Muslim outrage over Mohammed Cartoons: why?
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Furious Syrians set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies on Saturday as protests over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad showed no signs of abating despite calls for calm.
Oil giant Iran, already embroiled in a dispute with the West over its nuclear programme, said it was reviewing trade ties with countries that have published such caricatures.
Chanting "God is Greatest," thousands of protesters stormed the Danish embassy, burned the Danish flag and replaced it with a flag reading "No God but Allah, Mohammad is His Prophet." They set fires which badly damaged the building before being put out.
No one was hurt as the embassy was closed at the time.
Demonstrators also set the Norwegian embassy ablaze. It was brought under control by firefighters.
Police fired teargas to disperse protesters there and also used water hoses to hold back others from storming the French embassy. Scores of riot police were also deployed to protect the U.S. mission.
Denmark and Norway advised their citizens to leave
Denmark is at the eye of the storm as the cartoons that Muslim demonstrators find offensive, one of the Prophet with a turban resembling a bomb, first appeared in a Danish daily.
A small Norwegian Christian newspaper was one of the first newspaper outside Denmark to publish the cartoons. They have now appeared in papers in Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Poland.
Sweden, which shares its Syrian embassy with Denmark and Chile, was also dragged into the Damascus protests. It summoned the Syrian ambassador in Stockholm in protest.
Sweden, Denmark and Norway said the Syrian authorities had not done enough to protect their buildings in the capital.
There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials.
Americans may well be perplexed over the depth of Muslim outrage over the publication, by private newpapers, of cartoons that they find offensive. After all, why should their outrage be directed at, say, the French and Danish governments over what a private newspaper publishes? Don't these people understand freedom of speech? Or is it, as some claim, that Muslims feel that the respective governments have some control over what their media publishes?
To see how many in the world feel about this, go here : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4677464.stm
Typical of the "tit for tat" is here:
We see the "hey, free speech comes with a price. Get used to it or leave":
UK'S DAILY TELEGRAPH
The right to offend within the law remains crucial to our free speech. Muslims who choose to live in the West must accept that we too have a right to our values, and to live according to them... Those Muslims who cannot tolerate the openness and robustness of intellectual debate in the West have perhaps chosen to live in the wrong culture.
Then we see "well, we have the right to do that, but just because we can doesn't mean that we should without a darned good reason":
UK'S THE GUARDIAN
It is one thing to assert the right to publish an image of the Prophet... but it is another thing to put that right to the test, especially when to do so inevitably causes offence to many Muslims... That is why the restraint of most of the British press may be the wiser course - at least for now. There has to be a very good reason for giving gratuitous offence of this kind.And then there is "They wouldn't do that if their governments didn't want them to":
There is nothing to prevent the governments of Denmark, Norway, France and others from adopting a responsible position towards the campaign to insult the noble messenger [Prophet Muhammad] and harm the Islamic nation at the heart of its belief.
Along with "we should react strongly to this insult"
ABD-AL-RAHMAN AL-SHAYKH IN SAUDI ARABIA'S AL-RIYAD
The issue of insulting and ridiculing the [Prophet Muhammad] is larger than can be confronted by the refusal of a citizen to buy a kilogram of cheese, a tin of butter or a tin of milk from a supermarket because it is manufactured in the country of the newspaper publishing the pictures.
MUKHLID AL-FA'URI IN JORDAN'S AL-RA'Y
The extent of the repeated offence against Islam and against the person of [Prophet Muhammad] by the scum of the Danish press is a matter which calls for provocation and disgust for that bad group of people who chose journalism as a profession.
As well as calls for restraint: "hey, you are giving them reason to believe the worst stereotypes about us"
Despite the great insult, uncalculated responses - especially attacks on European nationals in the Muslim world - do not go hand in hand with the morals of Islam and its Prophet because they are the Muslims' guests, and protecting them is a sacred obligation.
AHMAD DAHBUR IN PALESTINIAN AL-HAYAT AL-JADIDAH
The Danish caricatures insulting Prophet Muhammad and Islam are a snowball rolling down the hill and getting bigger and bigger... Thus an insulting pincer movement closed down on us from two directions: the slander against our faith and our presentation as tyrants who do not recognise freedom of expression.
