Friday, February 10, 2006
FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN DENMARK:
Thanks to Steve (again), we have a nice Salon article by a Dane about just how much this whole thing really has to do with free speech (i.e., very little) and with Danish feeling about the Muslims in their midst (a lot).This all would have been very well if the paper had a long tradition of standing up for fearless artistic expression. But it so happens that three years ago, Jyllands-Posten refused to publish cartoons portraying Jesus, on the grounds that they would offend readers. According to a report in the Guardian, which was provided with a letter from the cartoonist, Christoffer Zieler, the editor explained back then, “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.” When confronted with the old rejection letter, the editor, Jens Kaiser, said, “It is ridiculous to bring this forward now. It has nothing to do with the Mohammed cartoons.” But why does it not? Can you offend Muslim readers but not Christian readers? “In the Muhammed drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons,” Kaiser said. “That’s the difference.”Hmm, so as it happens this is arguably against Danish law. How now, Smalltown Boy?
And therein lies the truth. The paper wanted to instigate trouble, just not the kind of trouble it got. And in this mission it acted in concert with the Danish government. "We have gone to war against the multicultural ideology that says that everything is equally valid," boasted the minister of cultural affairs, Brian Mikkelsen, in a speech at his party's annual meeting the week before Rose's cartoon editorial last fall. Mikkelsen is a 39-year-old political science graduate known for his hankering for the “culture war.” He continued, “The Culture War has now been raging for some years. And I think we can conclude that the first round has been won.” The next front, he said, is the war against the acceptance of Muslims norms and ways of thought. The Danish cultural heritage is a source of strength in an age of globalization and immigration. Cultural restoration, he argued, is the best antidote.
The Danish government has protested that Danish Muslims and the Islamic countries have conspired in a misinformation campaign regarding both the paper's motives and the law of the land. Among the examples of preposterous misinformation are that the paper is run by the government, and that the government can do anything to regulate what is said or not said. While radical Islamists have exaggerated and exploited these themes to incite violent protest, the painful reality is that there is some truth to them. The paper is related to the government, not by ownership but by political affinity and history. And Denmark is no paragon of free speech. Article 140 of the Criminal Code allows for a fine and up to four months of imprisonment for demeaning a “recognized religious community.”
Mogens Glistrup, a tax protester turned xenophobe, was imprisoned for 20 days last year for a racist speech. He compared Turks to rabbits
posted by Sully 2/10/2006 03:02:00 PM
TAPped takes it to Sullivan:
In recent years, Denmark has not offered the same courtesy extended to Jews during WWII to their darker-than-blond minority populations; the children of immigrants to Denmark are not considered Danes. Kids whose parents were asylum seekers or economic migrants in the 1960s but who may have never been outside Denmark are still considered second-generation immigrants rather than full blooded Danes. And Denmark, a seemingly liberal and tolerant country, has adopted a reactionary politics as a response to the growing number of Muslims in their midst. This cartoon was a combative offshoot of that kind of politics that was directed at Muslims in Copenhagen — not Beirut.
European conservatives — and Andrew Sullivan — have tended to ignore this half of the story, and see the conflagration over the cartoons exclusively about the Muslim world’s backwardness and their lack of tolerance for the freedom of expression. To be sure, every liberal should agree that a newspaper ought to be able to print any political satire it wants. But condemnation of the riots must be accompanied with a challenge to Europe to expand its definition of citizenship. And where that definition already includes immigrant populations, say France, public policy ought to be used to address the lack of social mobility that plagues the minority population of Western Europe.
If the two do not go hand in hand, nothing positive can come out of the current crisis.
posted by Sully 2/10/2006 02:58:00 PM
Thursday, February 09, 2006
BONUS QUESTION (10 POINTS):Whem more Muslims can look at a banal cartoon of Muhammad with the same equanimity that most Catholics experience when viewing South Park’s bleeding Virgin Mary, we will live in a calmer, safer world.Leaving aside fixing the typo, explain how a) William Donohue, for instance, would agree with this statement and b) how this reconciles with Sullivan’s frequent sighs over supposedly too-secular liberals not understanding the role of faith for the faithful.
posted by Sully 2/09/2006 12:54:00 AM
IT’S THE REALITY OF THE CARTOONS, NOT THE IDEA:It’s a “cheap point” to illustrate the climate of fear and intimidation that free artists and writers live under in Europe when tackling the issue of Islam.Let us state once again that these cartoons were not about illustrating Bluitgen’s problem finding an illustrator. These cartoons were about giving offense and making provocation.
