Monday, February 06, 2006

More Free Speech

When writing about the cartoons yesterday I focused on what was going on New Zealand. This is because I just don't understand the reaction around the world. I didn't really have any analysis, and didn't know where to start.

Iraq and Palestine are under occupation, prisoners are still being kept at Guantanamo Bay, and people are rioting against cartoons published 5 months ago in a tiny newspaper?

Someone or something is fanning these flames, and I don't know who, and I don't know why. But I will say there's more going on than I understand, and leave it at that.


  1. I guess all the other bad things have been going on for a while. When the US first invaded Afghanistan, Muslims did riot, even in places like Nairobi that you wouldn't normally associate with Islamic revolution.

    I'm a militant agnostic, but I think that the cartoons might help to radicalise more muslims. My hope would be that they have an Islamic revolution, then when they realise they've just substituted another form of social control they'll lynch the mullahs and adopt anarchism. Unlikely I know.

  2. Anonymous12:43 am

    Maia, perhaps a good place to start would be the social and political context; in particular, the lurch to the right in Danish politics in recent years. The right wing populist Danish People's Party won 13 percent of the vote in February 2005 and their leaders have been increasingly emboldened to make xenophobic statements:

    In early October 2005, the website of Louise Frevert, a member of the Danish People's Party and a member of parliament, hosted articles declaring among other things that Danish Muslims believe it is their inherent right to rape native Danish women.

    Frevert was also said to have written a document in 2004 alleging that Muslims in Denmark had formulated secret plans to take over the country.

    The Muslim community complained and Prime Minister Rasmussen stepped in saying "What has been reproduced is an unacceptable attitude".

    The articles on the website were quickly removed.

    An extreme right wing Danish radio station has had its transmitting licence revoked several times for making racist hate speeches against Muslims, most recently in September 2005:

    The cartoons were therefore part of a broader challenge to the restrictions on freedom to vilify Muslims. Denmark is fast becoming a less tolerant society.

    A European socialist writer challenges the claim that the conflict is between free speech and religious censorship, or between Western enlightenment and Islamic bigotry:

    "A campaign is emerging to depict Islam as an inferior culture that is incompatible with “Western values.” There are clear parallels here to the anti-Semitic caricatures that were spread in the 1930s by fascist newspapers such as the Nazi Stürmer. The depiction of Jews as sub-humans served as the ideological preparation for the Holocaust.

    "Today the systematic defamation of Muslims is being used to prepare public opinion for new wars against countries such as Iran and Syria—wars which will be even more brutal than the Iraq war, and could well involve the use of nuclear weapons."

    This is where my reading has led to tonight and I thought I'd share it with you. It's certainly a more complex issue than it seems at first glance.