Rottenness brewing

Ethnic and cultural division in the United States gets a fair amount of press, but ethnic and cultural division in Europe may be a more pressing problem. Specifically, integrating the decidedly non-European Muslim immigrants into their newfound homes.

Britain's problems have seen more light since the London subway bombings, and Theo van Gogh's murder in the Netherlands exposed a lot of hostility brewing there. Now, trouble in Denmark has come to my attention. The story is this: a writer could not find an artist to illustrate his book about Muhammad because Muslims consider it blasphemous to depict the Prophet, and no writer wanted to risk the backlash. Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's leading newspaper, caught wind of this and decided to test how much self-censorship there was. They published 12 illustrations, each by a different artist, and here's where the integration challenge is revealed.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is being protected by security guards and several cartoonists have gone into hiding after the newspaper published a series of twelve cartoons ... about the prophet Muhammad. According to the Islam it is blasphemous to make images of the prophet. Muslim fundamentalists have threatened to bomb the paper’s offices and kill the cartoonists.

Oh, it gets better.

The publication led to outrage among the Muslim immigrants living in Denmark. 5,000 of them took to the streets to protest. Muslim organisations have demanded an apology, but Juste [the editor] rejects this idea: “We live in a democracy. That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures,” he said. The Danish imam Raed Hlayhel reacted with the statement: “This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims. Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world.”

(italics mine)

This was back in October. Now the Danish government is advising its citizens not to travel to Pakistan after the Pakistani religous party Jamaat-e-Islami has offered a bounty to anyone who kills the illustrators mentioned above. This is an extreme reaction, but the more moderate reactions are not reassuring either: several Muslim countries sent a letter to the Danish Prime Minister demanding an apology from the newspaper.

None of this is really convincing me that Islam and the modern world are compatible with each other. This troubles me, because I know several Muslims who have convinced me of this compatibility. Also, to be even more fair, not all Danish Muslims were upset by the cartoons; some even supported them.

Identifying the problem is one thing, identifying solutions is another. I don't know how much better my advice would be than anyone else's, but step #1 seems to be not bending over backwards to satisfy some group's backward preference. If you don't like what's in a newspaper, don't buy it. Live better than everyone else and show them the fruits of your belief system.

You can see four of the cartoons here. If anyone can find some or all of the other eight, please give us the link in the comments. Note that only one is clearly inflammatory aside from the religious taboo (a second one might be, but I wouldn't trust my Arabic past alef).

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I wonder why it would be

I wonder why it would be considered blasphemous to depict Muhammad. In Muslim theology, Muhammad is not God, a part of God, an avatar of God, or anything of the sort. He was the prophet to whom the Qu'ran was given.

Christians don't think it's blasphemous to depict St. Paul, and Jews don't consider it blasphemous to depict Abraham. So I wonder what the thought process is.

ObTopic: Islam is poison.

- Josh

I believe the prohibition

I believe the prohibition came from Muhammad himself and his thought process went like this:

I am not God. I don't want to be revered as a god. If pictures/statues of me go up all over the place, they will be worshipped. I do not want to be worshipped. Therefore, do not put any pictures of me up anywhere. Worship God, not me.

It's kind of like the "graven images" commandment, but for one specific graven image, because it is considered the most likely to be abused.

Substitute Christian, Jew,

Substitute Christian, Jew, or similarly appropriate terms, throughout what Randall has written. Now, would you consider it acceptable for a fundamentalist religous group that was either Christian or Jewish to say and do the things described? Would you, instead, tell them that freedom of expression is part of a free society and they just have to learn tolerance? That being the case, anyone who apologizes for the Muslims in all of this need to explain to me why their religion should get special treatment.

The starting point is that every religion should get exactly the same response when they claim offense: Too bad, our society allows free expression.

Fundamentalism and modern

Fundamentalism and modern society are not compatible, regardless of the flavor of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in a religion that explicitly disallows certain forms of speech is even worse, but no worse than the political correctness movement.

Gregorus, That explanation


That explanation makes sense. Thanks.

- Josh

Sean, do you really believe

Sean, do you really believe that a fundamentalist religion that explicitly calls for killing someone who violates what they consider to be correct is no worse than the politically correct, who generally don't advocate killing people who say things they don't like?

Sorry, Eric? Can you name

Sorry, Eric? Can you name which religion you're talking about that's supposed to be better? Can't be Christianity, since they're blowing up abortion clinics and murdering doctors, and Catholics and Protestants have been murdering each other for years. Oh, and let's not forget the crusades. Can't be Judaism, since they're killing Palestinians left and right. Hindus? Nope... killing Muslims all the time. Perhaps you're talking about fundamentalist Buddhism, but I don't know much about it assuming it exists. What does it matter what people claim said religion teaches? All that matters to me is that members of most world religions are killing members of other religions in the name of their religion.