Remember that Jyllands-Posten had the opportunity three years ago to publish similarly irreverent cartoons of Jesus, but declined (Thanks Steve). And note the sleight of hand where, to inoculate the newspaper against charges of conservatism, he slyly switches the ground to Danish politics:After all, the newspaper that published them could be broadly described as “conservative.” “Conservative” in a land where the welfare state is well to the left of America's Democratic party.Oh really? Let’s see what Wikipedia, a source he’s trusted as of late, has to say about that:
Political position Centre-rightIt seems to us they have learned a lesson from the U.S. right’s Mighty Wurlitzer as well.
Until 1938 the paper supported officially the Conservative Party. Since then the paper has regarded itself as an independent newspaper that is somewhat right of the middle.
In the 1920s and '30s the paper was, like many other European newspapers and political parties at that time, infamous for its sympathy for fascism and understanding of the German Nazi dictatorship. When Benito Mussolini in 1922 became the leader of a fascist coalition government in Italy, the paper wrote: “The very strong man, that Mussolini absolutely is, is exactly what the misruled Italian people needs”The 2001 election focused primarily on the immigration question. Rasmussen succeeded in convincing the public that he would be able to tighten the allegedly liberal “family reunification”-legislation of the Social Democratic government of then prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. The laws he suggested would, he claimed prevent forced marriages by immigrants. Jyllands-Posten contributed to this campaign with articles and editorials supporting the opinion of Anders Fogh Rasmussen. For example, two days before the election, the newspaper ran an extensive article about welfare fraud amongst immigrants, a series which is sometimes credited with the collapse of the vote amongst pro-immigrant parties.So, let us have no doubt about where Denmark’s largest morning newspaper stands.
And, it occurs to us for the first time in many months, Sullivan has his own problem with images he’d like to suppress.
posted by Sully 2/09/2006 12:32:00 AM
STILL MOVING THE GOALPOSTS:
Taheri’s piece draws distinctions without differences. One has to wonder if he even saw the Danish cartoons. Note that he fails to note that Muhammad’s face is depicted much less than his whole body (actually, he does note this but only by implication: “Visitors to other museums, including some in Europe, would find miniatures and book illuminations depicting Muhammad, at times wearing his Meccan burqa (cover) or his Medinan niqab (mask).” (emphasis ours).
Nor does he go into whether or not these Muslim cultures were tolerant of similarly amusing satire from heathens.
Both of these issues are necessarily relevant to the current case.
posted by Sully 2/09/2006 12:26:00 AM
Monday, February 06, 2006
THOSE SILLY LITTLE BROWN PEOPLE:The Supreme Court building has a visual depiction of Muhammad on it. Oh horror!We rest our case. With this remark, Sullivan shows that the spirit of 2002 is still very much alive in him and he remains just as much as ever the same terrace yob (or let’s call him chav, as per the new British fashion) as he ever was. He doesn’t care, doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to.
Andrew (or should we call you Andy? By your own lights you deserve it), there is a world of difference between depicting Muhammad (or, more accurately, depicting Muhammad’s face) and eating pork. For one, not even the most Orthodox Jews are ever going to take it personally if you do. They know full well that kosher is for them, not you.
And more importantly, eating the flesh of a cloven-hooved animal is not as central to Judaism as Muhammad is to Islam (again, and we’ve been saying this a lot lately, to put it mildly). Consider that Muslims themselves have traditionally respected this prohibition ... so we have no way of knowing what Muhammad really looked like. You can’t defend those cartoons on the grounds that they are merely following Muslim representations, because there aren’t any to follow. Thus any depiction of Muhammad’s face by a non-Muslim would be seen as a heathen invention, doubly offensive (It would have been interesting, though, if one of the Danish cartoonists had decided to follow these examples).
The problem is not, as some want you to believe, that Muhammad is depicted by non-Muslims. Westerners have shown in the past that they can tell Muhammad’s story without giving offense (and here’s some more).
