Saturday, February 16, 2008

Danish Foreign Ministry Errs

The ten members of the Danish parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, including Denmark's former foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft, erred when they canceled a trip to Iran two days prior to scheduled meetings. The purpose of the trip was to meet with members of the Iranian Parliament as well as to look into such issues as the country's human rights and uranium enrichment.

During this same time period
Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent on Tuesday, accusing them of planning to kill a cartoonist who drew a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that was then published in Danish newspapers 2 years ago.

One presumes that Denmark upholds due process, and that in Denmark arrests are not equated with guilt, but remarkably fifteen Danish newspapers reprinted this very same cartoon on Wednesday in protest against the alleged plot. The alleged plot.

Even if these papers had waited for a guilty verdict following due process, it would remain the case that an infantile provocation of this magnitude is beyond reproach. Considering the vast difficulties worldwide that derived from the initial printing of these cartoons, there are simply no words to describe the decision of not one or two deranged editors, but a coordinated effort among 15 newspapers in what is generally regarded as a modern nation. Publication of the cartoons two years ago led to protests and rioting in Muslim countries around the world. At least 50 people were killed and three Danish embassies attacked.

As explained in the Feb. 16 Reuters article:

"The Iranian parliament had demanded an apology of the Danish parliamentary delegation, which they of course cannot accommodate," Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said in a statement....

Moller said the committee could not apologize for the fact that Danish media carried out its obligation to inform as it could not apologize for freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Danish constitution.


Here is where Moller commits a flatuous, and indeed a gross and arrant mistake. Why "of course"? No one asked Moller to apologize for freedom of expression, or to apologize that Danish papers have a duty to inform their readers. It would be more than simple enough for Moller or a designated spokesperson to express a mature, and reasoned apology, even seizing the opportunity to elaborate on whatever particular social virtues are so sacrosanct in Moller's mind.

Here is what Moller could better have said:

"Respected citizens of Iran, indeed respected world citizens who seek to live as true Muslims in elevated and peaceful ways, we of the Danish parliament who will soon be guests in Iran, wish to express profound apologies for any offense that happens in our country to that which you hold sacred. We hope you will understand our traditions in which freedom of expression must be guaranteed, and though it pains us to see abuse of these freedoms, the Danish government will never seek to encroach on what we believe to be a vital pillar of any free society. As Danes we are sorry that Islam has been offended in our country. Likewise we pray in earnest that all who call themselves Muslims will follow Islam as it advises us all to embrace its highest virtues of tolerance and harmony seen in the Hadith "You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

While we cannot undermine the all important democratic principle that guarantees freedom of expression, we can apologize for Danes who abuse this freedom to offend. As we try to elevate the mentality and public discourse in Denmark, we hope likewise that if newspapers or government policy in Iran espouses views that offend or incite Muslim believers against Christian and Western democratic sensibilities, that this too can change.

We hope that our upcoming visit to Iran will help us grow in our mutual understanding of one another, and lead to more harmonious relations among our peoples."


For a government to stand behind actions that are so patently reprehensible as a unified media decision to offend religious believers around the world, and then to poison international relations by canceling a high level diplomatic mission is a near perfect error, a disgrace to the West, an offense, and a missed opportunity.





20 comments:

Karen Judd Smith said...

Frank:

I believe the wisdom of your response was described a few years ago by Aristotle in his Politics, a wisdom that that Western Democracies would do well to heed: "A state is not a mere society, having a common place, established for the prevention of mutual crime and for the sake of exchange...Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship."

Your envisioning of healthy progress through the informed actions such as that you recommend need to become the norm.

We in the West would do much better in the world if we would remember even two of your points:
--freedom of speech is not a license for the disrespect of others. Freedom of speech requires responsibility in its exercise to protect the common good of those it seeks to influence.
--statesmanship today needs to be strengthened by sound knowledge of, respect for and appeal to the spiritual aspirations of the religious communities involved.

When will today's political leaders confer with those knowledgeable about the religious dimensions of these incendiary issues? They certainly seek the advice of economists when they deal with challenging economic issues or military advisers when armed conflict looms large....

Anonymous said...

mr. frank - while your comments are reasonable enough, I have to wonder how often you condemn the viseral hatred of Jews by the general Muslim population. their depiction of Jews is far worse. if so, perhaps you could print the piece as evidence of how truly fair and reasonable you are

Samvel Jeshmaridian said...

