I have a lot of sympathy right now for Arabs and Muslims who were offended by the publication of cartoons mocking Mohammed. It’s another example of media irresponsibility: as if the newspaper that published them, Jyllands-Posten, didn’t anticipate this reaction.
As a media owner, I keep a careful eye on this sort of thing. When we ran a picture of Gov Schwarzenegger in one issue of Lucire, I made sure the Democrats had someone: we ran a photo of former governor, Gray Davis, in the same issue. While it’s not always one-to-one, I am sensitive—as I know how politicized some of our readers might be. Some people are anal enough to keep count.
That’s just over mere politics. Now we are dealing with something far deeper, more meaningful.
It is a shame that this foolishness on behalf of Jyllands-Posten has made Danish expatriates in the Middle East uncomfortable—and some are distancing themselves from their homeland’s behaviour. The Danish government has refused to intervene, which says very little about its understanding of foreign affairs.
I would have let this stand, as there are enough bloggers dealing with it. But for this: now other media are publishing the cartoons. Why? One newspaper’s actions might seem to be foolish, but now this just seems malicious: no one can claim ignorance on how offended Muslims can be through blaspheming their prophet. And yet so many in the west like to portray Islam as an intolerant faith. What hypocrites these media are, with their prejudices.
This is far worse than the racist cartoons that were published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with Chinese in pigtails and Russians in Bolshevik costumes, being made a mockery. Then, it was just about other races. This time, it is about the holiest ﬁgure in a religion, short of Allah Himself.
The publications have served to unite Arabs and Muslims around the world. It’s a pity that a lack of respect for them and their most sacred beliefs will lead to disunity between them and western Europe.
The media’s duty needs to be very similar to the wishes of citizens if we are to survive. And I sense the world would rather we have unity over discord, in which case we have failed to further the agenda of the public we supposedly serve.
Del.icio.us tags: Islam | Muslim | Arab | media | newspaper | blasphemy Posted by Jack Yan, 05:26
Was that really necessary? TV One’s Close-up show displayed two of the images. Prior to showing a video spooﬁng Jesus Christ, anchorwoman Susan Wood gave a warning to Christians—but no such warning was given to Muslims with the cartoons. And after the video, the über-liberal hostess laughed, which probably was more offensive to Christians than the video itself. Whatever happened to respect and décorum? Sadly lacking from anchors’ desks, it seems.
Take a look to this web:
Aren't they more offensive than a few jokes about islam, and showing the truth in a funny way?
Klovs, I personally found them highly distasteful, and some actually disgust me to the point of feeling sick. But these are, ultimately, cartoons about men, not about sacred ﬁgures. So one might have an equivalent cartoon portraying the late Yasser Arafat or others in various ways (cartoons which I am sure exist).
I think there’s quite a clear line between the Danish cartoons and the ones you show here. From what I understand, the Danish series could have been effective without showing Mohammed, and instead showing various Muslims. I simply say leave religious ﬁgures out of it, though I am no apologist for either side of this political debate.
Klovs, I thank you for posting this link. I truly do. It is highly important to show how the Jewish people are being lampooned and just how low some political commentators can go.
The form of cartoons is really bad but after all now they are the kind of cultural performance. Like famous self portrait of Dourer in pose of Jesus made five hundred years ago. When you are so happy with globalization you should not forget about bad differences between people. Egyptian can not just become Christian there as you can become Muslim hare. He just have no such right de facto. What we have now шт Europe? From one point of view there is political populism while so many Europeans not happy with arab emigrants and Islam aggressiveness. Second point is that it is a kind of cultural difference to laughing on symbols of faith (it is middle ages tradition, take "Cyprian's Supper" for example). And finally it is manifestation of “Europeaness” it-self after all its modern tolerance: we are, we are different, we still have enough strength to just laughing on you and not to hate and want to kill each of you, and we live as we want to live here. Europe is still strong brand I think.
you left a comment in a Russian discussion about the Danish cartoons where I linked to you post - thank you!
Also, thank you for your post, I think it is very balanced and carefully thought out. Not very much of that in local blogs about the case. The people read (very many of them professional journalists) tend to take the side of the Danish journalist and Prime minister and basically blame the Muslims. I hope your post gives them another point of view.
Best regards from Moscow
# posted by Anonymous: 2/03/2006 01:58:00 PM
Alex, you raise some excellent points: thank you. Yes, history has shown that there was mockery of others’ religious symbols, and there are ‘bad differences’ between people, as you say. Europeans hold a different perspective about what is permissible in terms of humour, much of it, as you say, from being secure after a lengthy period of freedom. With many issues resolved after World War II, and with the EU a reality in so many parts of life, there is an area in which Europeans can say, ‘Murder is wrong, and I don’t wish it upon you, but I can still laugh at you.’
But my issue is that we need to understand others’ context, and there is much to be gained by having that initial respect. We are talking about a culture detached from continental Europe traditionally. Meanwhile, fundamentally, everyone wants to get along—I dare say we would all rather live in peace and harmony than war and disharmony.
In 2006, I would hope that we have advanced to a point where some of these “traditions” of laughing at symbols of faith aren’t needed. There are plenty of other things to laugh about: we, as individual humans, for one.
