Attack on Cartoonist is Indefensible 50

It is not pleasant to be deliberately offensive to anybody’s religious views. But the radical Christian right in the USA, and the whole history of the abuse of religous authority in all religions, shows why it is essential to maintain freedom of speech on religious subjects. So the cartoons about Mohammed should not be censored; the same is true of the films “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Life of Brian”. Muslim friends of mine who are outraged at the Danish cartoons, do not hesitate to make fun of Hindus and their perceived veneration of cows.

The values of free speech are crucial. To those who say there is no freedom to offend, I would say that is why they persecuted Gallileo,Copernicus – and Ulugbek. The freedom to offend is essential to human progress.

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50 thoughts on “Attack on Cartoonist is Indefensible

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  • simplex

    “What happens when one religion, by its very principles, blasphemes in the eyes of another?” – errrr the blasphmer gets punished???

  • writerman

    I’m not sure about the concept of “free speech” being an absolute. I’m confused by the concept of a “right” to total, absolute, freedom of speech or expression. Obviously this doesn’t exist anywhere, not really. All societies have rules for speech and expression, written and unwritten.

    Complete freedom of speech doesn’t exist in Denmark. There are laws, similar to those in the UK, that prohibit certain types of utterances, whether they are “true” or not.

    Personally I think the cartoonist Curt Vestergaard should be able to draw any kind of shit he wants, but one shouldn’t be surprised, in the current climate, if many people are appalled and angered beyond reason, in return. I, for example, would not wave a red flag in front of a raging bull, or stick my hand in wasps nest, and expect not to be stung as a result.

    In much the same way, why would anyone choose to deliberately provoke Muslims by pissing on their religion, most deeply held beliefs, and culture; isn’t it enough that we’re invading them? Isn’t the over a million dead in Iraq enough? Isn’t the destruction of Palestine enough? Isn’t the slow strangulation of Gaza enough? Do we really have to piss on them as well?

    In Denmark Muslims are thought to represent everything that we are not. They are primative representatives of the past, the middle-ages, anti-modernity; whilst we are the future, we are modern, the pinacle of human progress. This is mixture of collosal ignorance mixed with collosal arrogance, leading, I believe, to our willingness to commit collosal crimes, because we don’t respect Muslims as being on a par with us. They are put outside our cultural norms, demonized, and dehumanized.

    This process, in a “war” or more correctly a crusade, the crusade of modernity; this process of dehumanization is very, very, dangerous. If we accepted that Muslims were equally human, on our level culturally, could we kill them in such huge numbers with such apparant ease and lack of remorse? I don’t believe so.

    Cultural wars are often just the first stage in the process that leads to real warfare. And this is the context one should see these cartoons in. They are a form of propaganda designed to cause a reaction, both in the minds of the “enemy” and in our minds too.

    It’s telling that Vestergaard recently spoke at the Fascist, Danish People’s Party’s congress and thanked them for their support.

    I don’t support murder as a political weapon.

  • lwtc247


    How does your apparent absolute free speech viewpoint work in relation to the official secrets act and also book redactions? Didn’t you have to redact parts of MiS? Do you still uphold the OSA on a personal level? Should anyone in the intelligence services have total freedom of speech? If you don’t think so, then aren’t you adopting a hypocritical stance?

    It seems freedom of speech is not an absolute, rather a ‘zone’ with a fuzzy demarcation line. As I said before a work along the lines of “I believe Muslims are wrong to believe you will go to heaven and get 70 virgins if you engage in the act of suicide bombing and here is why…” is a work of merit. A cartoon isn’t especially when they surely knew the dislike of Muslims in an Islamic context of depictions of the prophet and God.

    It isn’t a question of having your ability to ‘have a laugh’ taken away. A debate on the above topic could well use humour in it’s delivery.

  • Craig

    I don’t hold free speech as an absolute. It is however a major good that requires a very strong reason to overrule it. Offending religous belief is not a very good reason.

  • Barbara

    Early depictions of Mohammad are quite common, especially in Iranian Islamic tradition. These religious hysterics contradict their own religious texts –

    “Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant.” Qur’an 7:199.

    Of course the attack was indefensible. I admire the cartoonist for his apparently calm reactions and refusal to be intimidated.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    “V.v. silly of you to say the cartoons were ‘free speech’ Craig. An academic essay or lecture epxressing beliefs of percieved wrong things in religion, inc. Islam yes, that’s free speech. There is intellectual milage in it. Gross provocative hate inspired insults and taunts designed to plunge society into chaos No.”

    What do you think about flag burning? That’s not “an academic essay or lecture” but is certainly political expression. Come to think of it, what about someone stating “I hate the Pope, who is an asshole”?

  • Franco

    Islam is not the only victim in this whole story. Why is death the only chant we hear. For those who belive in God..why dont you have faith that in the end we will all answer to him? Keep your heart pure and follow his laws as you deem right and leave ‘him’ to do the judging of the so called ‘unbelievers’.

  • lwtc247

    Pervez Craig.

    You use of the word “Offending” is very revealing. It shows you understand these cartoons exactly for what they are.