Dear Dr. Frank Kaufmann,

I read Your article "Danish Foreign Ministry Errs," and here is what I'd like to say about Your position which is undoubtedly correct.

The situation with Danish cartoons shows how immature contemporary religions are. Because of this fact, clever and cunning forces from politics take the responsibility (read, the sin) of playing on religious feelings of others who are less clever and less cunning, but too emotional.

In fact, the Chistianity we are exercising today is not the true teaching of The Bible. We will never give a snake or a scorpion to our children and brothers and friends. And whenever mistakedly we give it to our beloved ones, we repent and apologise at once. And how about giving a scorpion to our cousins? Every day we pray, "And do NOT let us go into TEMPTATION," don't we? And why are Danish newspapers reprinting something that has abused our cousins (if not brothers)? Perhaps, to seek the repetition of the two-year ago horrible events.

By saying we, I mean the Danish side, which is under the influence of cunning and clever and influentian politicians. Instead, I extend my humble apologies to my Iranian cousins at the name of my Danish cousins with the wish both sides did not harm each other and could go on with their civilized interactions.

Sincerely Yours,

Samvel Jeshmaridian

Jerry Heying said...

Frank,

I have to absolutely disagree with your post, particularly where you say: "to express a mature and reasoned apology, even seizing the opportunity to elaborate on whatever particular social virtues are so sacrosanct in Moller's mind". Oh please! And do you think that Iranians would ever provide a “mature and reasoned apology” for something they did??? We are talking about a political cartoon that pissed them off; how about some of the incredible atrocities they do? How about the 50 people killed because they were upset about a political cartoon! Maybe, we can ask them for a “mature and reasoned apology”?

I'm sorry, but they have a double set of standards, and the problem is that, generally speaking, particularly the extreme Muslims are not reasonable to begin with. Their strict belief and their views allow them to do what they do with complete justification. I am aware that there are millions of Muslims that live in the world very peacefully and are incredibly loving people. Quite honestly, they are the ones that must stand up to the extremists and get them to stop their murderous ways under the name of Mohammed.

I hope I didn't strike a nerve here but they aren't exactly playing by the same set of rules. If they expect an apology for a political cartoon, the least we could get from them when they kill 50 or more people as a protest, is a “mature and reasoned apology”. Right?

Jerry Heying

Peter Duveen said...

Frank, I do agree with you that the publication of the cartoons was a mistake, and the republication even more so. But as far as the government of Denmark is concerned, I would have recommended a statement short of an apology. I believe a disavowal would have been more honest and sufficient. How about, "To the people of Iran, we must offer our regrets that certain cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed demonstrated a profound disrespect for the religious beliefs of Moslems. These cartoons in no wise reflect the position of the government of Denmark, and we disavow such expressions as deleterious to the conditions for world peace."

That's not an apology, but it is a denounciation of the cartoons. I think a government can denounce something, without it being a limit to free expression.

Mary Anglin said...

Dear Frank,

There is a Sikh prayer that says:
“Know that we attain God when we love,
and only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated.”

It is simple and yet profound. A “victory” which includes the defeat of another is only momentary. A true victor is one who seeks to love and moves another to change. The pointing of fingers which occurred and the refusal to embrace humility was the loss of a chance to move the Iranian heart, as you pointed out.

The Danes were seeking the “victory” of the proof of their “rightness”. They gave no opening for the Iranians to dialogue. When the opportunity for progress appeared, there was none, due essentially to arrogance.

Resistance breeds resistance. The apology that you recommended lacked resistance – it exemplified humility, love and education, and would have opened the chance for dialogue and progress in international relations.

This is an example of the inability of politicians alone to create peace. They certainly could have used the wise council of those who see with a broader viewpoint and heart.

You gave a well-written analysis and wonderful recommendation.

Mary Anglin

Gene Hart said...

For the Iranians to demand an apology before an upcoming meeting certainly set its guests the Danish on their hairs. As one responded, a denunciation would have been in order. But short an apology, the meeting would’ve been like walking in ballerina shoes for the Danish.

But then, for an assassination plot to be uncovered at such a tenuous moment only caused the diplomatic strings to be tightened. The incident exposed the extent of Danish angst to its bottom, “flatuously,” as you colorfully described. At that point, no apology would even be considered with such a brew in the underwear of the Danish.

Yes, it is childish. Nations are only representations of the people within them. This is not a diplomatic bakery here; this is real people being unreasonable. But real people, nonetheless, feeling – please mark that word – justified in their unreasonableness. Please, if you can, Frank, align a little more the intellectual goal posts that should guide our aim in kicking these “arrant” diplomatic feelings about. To speak reason to unreasonableness is a most unnerving and decertifying task, a little like being a parent to rogue teenagers.

On an aside, Frank, you mention “freedom to offend.” Such an instigative way of putting it, I thought. Freedom of expression in America has been abounding with offensives since its founding. Thomas Jefferson opined at his time, even as he was being the target of such nasty remarks, that Americans would have it no other way. This makes America what it is, and it keeps us honest about ourselves. After all, would you want certain abuses excised out, as the government of Iran believes they should be and does? I believe the freedom to offend shall always be available for abuse – that’s the problematic irony of freedom – but the other choice is to become a tailored society.

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that this attitude comes from the Danish nation that was claimed as being the 'happiest on earth,' as reported on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb.17th.
A cradle to the grave government economy with its' citizens paying 50% of their taxes to be coddled in this way must surely lead to some fuzzy and selfish thinking about others.
Without intellectual freedom how can this be not so.
It seems that Muslims, however misguided, be given some element of respect, as a people, as we would have others do unto us.
BrianG

Joe Kiney said...

I believe that there is mixing of issues here.

It is likely that the Danish parliament would agree that the cartoons them selves are reprehensible, as would be similar cartoons depicting Jesus or Moses.

However in a free society the right to publish such objectionable material is vital.

We have the separation of the arenas of ideas and the battle field of violence. No matter how offensive words are they should be countered by words not bullets and bombs.

The outrage over the Islamists behavior is because they respond to ideas they disagree with or material that offends them with violence and death.


The News papers printed the cartoons to defy the threat of violence, to refuse to be bullied by thugs. They would do the same if the Catholic Church or the Mormons used bullying tactics.

Joe Kiney

David Eaton said...

Frank,

In reference to Karen Smith's citing of Greek thought vis-a-vis "noble actions," we know that early Islamic scholars translated Greek/Hellenistic philosophy, presumably because they valued much of what Hellenism espoused with regard to establishing an ethical society.

Though I agree with you that the Danish diplomats missed an important opportunity to exercise some much needed diplomacy in this matter, it would be refreshing to see Muslims come to terms with the same nobility that Aristotle was so instructive about. Have there been apologies from Muslim leaders/diplomats to the Danes for the bloodshed and violence that occurred after the initial publication of the cartoons?

The collusion of the 15 publishers to reprint the offending images was indeed an unnecessary and spiteful act. Still, I think there is quite a bit of apologizing that needs to happen on all fronts here.

David Eaton

Andrew Davies said...

Sorry is a win-win word

I really appreciated the clarity and common sense you expressed in your article regarding what is clearly a very divisive and dangerous issue.

The summun bonum of international relations should be the attainment of peace, prosperity and goodwill on earth, but mainly it is practiced as the pursuit of national interest, or, the art of getting what you can from the other side without ever having to say the word "sorry". Yet, what kind of family would this produce if it were applied as the basis for parenting skills? If one of my children upsets the other and I hear cries from them of "He or She started it", I always say "what I want to know is who is going to end it?"

Even if the child who is being accused really didn't intend to cause any hurt and even if they feel they have done nothing wrong at all, the fact is that clearly the other child feels upset with them and so what's wrong with saying something to help that child feel good again? Saying sorry is saying, "I am sorry that you feel this way". It wouldn't diminish them and it wouldn't necessarily imply that they were solely to blame. What it would mean is that they recognize that hurt has been felt and they care enough about the other child to want to say something to help them feel happy again. In addition, saying "sorry" is the key to keeping their relationship going. Through that child offering to apologize to the other, it has the chance to make both of them winners. Conversely, by continuing to argue it would be choosing to harm their relationship for a long time to come. Only once the sting has been taken out of a disagreement, can both children start to reflect on how they could have behaved differently and so learn a lesson for a future situation. Only saying and feeling "sorry" opens up that possibility.

However, the reason that young children find it easier to make up is because they aren't hampered by things like "pride", "issues" and "saving face"; these can come with adulthood and of course it's adults who run newspapers, governments and religions too.

Andrew Davies

Ed Poor said...

Dr. Kaufmann, I thank you for the clarity of your remarks in light of humanity's mutual quest to achieve and enjoy world peace.