ADL is opposed to religious, racial and ethnic stereotyping in the media. We found some of the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten troubling, particularly the direct linkage of Mohammad and violence.
In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League weighs in with a "we feel your pain, but many in your culture routinely do the same thing to us":
At the same time, we are gravely concerned by the extreme violent reaction these cartoons have generated in Muslim communities in Europe, and particularly in the Middle East. It is certainly the right of individuals and governments to express their disagreement with these depictions. However, the use of violence, threats, boycotts and other extreme reactions are highly inappropriate and bode ill for future debates involving Islam, democracy and free speech.
What has been overlooked in the controversy is the fact that despicable anti-Jewish caricatures appear daily in newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world. While invoking the supposed "freedom of the press" in their countries, Arab and Muslim leaders have refused to take any action to stem the drumbeat of anti-Semitism in widely circulated newspapers, many state-sponsored. Indeed, leaders of regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have virtually ignored appeals from the United States and Jewish organizations to put an end to incitement in their media, excusing it in the name of "freedom of the press." One would hope that leaders of Arab and Muslim countries would turn all of the anger being aimed at the European press into a larger lesson for their own people about the power of images.
ADL is strongly committed to free speech and freedom of the press Â principles we consider the cornerstones of democracy. In a democratic society, newspapers need to be free to publish controversial content without fear of censorship or intimidation of their writers and editors. At the same time, newspapers and all media outlets should to take into account the sensitivities of racial, ethnic and religious groups.
So, why the fuss? What Americans have to remember is that our laws are much more "free speech oriented" than the laws of other European countries. For example, France has laws that forbid certain types of "hate speech" and other countries have laws that prohibits speech that "insults" certain protected groups, such as females and homosexuals. For example, see:
French law prohibits public speech or writings that incite to racial or religious hatred, as well as those that deny the Jewish Holocaust. Proponents and supporters of these measures allege that they fight against the spread of neo-nazi ideas and a climate of racism; opponents contend that these laws stifle the freedom of speech in France, and make it difficult to engage in the criticism of the practices of some religions, or in the discussion of immigration. The only major party opposed to those laws are the National Front whose leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been a target of them.
In December 2004, a controversial addition was made to the law, criminalizing the prohibition to hatred or violence against people because of their sexual orientation.
Such laws have been used against people; for example a French comic:
PARIS, Dec 4 (AFP) - A French comedian who appeared on television dressed as an Orthodox Jew and made the Hitler salute shouting "Heil Israel" has demanded an apology from the programme-makers after they described his performance as offensive.
Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala - universally known as just Dieudonne - called a press conference Wednesday night to answer accusations that his appearance on Monday's edition of "You can't please everyone" on state-owned France 3 television was anti-Semitic.
"Everyone is so touchy about this issue, but I claim the right to take on sensitive subjects," he said, threatening to sue France 3 unless it withdrew the charge of anti-Semitism which he said was levelled against him.
"The ones who are really suffering from racism are not the Jews, but blacks and Arabs. It is easier to make fun of Muslim fundamentalism than Israeli fundamentalism," he said.
Earlier the presenter of the show Marc-Olivier Fogiel as well as the board of France 3 issued statements declaring themselves "shocked and scandalised" by Dieudonne's performance, without directly accusing him of anti-Semitism.Fogiel said the comedian's remarks - which went out live - had taken them by surprise.
"We were trapped. We are culpable for being over-trusting. Today we feel betrayed and insulted by his words," he said.
The 37-year-old son of a French mother and a Cameroonian father, Deidonne has made himself a name for his often controversial humour. Last year an appeal court acquitted him of slander after he described white Catholics as racist slavers.
In my opinion, a nice essay on the wisdom of such laws can be found here:
So, it appears to me that much of the response is of the kind: "hey, you protect all of these other groups but you won't protect us! Why?" So, this is really a protest aimed at European governments rather than at ours, though there are many non-Americans who don't realize that, at least as far as ourgovernmentt is concerned, hate speech is indeed protected in this country.
For example, see the following diary at the Daily Kos by Raiyan where he comments: "Let's remember, even Kos has banned users and limited speech. Hate speech isn't protected in liberal democracies." http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/2/3/17546/89345