Monday, February 20, 2006

Yesterday the Washington Post had an enlightening opininion article by Flemming Rose, the editor at the Danish Jyllands-Posten who commissioned the twelve cartoons about Mohammed that sparked - with a delay of several months - so much verbal and physical violence among Muslims all over the world. In the article he explains why he thought and thinks that Europeans ought to confront the fact that as far as Islam is concerned they apply a form of censorship that is out of the question when it comes to discussions or satire regarding other religions. An example: "At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran." I think I agree with him, and I applaud him for holding on to his conviction in spite of the physical danger he obviously exposes himself ( and others ) to. If you have seen the cartoons and you are familiar with cartoons and other forms of satire in the West, you know that the twelve pictures in which Mohammed - I find it hard to 'recognize' him in the cartoons, I believe most of them rather picture Muslims in general, or even more the fanatics among them - is featured are quite soft. So many times much harsher criticism has been aimed by Western cartoonists at other religions and population groups: "...the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those." Mr Rose says: " treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims." Unfortunately, if the whole affair shows one thing, it is that some Muslims in Europe are simply unwilling or unable to be or become an integrated part of the societies where they have chosen to live or stay: "...if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy." The orchestrated or at least unrestrained outbursts of violence in countries such as Iran and Syria, the use of anti-Semitism to 'counter' the insults to Islam, plus the demonstrators' burning of the flags of Israel and America - two countries where the official reactions to the cartoons were very reserved and not always encouraging for the proponents of free speech - prove that, whether we like it or not, all this is much less about the boundaries of the freedom of expression than about the wars that are going on within the Muslim world as a whole and between part of that world and the West. As long as Western leaders bend backwards to convince themselves and their so-called allies that there is no such war, and as long as Western diplomats take the first flight to Saudi-Arabia or to any other powerful Muslim dictatorship to restore international calm after extremist and not so extremist Muslims have started to rant and rave once again, the West will keep losing another war, that against terror. Flemming Rose, who used to be a correspondent in the Soviet Union, tells us something important about censorship that makes sense, although the suggested comparison between communism and Islam falls short in many ways : "If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants." At least not all hope seems to be lost. According to Mr Rose, the reactions of most Muslims in Denmark show that they are aware of the fact that their extremist co-religionists threaten them as much as - or even more than - non-Muslims. In my opinion, that awareness is the key to our victory against Islamism and Islam-inspired terror.

No comments: