The Mohammed cartoons rumble on…

73 year-old Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard drew the most recognisable of the ‘infamous’ Mohammed cartoons, of the prophet with a bomb on his head.
He and his family has lived under constant police protection ever since.

This morning police arrested several people suspected of conspiring to kill him…(!)

It’s incomprehensible that this sorry saga rolls on as it does.
Westergaard’s cartoon in particular has been elevated from simple drawing to iconic symbol because of the screeching response of the fundamentalists.

Ironically, the more angry mobs attack the cartoonist in the name of Islam, the more poignant and valid his cartoon becomes.

Jyllands Posten commendably continues to publish the cartoon, to illustrate the story.
The response in 2006 from much of the international press, the British included, was a sad reflection of the value we these days put on freedom of expression.
Instead of uncompromisingly supporting the very core of Democracy, editorial columns were filled with feeble arguments trying to justify the newspaper’s decision not to print the images which for weeks dominated news and debate world wide.

(One glaring example is the Guardian, whose leader writer spectacularly compared it to how they wouldn’t publish child pornography if they were writing a story about that.).

The result was increased and unjustified notoriety and disapprobation for the cartoons and the people who drew them, followed by a diminished public debate which to this day is left with a huge black hole that very few dare to approach with any meaningful disrespect.

If the political and editorial response in Britain to a large extent was pitiful, there was a comparatively strong fight-back in France.
After the editor of France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, was sacked for printing the 12 original cartoons, the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo responded by publishing two of the original cartoons (Kurt Westergaard’s included) and one of its own.
The Paris Grand Mosque, World Islamic League and Union of French Islamic Organisations (UFIO) consequently sued the magazine’s publisher Phillippe Val.

Unsurprisingly, thank goodness, Val and Charlie Hebdo won.

Incidentally, the Charlie Hebdo case was held in the middle of the French Presidential campaign, and it forced a wider debate about freedom of speech, in which all of the main candidates forcefully came out in support for Phillippe Val’s decision.
The Paris Grand Mosque accepted the verdict in favour of the publisher, but the more radical UFIO appealed.

The appeal court proceedings began in late January 2008, and a verdict is expected this month…

The editors of Jyllands Posten won a similar court case in Denmark in October 2006.

Statement by Kurt Westergaard following this morning’s arrests:

“Of course I fear for my life after the Danish Security and Intelligence Service informed me of the concrete plans of certain people to kill me. However, I have turned fear into anger and indignation. It has made me angry that a perfectly normal everyday activity which I used to do by the thousand was abused to set off such madness. I have attended to my work and I still do. I could not possibly know for how long I have to live under police protection; I think, however, that the impact of the insane response to my cartoon will last for the rest of my life. It is sad indeed, but it has become a fact of my life. “


4 Responses to “The Mohammed cartoons rumble on…”

  1. Alex Hughes Says:

    There was an interesting documentary by a Danish journalist on BBC4 a couple of months ago – it’s up on YouTube (but probably won’t be for much longer) Bloody Cartoons – Part 1 of 6.

  2. Cliff Burns Says:

    I believe the western media backed down in the face of extremists–once the hubbub broke out, every major newspaper in the western world should have printed the cartoons as a sign of solidarity and an expression of the freedoms we in the west purport to hold so dear. But the Islamicists (Martin Amis’ term) aren’t the only religious group seeking to quell freedom of thought. Peter Watts wrote a brilliant piece recently about how an atheist group was either cast off MySpace or hacked by some “Magic Christian” outfit…

    –and there are numerous other stories of intolerance relating to fundamentalism of ALL stripes…

  3. amrit virdi Says:

    Hi Martin

    Since the resent conspiracy to kill Kurt Westergaard, Radio 4 Sunday program had a live interview and debate with Kurt, Flemming Rose (editor of Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten) and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra (Chair of the Interfaith Relations Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain). It is well worth lessening to its about 20:15 in to the program.
    click on “Listen to the current programme in full”

    My sympathy are with Kurt for exercising his democratic right and suffering its consequences.

    I found it very informative and the danish newspaper argument on the absolute right for freedom of speech and how it contributes to democracy very persuasive.

  4. Danish cartoons update… « poldraw Says:

    […] Danish cartoons update… I said I would write more about the recent developments, but for now I’ll just refer you to the comments left on my previous post on the subject. […]

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