I regret the attitude of many righteous people who fear that an apology is a retreat or an abdication of principle. As K.J. Smith and Andrew Davies point out, hurting others' feelings is not a way to establish the Peace Kingdom. As children of our Heavenly Father, we all need to learn how to express love to one another.

It is merely the politics of selfishness which uses sovereignty as an excuse to rub salt in the wounded dignity of foreign partners in what might be a fruitful peace process. But it is the wisdom of maturity to "guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride" as the poet sang.

Ed Poor

Rebecca Ocampo said...

I am a mass communication specialist as well as highly educated about international community issues. I am a firm believer of freedom of expression as well as human rights in particular, "one is presumed innocent until proven guilty". But there is also the matter of national and international security. And, I am a strong advocate of spiritual and moral values. I think discussion on the issue should continue because if censorship is practiced, the truth will not set anyone free. Thanks for your email. Rebecca

Anonymous said...

My view, regarding the Danish cartoons is that, unfortunately , Muslim world is still living in their own style of Middle Ages as Europe used to be ,before starting the European renaissance. Islamic world has not started its own style of Islamic renaissance yet, even though many intellectuals in the Islamic world are working hard on it,but it is still too early to implement it and it needs decades or even a century to come.
Accordingly, I put the blame on some western governments because they really expect the Muslims to get used to blasphemy in this modern world.Their expectation is wrong, and it doesn't fit logics and it is not going to work in the way I know the Muslim societies. That is why they have to change their policy.

My recommendation is that: the European states like Denmark or Holland should announce to their own people and to the world that in such free societies Press has the freedom to write anything they want and government has no control or restriction or censorship on them, but if any papers risk writing an article that can affect the economy of such countries, by means of eg Islamic countries ban their products in reaction to such blasphemies, such press, firms or companies are absolutely accountable and liable to pay compensation to such governments(eg danish government) for the million dollars of loss they endured as a result of Islamic world's banning their products, or even the life loss of some people that occurred consequently, as a result of such risks.

Such stunning announcements will put an end to such incidents forever,and even though ,they have absolutely freedom to write anything,they won't risk paying millions of dollars of compensation to governments or even end up to jail because they can't afford to pay it.Plus the freedom of press remains untouched.

To me as long as the Islamic world has not started their own style of Islamic Renaissance, the world should somehow understand the situation and prevent such tragedies and events by following such smart policies.
May be one day, in free Islamic societies in the far future, Muslims also get used to blasphemies as modern Christian world does, but such a case is not for now it is for very far future, and until then the governments should implement some smart policies to prevent such things.

Eliezar Glaubach said...

Dear frank,

You don`t miss any of the aspects,on the contrary it seems to me ``you hit the nail on it`s head.``

If I may add , it all derives from the global conflict between east and west, or as detailed in Huntington`s thesis of civilizational clash, where he argues that the trends of global conflicts are increasingly appearing at these civilizational divisions thus we may realize that Western belief in the universality and diverse political systems are to great extent quite naïve and unfortunately enhance antagonism between nations and civilizations.

Freedom of choice and expression is not the `` cup of tea `` at all kinds of dictatorships .,which are generally one dominant party political system that is ruled by one leader or an elite group of people under the principle of authoritarianism.

This is the case of Iran today, the opposite of what Denmark represents,the multi-party political system etc.

The present global challenge and issue facing humanity of peace building architecture for international cooperation as proclaimed so often by the united nations and by most active global NGOs ,are regrettably not represented in the national interests, as they appear above, of Iran and Denmark .

Building bridges of cooperation means -speak –speak –speak on every opportunity ,on every level –family ,community , intranational relations and surely on international platform.

Thus both, Iran and Denmark erred badly.We in the Middle East are, unfortunately , too often committing the same mistake.

Eliezer Glaubach-Gal,

Jerusalem

Paul Mojzes said...

Dear Frank: In response to your statement and invitation I want to state my conviction that a right (such as the right to free speech) cannot be abbrogated nor is there a need to apologize because someone's sensibilities are offended. Along those lines I have defended Unificationists in Russia in front of those who wanted to abbrogate your rights because they were offensive to the sensibilities of some people in Russia.
I guess, you d id miss the point. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark has to apologize for the deeds of their citizens that are constitutionally guaranteed in this particular case then anyone, anywhere can demand apologies on any pretext. Its time for religious people , including our Muslim friends to grow up and stop feeling offended by every stupid prank or statement. On the other hand, if you were to check some of the Muslim papers youd' find cartoons of Jews, Christians , Americans, or Westerners and you' d discover that they are not at all lagging in the 'art' of ridicule. Paul

Gunnard Johnston said...

