I’ve drawn a few comments on my posts on the general air of hysteria and hypocrisy surrounding the “Muhammed Cartoons” which, for no better reason that I feel like it, I’ve decided to address openly in a post rather than in the comments.
On Sunday, I made some general observations about the artificiality of this whole issue. My instincts then, and certainly my belief now, is that this is only superfically about freedom of expression and that the real issues lay is asking who benefits from all this and what do they get out of it? who is manipulating this situation for their own ends, or jumping on the bandwagon to make a bit of political capital out of bad situation.
And, for my troubles I was told that I was completely wrong. Well if I am wrong, then how do people account for this:
The British National Party’s newspaper, Freedom, has now launched its ‘May 4th is Referendum Day’ campaign in preparation for this year’s local council elections.
The purpose of the campaign is to give the public a chance to voice their concern over the growth of Islam in Britain. Freedom editor, Martin Wingfield explains:
“We have had suicide bombers in London and we are seeing riots across the Channel.
“However the media and our Government try to cloud the issue by blaming British and French society and not the terrorists and rioters. They deliberately avoid pinpointing the driving force behind these attacks, which is a religion that is alien to these shores and in its latest fundamental form threatens our very way of life.”
I’m sure I’ve no need to point out the source of that and I’m fucked if I’m linking to it.
Or how about this post from the Daily Kos, which is also right on the money…
While it was a minor side story in the western press, the most important of Muslim religious festivals recently took place in Saudi Arabia – called the Hajj. Every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to make a pilgrimage once in their lifetime to Mecca, which is in modern-day Saudi Arabia. This pilgrimage can be done at any time of the year but most pilgrims arrive during the Muslim month known as Dhu al-Hijjah, which follows a lunar calendar that does not exactly match the western Gregorian calendar.
The most recent Hajj occurred during the first half of January 2006, precisely when the “outrage” over the Danish cartoons began in earnest. There were a number of stampedes, called “tragedies” in the press, during the Hajj which killed several hundred pilgrims. I say “tragedies” in quotation marks because there have been similar “tragedies” during the Hajj and each time, the Saudi government promises to improve security and facilitation of movement to avoid these. Over 251 pilgrims were killed during the 2004 Hajj alone in the same area as the one that killed 350 pilgrims in 2006. These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.
And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media’s radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.
Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.
Actually, I take a pause for thought there, before moving on, and ask is anyone surprised that the Syrian’s failed to prevent protestors from torching a Western embassy, or that it wasn’t long before a similar incident took place in the Lebanon?
Of course this incident prompted a response from the White House:
The Government of Syria’s failure to provide protection to diplomatic premises, in the face of warnings that violence was planned, is inexcusable.
Which is certainly true – it was inexcusable but also entirely understandable given the pressure that the Syrian regime has been under since being implicated and near enough held responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. What better way for Bashar al-Assad to deflect attention away from his own weakening position and stir up a bit of quasi-patriotic fervour amongst the masses – and frighten the crap out of his opponents, of course – that a bit of nicely co-ordinated embassy burning in response to an ‘insult’ from the West.
And what of the Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which kicked off this whole charade in the first place and is now being lauded in some quarters as a fearless defended of enlightenment values and the freedom of the press?
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.
The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.
In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.
Zieler received an email back from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”
I think Jamie K nicely sums it up, first by reminding us of this newspaper’s original editoral:
The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule.
And then sharply observing that:
A secular society apparently requires the holders of one superstition to be mocked, but allows the holders of another to enjoy “special consideration of their religious feelings