    The catoons are not what most intelligent people would feel confortable about in terms of free speech, namely, intellectual discourse. You know that and so do most others here.

    By supporting the right of people to grossly insult others, you are in fact supporting what could be termed “_absolute_ free speech” as public taunts and insults out of the blue based on hatred designed to rally latent racism amongst the many, is pretty much the last stop or outer limit as far as free speech goes. What criteria would you say this becomes unacceptable?

    Isn’t the best fuzzy line demarcating the border between FoS to ‘danger zones’ such as these cartoons, actually determined by ‘the public interest’ (c.f. freedom of the press). I think it is. If so, we need to ask were these cartoons really in the public interest? Do they benefit society?

    Of course not! You know this Craig.

    Is it too much to ask for your support the imposition of some form of penalty for these cartoonists (an appropriate label) for their regressive spiteful and, as some commentators have already highlighted well, dangerous prescident?

    I suspect you’re pushing the boat out here because you think this event might be the start of a slippery slope leading towrds a totalitarinaism attitude of FoS as applied to many more issues not just religion. I believe strongly in FoS and I don’t see this particular issue as being any such slippery slope.

    Overwhelmingly, one minds ones manners and acts with respect (even just tolerance) when interactiong with people and very often in diplomic circles – as you reveal so well time and time again in your Book ‘Catholic Orangemen’. Why did you engage politely with these horrible killers? Because you wanted something better at the end of it all and you thought being polite (not insulting) was the best way to do it. Why then are you supporting the shift backwards by these in a respectful way when meeting and engaging with people, that

    To Religionists, there is nothing more imporant! To them life is simply an instrument for worshiping God. Some standards are worth upholding. Preventing insults against God and one of the greatest men ever to live is one such standard.

  • lwtc247

    (sorry about the unusualy pasting of the name “Pervez” there Craig, I’m multitasking right and it came from a posting involving Musharraf)

  • lwtc247

    “why dont you have faith that in the end we will all answer to him?” this is a commonly made question, frankly asked by people who should have thought a bit longer before asking.

    Religionists do believe we will be answerable to God, God is the Ultimate and FlawlessJudge. We live on this earth, we have ‘society’. A good society is where one can exercise ones free will to worship (or not worship) God. On this earth, crimes happen which destablise society: rape, murder, usury etc… hence there are punishments to deter people from impacting negatively on society.

    As for the political act of flagbuning, I don’t think people burn flags without a reason. Why not addrsss that reason?

  • Tim B

    I don’t think people draw cartoons of religious leaders without a reason. Why not address that reason?

  • Larry from St. Louis


    To nationalists, nothing is more important to them than the flag.

    What is the proper criminal penalty for burning the flag of a country within that country?

  • Steelback

    Isn’t Denmark named after the Dan tribe-one of the lost tribes of Israel?

    Didn’t the Danish king and his ministers don the yellow star when the Nazis tried to round up the Jews during WW2 making the intended Nazi slaughter impossible?

    Well that’s the official history anyway.

    Now it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that Danish intelligence was penetrated long ago by Mossad and operates now pretty much as an intelligence proxy for them.

    Craig and all those who’ve been getting themselves in a lather since the cartoon story broke have been taken for a ride.The consequences have been far more serious in muslim countries where several have died expressing their outrage in demonstrations.

    Does the Mossad care about the effect the scam has had on Danish society or the fatal results in places like Pakistan?

    I think not.They are engaged in fomenting a great civilisational war and the cartoon scam is part of this ongoing operation.

    Who are the main players in the scam?

    The key player is the man who commissioned the cartoons in the first place.The suspiciously named,”Flemming Rose” gave an eloquent defence of his motives in the Washington Post in February 2006.

    He wanted to integrate Danish muslims into the country’s tradition of satire was the more tongue-in-cheek of the claims he made about his motives to the Post!He saw himself engaged on a mission to pit the values of free expression essential to secular democracy against submission to Islamic taboos.

    But exactly who is “Flemming Rose”?

    He’s a Ukrainian journalist who took sanctuary in Florida not long after the storm broke.Mostaque Ali has a good idea who the guy really is here:

    The other leading player is Jakob Scharf the current Head of Danish intelligence who’s now taking all the praise for saving the cartoonist,Kurt Westergaard,from the assassin’s axe.

    He has represented the Denmark legation at the EU and enjoyed a meteoric rise to high office.

    Strangely this is the same Jakob Scharf who as Home Minister refused to extradite Chechen warlord,Akmed Zakayef back to Russia.Two years later,in 2004 Zzakayez was granted asylum in Britain.

    Just who is Jakob Scharf?

    Well he’s certainly on board with the double standards of the Western democracies and Israel towards Islamic terrorism.

    When those Islamic warlords are involved in organized crime on a massive scale and helping to break up Yugoslavia and Russia in accordance with Anglo-US-Israeli geopolitical priorities-they’re our friends regardless of any crimes they may commit against any number of civilians.

    So who was the guy with the axe who managed to get into the Westergaard security compound?

    Probably another friend of Jakob Scharf!

    So who are Rose and Scharf?

    Come to that who the hell is Kurt Westergaard?

  • Larry from St. Louis

    “Isn’t Denmark named after the Dan tribe-one of the lost tribes of Israel?”

