The Danes

One of my favorite books is by Jasper Fforde: Something Rotten. Part of the plot is that the CEO of the Toast Marketing Board is taking over England (Whales is a separate Socialists Republic), and makes war with the Danes at the top of his list. That of course is fiction.

This is not.

There are a lot of Arab nations who are ticked off at Denmark and 12 particular cartoonists who committed a major taboo: they drew Mohammed. I’m not up on Islam and its laws, but apparently no one is allowed to draw Mohammed.

With classic European panache, the Danes decided to push the envelope, invoke the wrath of a large people group, and then claim it’s about freedom of speech (or something like that).

What do you think? View the cartoons.

Articles to read:
Boycott of Danish Goods
Threats to newspaper
Angry Saudi consumers
Muslim Rage

It would seem that even if the Danes had good intentions, which they probably didn’t, the drawings were just not a good idea.

In western culture it is now acceptable (though it was not always this way) to play with sacred images and people in the medium of art. We don’t worry too much about the art work because we are looking for the message. If the message is offensive, then we don’t have to like it. Nevertheless, we typically value the intent of the artist within our Western framework.

After reading a few comments on a blog, I had a sense that Muslims are not operating within the same frame of mind as the West (nor should they! Thank God for diversity). The general message from many was, “You just don’t go there.”

West: But they were making a statement, exploring some themes, perhaps doing Mohammed justice.
Mid-East: We don’t care about any of that. Mohammed should not be drawn.

West: “However, cultural editor Flemming Rose denied that the goal was to provoke Muslim but rather a reaction to artists and writers censuring themselves out of fear of radical Islamists. “Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment in a secular society. In a democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a laughingstock.” (link)
Mid-East: But they violated the ban and made all of us very angry. Besides, we cannot control our extreme grounds.

I was going to post one of the cartoons on this blog, but decided against it. My Western side wanted to put it up there in the interest of passing along important news. But my Mid-Eastern side said that it may aggravate some of my readers and suggest that I support the cartoons.

I’m not quite sure what I think. Part of the issue is that you have two cultures clashing. One wants freedom of speech, the other doesn’t want to be insulted. I admit, I don’t understand the reaction of the Arab world to the cartoons. But I know enough to lay off them and avoid insulting them.

And I can’t say that Christians have been much better. Christians in Europe (the champions of free speech) were all about killing one another and heretics around the time of the Reformation and beyond. The English were especially good at thinking of creative ways to kill someone in a different denomination or who said mean things about Jesus. In fact, religious intolerance in England is part of what led to the founding of the USA. And just to hit on another major religion, Judaism had the Zealots during the Second Temple Period (500 ad BCE to 200 CE). Just as some extreme elements can use Islam to justify war and violence, so have many Christians and Jews abused their sacred texts in promoting violence.