For a nation like Iran, whose leaders refuse to acknowledge the Jewish holocaust, and who keep repeating that "Israel will be blotted from the earth", I have a hard time sympathizing with their demands of an "apology" for some cartoons in Danish newspapers. Iran's leadership needs to clean up its own house before it can credibly complain about how others see their state religion.

Gunnard

Mumtaz Ahmad said...

Dear Frank:

I enjoyed your take on the issue. There was a call made by some Islamic groups in Pakistan for street protests against the re-publication of the cartoons in several Danish newspapers last week but, according to the Pakistani press, only about 200 people showed up -- and remember we in Pakistan do not consider a street protest demonstration unless it is about at least 10 thousand stron. In other word, the response of people was rather cool. Three reasons for that: one, the focus right now the Pakistan elections and the outcome of the elections, the real anger being directed against President Musharraf; two, Danish cartoons are an old story now and whatever anger there was against them had already been expressed in Europe and in Muslim countries when they were originally published; and three, there have been voices among some serious-minded Muslim leaders that this is a non-issue and that Muslim anger needs to be focused on larger and more substantive issues such as wars in Afghnaistan and Iraq and the plight of the Palestinians in Ghaza.

My own view is that these cartoon, while offensive to most (or almost all) Muslims as the depict the revered Prophet as a Prophet of violence, should be totally ignored by Muslims. A polite letter to the cartoonist or the editors requesting them to respect the sensitivities of Muslims who have the highest regard for their Prophet will be enough to register your protest. Going to streets, shouting slogans against Danish government and demanding, as the Pakistani religious leaders have done, the breaking of diplomatic relations with Denmark, is both counterproductive and silly. Personally, I cannot see any merit on the part of the editors/cartoonists to unncessayily provoke 1.2 billion Muslims on such nasty gesture -- freedom of the press notwithstanding. As they say, freedoms come with certain social and ethical responsibilities and unless the stakes are really high in terms of defending some substantive rights, one should employ some sef-censorship in the interest of larger issues of peace, harmony, and even freedom to exercise on larger issues. A more reasond intellectual intervention in the debate on Islam and violence by the Danish (or any other) intellectuals would have served a better purpose.

As the interaction of Muslims in the West and Wesytern societies increases, we should expect more of such controversies and both of them need to sit down and define a reasonable framework in which opposing views on religious sensitivities, religious tolerance, mutual accommodation, co-existence, and sorting out of different perspectives on the exercise of freedom of thought and expression could be discussed in less controversial manner.

This is where you come in. I suggest you give a serious thought on this issue and see if you can organize a one-day conference in Europe in collaboration with European Muslim communities on this issue. You have my support on this.

With love and prayers
Mumtaz

Lloyd Eby said...

Dear Frank,

I’m going to assume that your stated interest in having me respond to your blog essay, “Danish Foreign Ministry Errs,” was sincere, and that you really want to know what I think about this. So I will not attempt to say something soothing or other than what I really think.

Frank, I must say that what you wrote made me quite depressed because the opinion you expressed is evil, short-sighted, and destructive.

Your opinion is short-sighted because you’ve sold your birthright for a mess of pottage, and it’s not even good pottage – it is, instead, poisonous. I could also respond by quoting the first verse of chapter 3 of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, “Oh Frank, who has bewitched you?”

It is a developed principle and attitude in all ethically good countries and societies and political systems and religions that it is never permissible to use physical violence against an opinion or point of view or pronouncement – including cartoons, TV shows, newspaper columns, etc. – with which you disagree or that you think has slandered or disrespected or defamed you. To do so is evil, and to support or sanction doing so is evil.

Today’s radical Islam – often called Islamo-Fascism – does not hold to that principle, and is thus ethically wrong and evil. Instead, Muslims around the world are committing murder, lootings, burnings, and other forms of mayhem when they think they have been slighted or defamed. They are even doing it when they have not been slighted or defamed because they think that the world needs to become Islamic, that they have the mission of converting the world, and that they can and should sue violence to do so.

There is an important and useful academic discussion now taking place concerning whether Islam is or is not really a religion of peace, and whether today’s radical Islam is an accurate and correct development out of central Islamic texts (the Qur’an and others) and traditions, or whether it is an improper deviation.

