12.12.05

Peace In Our Time?

I was actually a little uncertain which language to write this submission in. On the one hand, it displays a rather unsavory trend in local, Danish politics - and one that foreigners might find it a little hard to understand. On the other hand, it is about an event that should concern the whole world.

As you see, the 'international edition' was the one that went to print.

I'll start with a little background. Those who have been hiding under a rock or visiting relatives on Mars for the past three months can start here. Those who already know that we are in the middle of what has the potential to become the most disgraceful concession to fascism since the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie can skip the next 4 paragraphs.

The farce (it stopped being a comedy when a Pakistani fascist party started issuing death threats) started about two and a half month ago. An author of a book about Mohammed was looking for illustrators. To his surprise and (considerable) consternation, he could find none who were willing to illustrate the book under their own name. Taken as a group Danish artists aren't exactly known for their islamophobia, so the author decided to call a newspaper and tell them that they'd better take a look at Muslim extremism in Denmark.

The newspaper reported the story, and commented it with 12 satirical cartoons of Mohammed. (Yes, I've seen them. No, I won't publish them. No its not because I fear Muslim extremists. Its because they are protected by copyright, and violating copyright is pretty high on Blogger's get-yourself-banned list.)

The reaction to the article was interesting, to say the least. Rather than decrying the author's fear that illustrators were scared of Muslim extremism as absurd propaganda intended to vilify Islam, the Islamic community in Denmark and abroad promptly moved to justify those very accusations by crying foul against the cartoons.

About 3000 enraged Muslims took the streets in Copenhagen, in the largest single demonstration against the freedom of the press in (AFAIK) more than 60 years. The aforementioned death threats followed hot on their heels, and a number of self-proclaimed 'Muslim countries' filed a complaint with the UN. Which, in any properly run universe, is going to come up dry, of course, since freedom of the press and freedom of the academia trumph stupid religious taboos any day of the week.

What got me writing today was a talking head on the radio who, in a feature about the UN suit against Denmark, delivered an interesting juxtaposition of remarks in support (at least that's how he meant them to sound) for the position that JyllandsPosten should excuse and withdraw their cartoons:

"[Vi bør tænke over,] [h]vad er det for et samfund vi lever i, og hvad er det for et samfund vi ønsker.
([We should consider] [w]hat kind of society we live in, and what kind of society we want.)"

And:

"Det der vil være virkeligt ubehageligt ville vaere et hvor vi konstant levede i konflikt med hinanden.
(What would be really unpleasant would be one in which we were in constant conflict with each other.)"

[My translations]

You know, I actually think that a society of constant 'conflict' is preferable to one where the religious sensibilities of extremist Ayatollah-wanna-bes dictate the limits of the freedom of the press.

Be afraid. Be very afraid of the pseudo-intellectuals who attempt to appease fundies, and try in vain to bargain for peace in our time. For they are the ones who will supinely surrender your freedoms alongside their own, in order to accommodate a loud but tiny minority who have no legitimate business at all in the public sphere anyway.

The right to blaspheme is central to civilized society, and any 'conflict' it creates with religious bigots is not of our making. So let us stand firm against the rising tide of medieval inquisitions and give the fundies a 'conflict' they won't enjoy.

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