Oh, and as for such representations in American courts, Josh Marshall has a little bit on how they’ve been handled here in the past.
posted by Sully 2/06/2006 01:39:00 PM
Sunday, February 05, 2006
THE FIRES OF DAMASCUS:
Our post below on how the outrage over the cartoons must be considered in the context of the social status (or lack thereof) of European Muslims has drawn more linkage than anything else we’ve written in quite some time, as well as an awful lot of search-engine hits from all over Europe on phrases in the cartoons, especially “we ran out of virgins” (which, to be fair, is funny even if we aren’t on the whole big fans of the idea behind the cartoons). So, some quick responses before kickoff.
Another one of our fellow watchbloggers, LGF Watch, seconds us entirely. “Sometimes ‘political correctness’ is, well, correct.”
While generally agreeing with us, Jasper Emmering disputes our characterization of European citizenship laws and how they apply to immigrants. We defer ... he’s a lot closer to that situation than we are.
Nevertheless, taking Jasper’s points, one must ask why it is that Euromuslims feel like second-class citizens, even if they technically aren’t. You can point to the pull still exerted by their native countries and cultures, but you can also find a bit of the attitude exemplified in Dave Weeden’s post here.
Yes, Dave, we know quite well who Zinédine Zidane is and what he represents. But citing him as a refutation of this argument is, we respectfully submit, the same as writing “the marginalised of America” with that (purely theoretical, of course) link would have been in, say, 1962. Yes, Euromuslims have found success on the soccer fields and reality television screens of much of the EU. That doesn’t make that level of marginalization any less real, and if Europeans are going to haul out Zizou by way of refutation, we’ve got some broken dreams of early 1970s American liberalism they can go sit next to.
Going back to LGF Watch:A young American who happens to be black, or Latino, or Asian, can turn on his TV and see other black and Latino and Asian faces — starring in commercials, reporting the news, and generally participating in the American mainstream. In Europe, especially in countries (unlike the UK) whose multi-ethnic experiment is relatively recent, this rarely happens. It would of course be fatuous to suggest that hiring a few more Moroccan newsreaders would solve all of Europe’s problems, but it would be equally fatuous to insist that the contempt some European Muslims have for the societies in which they live is entirely one-sided. Which is why SW's description of the Jyllands Posten affair as “recklessly insensitive” is so apt.And then from Gilliard, who isn’t responding to this post but as usual is unafraid to get down and dirty with the hard facts:Refusing to meet with the Arab ambassadors was a serious mistake. The Syrians showed how seriously
I have been amazed at the way people, first, refuse to understand that depicting Muhammad in any form is a grave insult, second, this was done by a right wing newspaper to piss people off, and third, how shocked Europeans are at the way Muslims feel about a grave insult to their religion.
Now, the Europeans play the innocent party, and people suggest that Muslims should leave if they don’t like being insulted in the West
American missionaries routinely go to China and deliver bibles, even though the government prohibits it, Yet, if the Chinese should jail one, all hell would break loose. Why doesn’t the West respect Chinese customs?
But the fact that Muslims are in Europe is simple: they were invited. Scut work was too much for Europeans after the war, so they invited in Muslims to clean their streets, build their cars and do the other things Europeans didn’t want to do.
Six countries in Europe had colonies with large Muslim populations: France, the UK, Holland, Germany, Italy and Spain.
They exploited their lands, murdered their people, and ruled them with an iron fist. French muslims died to liberate France from the Nazis, Indian and Pakistani muslims sent the Japanese packing from Burma. Libyan Muslims fought side by side with Mussolini's Army. Muslims helped fight the British in Tananyika for the Germans. Muslims in Indonesia made Holland one of the richest countries on earth.
But it’s easy to forget this. It’s all “those ungrateful Muslims.” But they were heroes when they were stopping bullets in the Arakan and the hills of Italy.They died side by side with French paras in Dien Bien Phu and throughout the Algerian Revolution.
So let’s stop pretending that this is a one-sided exchange. Massive immigration to Europe could hardly make up for the collective criminality the West has visited upon the Muslim world.
I mean, the CIA helped Suharto kill 1,000,000 Indonesians and waged war against him in Ambon. Forgottten history in the US, not Indonesia.
Europeans wanted the benefits of Muslim land and later labor, but thought they would morph into little brown Europeans. Despite being excluded from the benefits of the wider society, and often facing bitter discrimination. And now that they want to keep some of their identity, they’re no longer wanted.
The fact is that Europeans needed them and they created multicultural societies in fact, something many are now uncomfortable with. They forget how their companies recruited these people to work for them, but didn’t make room for them in their societies
posted by Sully 2/05/2006 05:03:00 PM