But the situation you presented and your response to it has nothing to do with that academic discussion. Instead, today’s street Islam, as opposed to the Islam of the best or most progressive Islamic scholars and teachers, is definitely a religion of violence and murder and mayhem.

In fact, radical Islam is the greatest public evil in existence today. Even Nazism and Communism did not send women and children out with bombs strapped to their bodies to become suicide murders of innocent civilians in cafes, marketplaces, and other gathering places. But Muslims do this, and few Muslims, even learned Islamic clerics and scholars, rarely speak publicly in denunciation of it.

Your birthright has certain things as central and inviolable values, including, among others, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Many people have shed blood and died over a period of about 400 years or more in an effort to gain and establish those values and principles, and have those become established in law and public practice. My own Anabaptist and Mennonite ancestors, for example, were killed in the most grotesque ways in the name of religion by both Protestants and Catholics who thought that the Anabaptists and Mennonites were profaning and harming their (i.e. the Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox) religions. (See “Martyrs Mirror” for an account of this.)

Now you want to give all that up in the benighted belief that you can thereby purchase comity with Muslims who think it is appropriate that they should use murder, looting, burning, beatings, and other sorts of mayhem to enforce their view of what is proper religion and proper respect for their religion.

I think this like selling your birthright for poisoned pottage because the Muslims you are trying to appease and coddle will not stop there – they will not be satisfied until their violent and evil attitude has succeeded in prevailing throughout the world, especially in Western Europe. Thus, ultimately, they will attack and possibly even kill you and people like you too.

A central point of freedom of religion and freedom of the press is that you must grant freedom to the other (i.e. the person with whom you disagree) to publish whatever he wants, even if you think it is utterly repugnant, and to believe what he wants and practice his religion as he wants, so long as he does not use physical violence in the process of doing so – this even though you find his religion to be utterly repugnant. To repeat, in order to have freedom of speech and press, and freedom of religion, you must grant the other – i.e. the one with whom you most disagree and who you most abhor – the right to publish as he wants and to speak, believe, and worship as he wants.

Most centrally, you cannot use physical violence to enforce what you think is proper or correct or good speech and publication by other people.

Christians finally learned this, after the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation – after a great deal of blood had been shed and inconclusive war had raged for about a hundred years.

The notion of tolerance is foreign to religions in their early form; it is learned only after long and difficult experience with the fruits of intolerance – i.e. murder, mayhem, burnings and lootings, war and bloodshed, etc.

Most Muslims and the Muslim world have not yet learned this. Moreover today’s Muslims have shown over and over again that they will use violence to make the rest of the world bend to their view of what is proper religion, proper religious respect, proper piety, and so on.

And you are siding with them in this. Will you also side with them in condemning the young man in Afghanistan to death for publishing something that they think offends Islam?

You might protest that you are not siding with them, but merely recognizing how they will respond, and saying that those who made the provocation – i.e. the newspapers and editors who published the supposedly offensive cartoons – are at fault. I think that is balderdash. Were my Anabaptist and Mennonite ancestors responsible for provoking murder and mayhem against them because they held a belief that others despised? Was Roger Williams responsible for the treatment given him by others who disagreed with his promulgating his religious views? Were the Christians who were imprisoned and killed in the Soviet Union responsible for their mistreatment? After all, in each of those cases the ones doing the mayhem and killing thought that the provocation was sufficiently great that mayhem and killing were appropriate responses to it.

You call it an infantile provocation. That too is erroneous. The Muslim fanatics did not consider it to be infantile – they took it as being worthy of committing murder, pillage, and arson. Thus the Danish papers were exactly correct in publishing those cartoons again because to refrain from doing so would have been to succumb to Muslim evil – in fact, they should do it over and over and over again, until the radical Muslims become exhausted from their (i.e. the fanatic Muslims’) murderous violence. This is the same point as those Christians in the Soviet Union or Communist China who refused to quit preaching what they regarded as important truth, simply because the Communist authorities were going to imprison, torture, or kill them for doing so. Instead, we praise them – rightly – for their refusal to buckle under to the evil force.

I think you have been bewitched by a false estimation of the situation with Islam and by personal hubris about your understanding of and ability to deal with this problem.

One – either a person or a government – does not deal with those who are bent on committing murder, pillage, and arson by apologizing to them. So the Danish officials did exactly what they should have done in refusing to go meet with the Iranians, especially as the Iranian government is a chief sponsor of worldwide Muslim mayhem and terrorism.

