan ambassadors to Denmark were recalled. The hysteria engulfed Norwegians and Swedes too, who found themselves threatened too simply for being part of Scandinavia along with Norway. Yet for becoming the latest unlikely front in the war declared upon civilisation by religious fascism, Denmark has not been supported but criticised from the United Nations and the EU. This was a staggering reaction when one considers the fact that relatively mild images making a valid political point were condemned by the EU and UN; while the truly hate-filled, disgusting images about Jews that pour out of the Arab and Muslim world portraying them as diabolical, Satanic, bestial, repellent and inhuman – in the service of lies and libels designed to incite mass murder – attract no opprobrium from the EU or UN at all.
Jyllands-Posten has now apologised for causing offence. But the furore has moved up yet another notch. Publications in various countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – have re-published the Danish cartoons in a gesture of solidarity and to show that the core western value of freedom of expression would not be cowed by clerical fascism. This was marred by the abrupt sacking of the editor of one of these publications, France- Soir, by its French-Egyptian owner. More heartening was the reaction by the Jordanian independent tabloid al-Shihan which reprinted three of the cartoons on Thursday. As the BBC reported:
‘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?’
The New York Times reports that Carsten Juste, the editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, has concluded from all this that freedom of speech has lost.
‘My guess is that no one will draw the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark in the next generation, and therefore I must say with deep shame that they have won,’ he said in an interview with the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tiden.
And people still say there is no clash of civilisations. There is – and on this evidence, the west is losing it.
Posted by melanie at February 2, 2006