Cartoon controversy

Speaking of orchestrated demonstrations and the like (see next entry down), did anyone get that impression of the demonstrations against the Danish cartoons that were shown on the TV last night?

I was planning a long post on the subject, but Safiyyah and Farah have said pretty much what I wanted to say. I have to say I’ve not received any text messages encouraging me to boycott Danish goods or send emails to the Danish government or the newspaper involved, but Farah reports that she’s been inundated with them, one of them claiming that the cartoonist has been killed and the Danish government is keeping it quiet. (More: Umar Lee, Svend White, Izzy Mo, UZ, Harry’s Place.)

I did get a couple of emails from one brother through a source never before associated with letter-writing campaigns or action alerts. The brother told me that he had emailed the Danish foreign affairs minister telling him that he would not buy any Danish products until the newspaper apologised. I tried hard to think of any Danish products I consumed (the best known of their products is Danish bacon!), and came to the conclusion that my boycott of their products would make no difference to them whatsoever. So I didn’t join in.

The gulf between the realities of the Muslim world and this country’s is shown by people thinking that polticians can be pressured into leaning on newspapers. Freedom of speech is considered sacred in most western countries although there are obvious exceptions and qualifications which differ from country to country (criminal libel, Holocaust denial, insulting foreign heads of state), but in this country at least, free speech is absolute other than where it threatens people or incites violence. (There is an important exception: the Treason Felony Act, criminalising the suggestion of abolishing the monarchy, which was passed during a time of revolution in Europe, but it has not been invoked against open calls for abolition in recent times.) Don’t they know that their campaigning did not succeed in getting The Satanic Verses banned? It is still in print and on sale more than a decade later. And I had huge difficulty explaining to a Bosnian visitor why we could not demand that a book which insulted our religion and our Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) be banned.

And what reaction did these people show when Muslims were actually being massacred in India in 2002? There was one well-known case, although I don’t imagine that it was unique, of Muslims (visitors from the UK in this case) being dragged from their cars and murdered in Gujarat, to say nothing of the organised “rioting” and murder which went on in the same state. I never got any messages telling me not to buy Indian goods until the murderers were brought to justice. I don’t know of any boycott of French goods in response to their discriminatory policies against Muslim women in the health and education systems. Why on earth are people talking about punishing all Danish companies for the actions of one newspaper? To say nothing of the workers in the factories making their goods under licence in the Middle East, who would no doubt be the biggest losers in this story.

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