This case is where I believe just simple understanding would not have been too much to ask—and, in fact, the publication of these cartoons (and the republication!) actually weakens Brand Europe.
Being neither Muslim nor European I hope I speak without bias.
Pirkko, thank you for your kind words. I hope my (computer-assisted-translated) Russian was not too bad. My mother learned the language as a child and passed on a few phrases.
It is sad that the media can be one-sided on this story. I always try to look at both sides as I see how bias negatively affects the reputation of the media. People have so many more places to go to for balanced news now.
Was it is bad taste? Possibly. Was it offensive to some? Obviously. Was it wrong to print them? No.
Of the 12 cartoons, only half make any sort of statement that could be construde to be hostile to the Prophet or Islam. Of those: 1 mocks the cartoon itself, 1 opposes suicide bombings, and 1 does not actually show the Prophet (as is true of one of the 'non-hostile' ones). The West has often used symbols of religions (including Christ, Moses and the Pope) as shorthand in cartoons for followers of those religions. It has a long tradition. And some sects of the Christian faith oppose idolitry, it is not a stance unique to Islam.
It is unfortunate that this has inspired violence and not a proper dialog between Islamic scohlars and the Western press. But I will have to come down on the side of a press free to insult, rather then one bound.
Republishing Multiple Mohammed Cartoons and Insulting Images: Is This Really Necessary?
Sean, I respect your viewpoint, and it’s healthy for all of us to have a dialogue—something the blogs are doing far better than the mainstream media. But I don’t really go for the argument of, ‘The west has done this, so the Muslims need to get in line with using religious symbols’ (not your words, I know). You are totally correct there are some Christians offended by the misuse of symbols, but my impression from the argument (I may be wrong, but learning is one reason I post) that the proportion of Muslims is far, far greater—certainly enough to provoke this furore.
I still believe there is a ﬁndable, happy medium between a free press and not crossing the line to offend so many. I tread that line on a daily basis, and know it’s entirely possible, simply by having respect for the cultures that might be touched by my publications. I can’t help but think that the respect was not there in these instances, and the more I see of western media that cover the story, the more I feel my viewpoint supported.
It may be useful to repost my comment from Gina’s blog here.
I agree with Gina. This is not wholly about censorship and allowing others to come in and gag us. This is about the fact that in the age of citizen media, we are all ambassadors for our culture, and a horrible job we are doing of that. Diplomatic relations rely on a sense of decorum and respect. These messages, of taking a stab at a stereotypical Muslim way, could have easily been achieved by illustrations of, say, Arafat or various al-Qaeda members. I would argue, looking at other cartoons (including some I was referred to that really made some distasteful comparisons between the President, Prime Minister Sharon, Hitler and Satan) that most cartoonists would take stabs at people, not their beliefs. There is a happy medium to be found here—just as there is some sense of refrain on network television that they don’t cuss before a certain hour.
We would be wrong to analyse this issue through western eyes, saying that if we are OK with funny jokes about Jesus Christ that the Muslims ought to be cool with jokes about Mohammed. Once upon a time—we only need to look back 75 years—we, too, would have been offended as a culture with images of Jesus in a cartoon. This does not make the Muslims and Arabs 75 years behind us—but this should be something borne in mind on why the Danish newspaper and the republications have caused offence.
If we are proud of our western heritage and freedoms, then we should act like it. Civility and civilization are marked by the human abilities to refrain from acting like animals, and respecting customs and codes. The United States was certainly capable of doing so during its heyday of the mid-20th century, its ﬁnest hour, although I reserve judgement on its racial record at that point; and China’s greatest period of prosperity, the Sung Dynasty, was marked with the same sense of civilization and pride. Nations that retain that sense enjoy freedom—and also harmony.
As Gina says in her original post, the west has made some great gains in the freedoms that you talk about, Marvin. And we did this without insulting their beliefs. Indeed, we did this while respecting them—and showed those who might sympathize with the terrorists that that was better. Now we are reversing those gains and losing a ﬁght of ‘hearts and minds’, as the President might put it.
Relations between nations are like relations between people. Just as I don’t expect, on my ﬁrst meeting with Marvin, to be punched in the face by him, the Islamic world doesn’t expect to get a black eye from a cartoonist in a commentary. Marvin would tolerate my making a joke about him, probably, but I expect if I bring his mother’s sex life into it, then I’ve got a kick in the teeth coming (whether physical or in sense). Same thing here, except most Muslims seem to ﬁnd this far more grave than a quip about a parent’s private habits—this strikes at something very dear and precious to them, and, as Gina says, we should be having dialogue, not alienation, with the Muslim world.
An excellent post by Jamal, a Muslim living in London, provides further context. Thank you, Jamal, for your blog post.
Update: a good summary from Global Voices of further views.
One gentleman who has read this blog has sent me some more links and has just as valid a viewpoint as me. I haven’t his permission yet to post his name, but the links he has sent may serve as well-reasoned counterpoints: an article from a US Muslim, which perhaps incorporates both cultures well; and Victor Hanson at the National Review.
As you know, I like giving credit where it’s due and Mr John Newman kindly gave me permission to mention his name in connection with the comment above. Thank you, John—I appreciate the links and the balance they provide.
What the hell is all the fuss about anyway? These cartoons are POKING FUN! Censorship sucks cRaCk! Society today is full of hypocritical retards who can't tell their arse from their elbow! I haven't even found ONE clear pic of the cartoons YET. I am dissapointed greatly, how news stations such as CNN, CTV, ABC, NBC, CBC, ETC., haven't shown them yet. WIMPS! NEWS IS TO LET US KNOW WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW! NOT TO BE CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT. FREEDOM OF SPEECH, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, THESE MEAN NOTHING NOW. I would, as an artist, love to see these cartoons, they sound quite controversial, and I want to see why everyone is so OUTRAGED. My dad is even more P.O'd than me about this, he actually yelled at the screen. I think our news stations should show us these pictures. I really don't like your opinion on this topic, and I hope you see that you are not a "Persuader". But you are one of the few people out there in th world who is AWARE! Thank god for that. Later.
# posted by Nick, from Canada: 2/14/2006 02:38:00 AM
Nick, I did post a reply to you on the day you wrote me, and it was conﬁrmed as published, but it has disappeared off my own blog! What is Blogger up to?
I believe my response before was that I could insult your mother with some pretty disgusting words, but it wouldn’t serve anything. It would piss you off. I believe this is similar, except it’s about a religion some folks are even more passionate about.
We just need to respect the fact that some people have different values to us. That’s all. Doesn’t mean their standards are better or worse. Mutual respect (and this needs to come from Muslims, too—three of the cartoons were actually concocted by Muslim groups to anger their own people) is all I ask for.
I also provided a link to the cartoons for you, but that has disappeared. It wasn’t a direct link, since I have no interest in breaking my own advice. But Google Whale Oil for a New Zealand site where they are linked.
Finally, on the Persuader name. You may be too young to remember a marketing book called The Hidden Persuader. That was part of the inspiration. Secondly, there was a TV show called The Persuaders, which I also wanted to pay tribute to.
Well, it’s a very nice effort to start a dialogue between different civilizations. But I have not seen any view point from Muslims in this blogg (may be mine would be the first if accepted).
We have recently seen a video released about torture incurred by British soldiers in Iraq. British Prime minister argued that this was an individual act of some soldiers and cannot be depicted on whole British nation. But at the same time how could the act of some individuals or some organizations could be depicted about a whole religion? A religion, that never allows the killing of innocent people. I we have a look at the history of civilizations and religions, we can gather many examples of terrorist act and killings of innocent people, but we do not blame those religions and civilizations for those acts. Like when some Jews crucified Jesus (according to Christians) or a similar faced person (according to Muslims); we do not stay responsible the whole Judaism. In similar way when Hitler killed thousands of Jews, Christians (even Germans) were not labeled as terrorists. When Americans throw atomic bombs on Japan, killing and wounding millions of innocent people; Christians were not labeled as terrorists. When fanatic parties in India killed more than 2000 innocent people in Gujarat in 2002; the whole Hindu religion was not blamed of being terrorist. There are many more examples like IRA in Ireland, Tamil tigers in Sri Lanka, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia………..etc.
So one cannot blame the whole nation or a religion because of a barbaric act of some fanatics.
Now coming to the “freedom of speech or freedom of expression”. Now the question is that should there be some limitations of it or not. There are two schools of thoughts on this topic. One group who demand “unlimited” freedom of expression and the others are who say there should be “freedom of expression” but in some ethical and moral boundaries.
Normally the example of “your freedom ends, where my nose starts” is given in the support of “limited freedom of expression”. If we look at the censorship practices in recent past we can see the following examples.
1. Israeli arrested on charges of anti-Semitism (1993)
2. Ethnic sensitivity among Jewish publications (1992) USA
3.The Philadelphia Daily News declined publication of the cartoon, reasoning that the MOVE member (on the right) “clearly shows African-American features,” and that “it would incite the city’s black population.” All members of MOVE were black.
4. Palestinian intimidated from one side, censored from the other (1996)
5. Clinton cartoon censored for taste in Israel (1994)
6. Japanese politician takes own life over a missing stroke in a cartoon (1992)
Finishing my comment I would like to say that I feel some reservations in saying that the printing of offensive cartoons in “Jyllands-Posten” and then reprinting it in many different newspapers in Europe and America is just for “freedom of speech”. There is something hidden behind it, that we need to know.
# posted by Tauqir: 2/19/2006 06:39:00 PM
Thank you for your comments, Tauqir. I agree that freedom of expression was not the reason for republication—it surrounds either money and power (short-term sales and newspapers showing they have inﬂuence), or more sinister aims (provoking outrage against Muslims in a propaganda war). I also agree that it is totally wrong to assume the actions of a few extremists are typical of all of one religion; and your examples are pretty good. I used the one of Timothy McVeigh, who was reported in the Arab press as a Christian fundamentalist—a very similar effect there for Christians.Post a Comment
I believe yours may be the second Muslim comment on this blog. I know these entries were carried by at least one other Muslim blog, but I am glad to read your point of view directly here.
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