Friday, February 10, 2006

Cartoon round-up

Hardly comprehensive.

First, the Catholic angle:

At Mirror of Justice, an interesting post on the measured Vatican reaction seen through the lens of the aims and goals of Vatican diplomacy. [Via Open Book]. Read it.

The muder of an Italian priest in Turkey has received much attention in the Catholic press, though maybe a little less in the wider news media. John Allen offers some background in this week's Word from Rome. Cardinal Ruini is already calling him a martyr. Then there's this:
I asked Padovese what he believes the real motive was for Santoro's murder. He said he doesn't know what demons drove this young man, but said dismissing it as an isolated act is a mistake. Rising Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Christian prejudice, Padovese said, shaped the context in which the teen acted.

"It's the anti-Christian climate that has been produced in Turkey," Padovese said. "There's a strong current of religious extremism, and that climate can fuel this sort of hatred. It's passed along in families, in schools, in the newspapers."

Padovese said that every week the Turkish bishops' conference prepares a bulletin citing "denigrating comments" or "banalities" about Christianity that have appeared in the Turkish press.

"There's a false image of our presence that usually goes unchallenged," he said.
Rocco has the English translation of a recent letter Fr. Santoro sent to the Pope. This week's Tablet online (UK) has a round-up of the anti-Christian backlash around the world. Alain Woodrow writes that it's important for the faithful to keep a sense of humor.

The protests have reached India. This is really small for India though. Kashmir is a different story. A lot more Islamist.

Der Spiegel has had some interesting stories:

Middle Eastern media awash in anti-semitism.
Even as the Muslim world protests against the Muhammad caricatures printed in the West, a number of Arab newspapers publish virulently anti-Semitic cartoons. But nobody's paying much attention. After all, Jew baiting in the Arab world has become the norm.

In the end, it was the image of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse that proved perhaps most offensive. After all, as the Web site of the Arab-European League -- a group supporting the rights of Arab and Muslim communities in Europe -- pointed out: "The issue for us is not about depicting the prophet or any other theological consideration. It's about stigmatizing a whole population of more than 1 billion Muslims through portraying their symbol as being a terrorist, megalomaniac, misogynic (sic) and a psychopath. This is racist, xenophobic and calling for hatred against Muslims."

That's a valid point. But it would have been a lot more forceful had the Web site not published a political cartoon a few days earlier depicting Anne Frank in bed with Ad
Gettolf Hitler, who is looking amorously appeased. As if that wasn't offensive enough, the illustrator throws in one of the worst crimes in recent European history by name dropping Marc Dutroux, the convicted Belgian killer infamous for kidnapping young girls, raping them and then starving them to death. Hitler is saying, "Write this one in your diary Anne!"
Legoland is burning. An article on the reaction in Denmark.
While Danish flags are being burned and embassies attacked in Islamic countries, Muslim immigrants and Danes are coming closer together. Following the intense international scrutiny over Muhammad caricature affair, many are hoping to send the world a message of peace.

This is not an issue of free speech. An interview with Pakistani scholar Ahmad Rashid. Illustrates quite well the gulf in perception.

Satanic Verses taught us a lesson.
There are some lessons (the British) learned from "The Satanic Verses" that I'm afraid others in Europe still need to learn. One of them is the simple lesson that blasphemy is a double-edged sword. If the intention is to critique Islamic radicalism, that aim has certainly not been achieved by the Danish cartoons because it is the radicals who have benefited from the fact that passions are inflamed. If the intention on the Muslim side is to censure authors or writers, that too fails. Calls for the death of the writer in the "Satanic Verses" affair created enormous publicity for the novel. Indeed, Rushdie became a very wealthy man as a result of the affair. But there was no gain on either side in terms of reaching mutual tolerance or understanding.

Mutual incomprehension, mutual outrage, in the Economist (subscriber only, so I'm reproducing segments below):
WHEN, last September, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, it knew it was testing the limits of free speech and good taste. But it could never have imagined how much. For Denmark itself, this has been the biggest crisis since the Nazi occupation during the second world war. But the implications for the already vexed relations between the West and Islam go far wider. Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, summed it up: “We are today facing a global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments.”

At least ten people have died so far in protests against the cartoons. Several were killed in Afghanistan as police shot into a crowd besieging a Norwegian peacekeepers' base. More were shot dead as they tried to storm an American military base in the south of the country, setting cars alight and hurling rocks. The protests continued on Friday in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Kenya and several other countries. In Malaysia a massive demonstration erupted as a conference on relations between the West and Islam got under way. Speaking at the meeting, Malaysia's prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, talked of a “huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam.”


Western governments have reacted with shock and muddle. There is a growing feeling in continental Europe that Britain and America should have taken a principled stand on grounds of free speech, but have failed. In France, home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority—roughly 10% of the population—there has been surprise at the relatively conciliatory response of Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, who called the publication of the cartoons “insensitive” and “unnecessary”. Many in France are baffled at the reluctance of the British and American press to publish the cartoons themselves. (On February 8th, three editors and a reporter quit the New York Press over a decision not to reprint the cartoons, and President George Bush called on world governments to stop the violence and be “respectful”.)

To be sure, the official French reaction has been measured. President Jacques Chirac declared that freedom of expression was “one of the foundations of the republic” but added a plea for “respect and moderation” in its application. And one editor at France-Soir, a small newspaper that was the first to claim the “right to caricature God”, was sacked after publishing all 12 caricatures. Yet it seemed that the paper's owner, a Franco-Egyptian, had been seeking an excuse to get rid of him anyway. The rest of the press, along with those who see the matter as a test case of the ability of French democracy to withstand the demands of political Islam, have taken an increasingly muscular position.


Some protests seem to have been spontaneous; others have been deliberately manipulated by Islamist elements. While demonstrations have been widespread, the number of participants has generally not been large. Moderate leaders, from Iraq's foremost Shia authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who heads the Organisation of Islamic Conferences, have called for Muslims to express their feelings peacefully. A fatwa issued by Egypt's highly respected grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, states that Muslims should understand that others will attack their faith; and although they should reject this “perverted behaviour”, he said, they should protest peacefully, with “wisdom and fair exhortation”.

This stand presents a clear contrast to the rabble-rousing tactics used by others. A Danish imam, Abu Laban, may have started the whole thing by touring the Middle East to drum up outrage, including distributing far more offensive cartoons of the Prophet (as a pig, as a paedophile) which he said had been “received” by Muslims in Denmark. Iran's supreme guide described the furore as a plot “concocted by Zionists angered by the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections”—though the Palestinian vote took place four months after the publication of the cartoons.

Some Muslims find all the hullabaloo distressing. “What it shows is that we lack confidence,” says the headmaster of a Cairo school. “If we were confident about our faith we wouldn't have to react so hysterically.” Many others, however, feel it marks an important precedent. In a Friday sermon at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saleh bin Humaid, a Saudi preacher, extolled the spirit of defiance that was unifying Muslims. “A great new spirit is flowing through the body of the Islamic nation,” he said. “The world can no longer ignore the nation and its feelings.”

By midweek, moderate Muslims in Denmark, Britain and elsewhere were appealing for calm. Cool-headed leaders, including clerics in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, urged restraint. International efforts were also under way to ease tension. A joint statement issued on Tuesday by the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conferences and the EU condemned violent protests while calling for respect for religion. The EU's foreign-policy supremo, Javier Solana, said he would travel to Arab and Muslim countries to try to calm their anger. He may be gone for some time.

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