Your taking the stance you took in that essay makes me most depressed, near to despair. I think you should know better.

Yours truly,

Lloyd Eby

Anonymous said...

Dear Frank,

What would others say? Today, I received a new comment to the Cartoon Crisis on a Middle Eastern (business) news site saying "No Muslim will ever compromise that some Non-Muslims try to reduces the respect of our HOLY PROPHET PBUH." The comment was in response to a story calling people to boycott Danish goods in Qatar.

Imo, the issue of the new distance between these mutual 'theys' has been brewing in the last two years to become bigger and more virulent than we care to see.

I believe that I have a personal location advantage for keeping this in mind. This morning, as almost every working day here in Beirut, I have passed a building under reconstruction. A local bank used to occupy the ground floor and it looks like they could reopen soon - a bit over two years after their offices were gutted by a fire set by protesters.

The protesters hit the place in February 2006 at the peak of the Cartoon Crisis. They were not paragons of Islamic virtue. They were bussed in from remote places and attacked the building as they had been prompted and paid to do because the embassy of Denmark was located on the top floor.

Witnesses told me that the protesters had no idea about the facts in the Cartoon conflict, let alone about all those literary and high-minded arguments that find such favor with the educated respondents to your blog.

Case in point, the destruction wrought that day in 2006 affected only Lebanese property - the bank and a PR firm. The Danish and Austrian embassies higher up in the building were beyond the mob's reach.

Us brainy blokes may consider these losses of local companies and lack of damage to Danish interests to be "irony".

To those who ordered and paid the protesters to go on a rampage, this reality will not have mattered in the least. They got their moment in the news, flexed muscles, showing power and gaining more importance among their clientele.

A burnt-out building in Beirut is a small example for the damage that we are risking today as exponents of the "Free West" when we take freedom as anything other than an obligation to show maturity and exercise the responsibility that many compatriots on planet earth do not exhibit.

My concern is not with intellectual correctness on any side. Nor can I see any point in discussing and stipulating all the good and right things that an enlightened Danish, or even Iranian, government should do. The one thing that could make me ecstatic would be if the fires of the next war were not to be fueled anymore.

Asking for such restraint under the region's current circumstances, I think, will be futile. I may not expect reason from those in the Middle East who seek war not in defence of religion but for reasons of their delusion and selfish greed.

But can one even hope for the least collective sanity in those nations that want to "democratize" the world?

The production and reproduction of the Cartoons in Danish media ride on the back of a whale of prejudice and deliberate insults against people who "free Westerners" know will be hurt and answer in rage.

An Austrian communal politician, populist of the lowest type, used offensive statements against Prophet Mohammed as "election campaign tool" in January of 2008.

In 2007, a playhouse director in Berlin felt the need to convert a Mozart opera's reconciliatory conclusion into a hateful display of heads of religious founders.

In American public life, the number of vain attacks and infuriatingly mistaken editorials targeting Islam and other identities is staggering beyond anyone's ability to keep track.

To tie it up, I see the Cartoon Crisis as only a symptom and possible minor trigger of events in a confrontation where the number of war profiteers and bloodthirsty ideologues is fearsome while useful fools and over-opinionated concrete heads are in oversupply.

The forecast for the peacemakers isn't great.

This should prompt us who want to be neither war makers nor concrete fools to consider the consequences of pushing parochial views.

If we are cementing our positions with words and images in self-righteous convictions, what peace will we effect?

We have heard it said in great speeches and in sermons - The word is a weapon greater than the sword. We all know the danger of spewing words in anger and concocting images that are not an expression of our innermost interests and human-ness but of our egotistical pettiness, our fear of the aliens, our raging envy to deny others what we don't have - and our selfrighteous claims of possessing the "truth".

Does it matter when Iran will apologize for sins that then will be history? Hope and faith in the strength of all good powers say Iran will have to turn from hatred to constructive engagement and apologize, just as other nations have been and still are in absolute need to find and voice remorse for their sins.

It matters that we do what is right for us to do. What we do will be right if it helps bring peace. For deciding what is right may the judge be she or he who can lay claim and give evidence for having a recipe to stop the immeasurable pain that threatens us all.

Regards,

TTS
(With apologies for not putting my contact info; these days, speaking ur mind in the Middle East just doesn't seem worth the risk)