The President of the United States, the Pope, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and virtually every other Western leader has decided: the freedom of speech must be sacrificed to those who will kill us for exercising it. They have all told us that the proper response to violent intimidation is to give in to the bully and give him what he wants. That this will only embolden the bully and lead him to issue more demands does not bother them in the least. Those who dare to “provoke” Muslims and “poke them in the eye,” like Rose and Westergaard, must bear the consequences: ostracism, vilification, condemnation by all right-thinking people.
So it’s no surprise that Jyllands-Posten has surrendered now. Everyone else has. The defenders of the freedom of speech, those who understand that it is the linchpin of free society and that it is important to defend the freedom of speech even of those whose message one opposes, are few, embattled, despised and derided. A very dark age rapidly approaches.
The editor who commissioned the controversial cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad is urging Muslims to redefine blasphemy.
Speaking on the 10th anniversary of the publication of the 12 cartoons, Flemming Rose, formerly the culture editor of Denmark’s “Jyllands Posten” newspaper, said a new concept of blasphemy was required in order to “save the social peace in a multireligious, multicultural, multiethnic society.”
Under the watchful gaze of Danish protection officers during an interview in Copenhagen’s main park, Rose said: “For too many Muslims it’s okay to commit violence when non-believers or Muslims commit blasphemy according to Islamic clergy.”
As one of the principle [sic] actors in the cartoons’ drama, Rose’s life has been irrevocably changed by death threats, as has Kurt Westergaard’s, the artist who depicted Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.
Both men defiantly refuse to apologize.
Why should they apologize for defending the freedom of speech?
Westergaard’s house in central Denmark is now a fortress, after Somali Mohamed Geele, 29, broke in five years ago and tried to carry out a death sentence fatwa which is still active. Geele was convicted of attempted murder and terrorism.
Leaning on his silver-topped cane, Westergaard, now 80 and retired from satire, talked passionately about being one of the most hated men in the Muslim world.
“I think I still have a basic feeling of anger. I worked as a Danish cartoonist according to the Danish traditions. I had done nothing wrong. I had criticized an authority – in this case it was a religion. A big religion. And I think it’s a cartoonist’s and satirist’s job to criticize those in power, whether they are in this case a religion or it is a political party. If you work according to the Danish traditions then you offend people.”
Rose commissioned the cartoons after a children’s author complained that artists were too scared to draw images for his book about Islam.
The images were first printed in “Jyllands Posten” in September 2005, but outrage in the Muslim world took several months to ferment, and erupted after a trip to the Middle East by a Danish Islamic delegation. Ahmed Akkari, an imam and the delegation’s press spokesman, later acknowledged that the purpose of the visit was to inflame passions.
It succeeded: There were demonstrations around the globe. An estimated 250 people were killed in riots. Danish institutions were attacked. The embassy in Damascus was set on fire. And Danish products were boycotted.
Since recanting and embracing free expression, Akkari has been forced to go into hiding. Unlike Rose and Westergaard, he does not have state protection and lives in Greenland.
In Denmark, Muslim leaders remain uncompromising in their opposition to the cartoons.
“We don’t accept the cartoons as a picture or a caricature anything of the prophet,” Imran Shah, spokesman for the Islamic Society told DW, “but the very notion of connecting bombs with the religion of Islam – with a very acknowledgement of Islam where you propose that there is no God but God and the last messenger of God sent to this earth was Muhammad – connect that with a bomb, that’s a very immature and uncivilized way of starting the debate and discussions.”
It’s doubtful that any newspapers will reprint the cartoons on the anniversary, especially after the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in January, and in Copenhagen in February earlier this year.
Indeed. The whole world is submitting to violent intimidation.
“Basically we have a situation where we have a jihadists’ veto, which is being respected, however grudgingly, by journalists and editors, which I think is sad, but at least some have come around to admitting that they are acting out of fear rather than out of respect or tolerance – which is of course a poor excuse,” says Jakob Mchangama, a jurist from the Justitia think tank and a leading proponent of unrestricted free expression in Denmark.
He believes Muslims should accept ridicule and satire as a sign of being fully accepted in Western society.
Indeed, but Western society has opted to submit instead.