As far as an effect on my daily life goes, fundamentalist Christians are by far the worst group. If I could eliminate one particular form of fundamentalism from this planet, that's the one I'd start with.

Of course we consider such

Of course we consider such threats of retribution unacceptable in a society with freedom of expression. I doubt if those making the threats are the brightest and most responsible representativesof the Muslim world, but they make clear the offense they feel. The clash of different value systems is not going to be easy to resolve.

Until all cultures gain a fuller understanding of each other's traditions, it seems to me, Randall, that a better step# 1 would be to not deliberately piss people off with no better reason than to see how they will react. If we set a good example, then maybe they'll become more respectful of our beliefs.

These illustrators should be

These illustrators should be praised for standing up to Islamist thuggery. If those Muslims don't like a free society they should f*** off back to somewhere more to their liking. It is wonderful to see Danes, who are cantakerous lot who take their freedoms seriously, standing up for themselves. I would like to think that illustrators in the UK and the US would have the backbone to do such a thing.

Just a quick point. A

Just a quick point. A prohibition against most images of living things is strong in a lot of Islamic areas (lands, traditions, etc.), beyond just depicting the prophet (though that one, I imgagine, ramps up the issue even further). And the reasoning was along the lines already mentioned: images of people might be attempts at creating representations of life, which is in direct competition with god. Though, again to echo an earlier point in a different way, Islam is not alone in this. Part of the schism between eastern and western christian churches was the notion of representing god with 3-dimensional images. It's part of the not creating icons/graven images thing. Take a look at greek orthodox imagery to see what I mean.

That said, I side squarely with the paper. Don't like it, don't buy it. Hell, start your own paper, put in drawings of Jesus wearing a dominatrix outfit, and I'll celebrate the freedom and ease with which a new business was started.

Sean, you misunderstood me.

Sean, you misunderstood me. You seemed to be saying that fundamentalist religion was equivalent to political correctness, from a "badness" perspective. The PC folks may try to get rid of my ability to speak freely, but they don't, usually, threaten to kill me for it. I wasn't distinguishing between various religious sects, being non-religious myself.

Uh, for the people who are

Uh, for the people who are siding with the paper, and saying "don't like it, don't buy it" that kind of stupid resolution cud be made about numerous things in the world (which is wrong).

In the Iraq issue, don't want to get kidnapped, don't go there. For the US and brit soldiers, don't want to get killed, don't invade other countries.

All that is besides the point, in Islam it's not only Prophet Muhammad you're not allowed to depict in anyway, but the same goes for all the prophets, because many people do indeed start worshipping those man-made creations. Also it's one thing to depict someone, but it's a whole different thing to make fun of the prophet. It's not about Freedom of speech - if everyone practices freedom of speech that much, then why won't they let people burn the country's flag within the country? Why would people look down upon that? It's a freedom of speech isn't it.

And for some of the biased people, it's not every Muslim who is putting a bounty on the head of the cartoonists, it's a few of them, they are radical and extreme and set on making people listen to them, those kinds of people exist in every religion.

And the "leave the country" bullshit excuse wouldn't work, because those muslims are also practicing their freedom of speech. We'll see how long the newspaper hides, especially since Danish products will start getting boycotted, there are 1.3 billion of us, how long will you ignore it.

“I dont agree with what

“I dont agree with what you are saying but I’ll die defending your right to say it”


Basil, Not to get all


Not to get all elementary school on ya, but there are (far) more Christians in the world than Muslims. Even accounting for active practice, its still not a contest.

i totally agree with Basil,

i totally agree with Basil, that the freedom of speech is what everybody using.I think there should be a lot of respect for the prophets , which makes sense.we are not making fun of a country's president but a prophet. Why people make fun of prophets? does it makes a sense, people who borught peace in this world, and who were selected among millions to serve the humanity . wat do yu think by making fun of them will show how humurous one is ? Ithink thats really bad. Did yu ever saw a Muslim newpaper making fun of Jesus or Moses? i dont think so as none of them is reported..There are conflicts among school of taught but not with the prophet belives and God. Correct. Now we are making fun of a person who was just created for the betterment of the Human soceities. I dont think that we should make fun of a Prophet Muhammad, as not a single muslim in this world has picture of him. Its a big sin if you create these kind of cartoons. By not buying the newspaper willnot stop these kind of acts. We all should condemn as a postive point which will stop violence in this world. We should have flexibilty in us to appreciate one's belief.