    Steelback, I encourage you to come to America to have cultural learnings to make benefit of your country.

  • Owen Lee Hugh-Mann

    People do not have a universal right to label anything they don’t happen to like as “offensive” just because they have chosen to take offence. The violent reaction to Mr Westergaard’s cartoon simply proves the point it illustrates. Religions are make-believe for “adults” who prefer lies to truth, which is why such people shouldn’t have the right to decide what society allows or censors. I happen to find religion offensive to reason and humanity as a whole, but not being a religious bigot/zealot I don’t threaten those who cling to such beliefs with violence.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    There is always a judgement call between competing ‘rights’ and interests: free speech, editorial judgement, etc. There is also incitement to attack, warmongering, calls to revolution, etc. – cartoons have been used for all these purposes, from C18th onwards. Almost by definition, cartoons are propagandistic and this can communicate a very forceful and immediate power to the viewer.

    But all media – whether we are talking novels, cartoons, films, music or hwatever – will reflect the balances of power. China won’t worry too much now about silly pictures of guys with big teeth, etc., because nowadays China laughs and the world turns.

    On balance, therefore, I think it is better to ‘let publish and be damned’ and to accept that there will be material published, somewhere in the world, sometime or other, that will ‘offend thine eye’ and for those who feel incensed or aggrieved or feel oppressed or victimised to forge their own, intelligent, argumentations which focus on their own perfectablity.

    I think too that whether we are Jewish, Muslim or whatever, we all need to become a little less ready to take offence at the drop of a hat. It is a symptom of weakness of the part of Muslims and deep insecurity on the part of some Jews. Both of these emotions are understandable in the context of history but must be resisted in the context of the future.

    We see ‘Bar Buddha’ and ‘Avatar’ all over the place, and no-one gets too fussed. Let us grown up (again). We have regressed to infancy, I’m afraid. If faith is strong – genuinely internally strong, not superficially and insufferably pious, intellectually timid and reflexively censorious as is the case with too many Muslims in the UK and elsewhere today – nothing will weaken it.

    This assumes that religion has a place in public discourse, which is another matter again. Personally, I think that we have allowed overtly religious viewpoints to gain far too prominent a role in contemporary public discourse. This is divisive and essentalising and allows those with the biggest bucks – in the case of Muslims, that is the Saudi-financed Salafists and their offspring – to shout the loudest and at every available opportunity in a perverse celebration of the culture of offence. This is as much an attempt to corral the Muslim communities of the world into compliance as it is to critique whatever is the current scapegoat. When such people are criticised, they resort to the scoundrel’s refuge of,’this is the word of God’ (when it is simply their own words!). I include the Daily Mail et al’s selective reportage of examples of ‘political correctness’ on local authorities, local democracy being a frequent target of the Far Right, as being simply a part of this same hysteria.

    This, together with the culture of risk aversion, seems to have restricted the range of possible – or expressible – thought in this country and turne boors, bigots and other tubular types into martyrs and heroes. Really, what we should be organising around is war and the extremist economics of the UK and the world, not engaging in diversionary sloganeering activity as a substitute for thought.

  • Arsalan Goldberg


    What you said is completely irrelevant.

    It doesn’t matter what Danes were thousands of years ago, what matters is what they are now. And what they are now is a bunch of racist hypocrites who use the slogan of free speech to justify racism and incitement to genocide. What the king of Denmark did by wearing a Yellow Star to show his solidarity with his Jewish subjects during Nazi occupation is commendable. What the Danish Government are doing now in their refusal to show their solidarity with their Muslim Subjects during this period but instead showing their solidarity with the perpetrators of Genocide against Muslims but taking an active part in the genocide by sending troops to both Afghanistan and Iraq is contemptible.

    What people were is different to what they are. I know many Muslims who were Jews, but they are now Muslims.

    What I noticed about what happened was that many left his grand daughter with an axe wielding killer while he locked himself in the toilet. What type of man does that? This proves that those cartoonists were nothing but selfish cowards. The axe man as expected left the young girl unharmed, but instead took on a group of armed police, this proves he wasn’t a coward and he was merciful to that girl, more merciful than her own cowardly grandfather who left her to be killed.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    With respect, Arsalan (at 1037am on 5/1/10), when you talk about “the Danes”, are you referring to all people with Danish citizenship, those who define themselves as indigenous Danes, the Danish government, the mainstream media in Denmark, the particular publication, the specific cartoonist? You see, when people talk about “the Muslims this” and “the Muslims that”, “the Jews this” and “the Jews that”, etc., we rightly tend to criticise those people for essentialising and reducing us.

    I despise what NATO et al are doing in the Middle East/ Afghanistan. I also think the cartoons and other such nonsense are idiotic and deliberate provocations based on a persisting historical tribalism which ought to have been made defunct years ago but which serves the war machine – and those on all ‘sides’ who benefit from it – well. But the people who decide to disseminate such rubbish know that they will get a response. Now ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-meets-OBL’ is the new show in town. And it’s an effective diversion from Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. I think that in the numinous matters of the world of information, we – I include myself – need to box more cleverly.

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