The row over cartoons of Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten goes on and on. Arab Foreign Ministers yesterday condemned the Danish Government for not doing anything about the cartoons, so no surprise there then – article from the BBC here. Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen has stood firm throughout, refusing to enter the dispute and rightly stating that it is no role for him to intervene in a matter that concerns what a newspaper has published in a society known for its free press. This article from TCS gives an excellent overview of Fogh’s position, and why pressure from ambassadors of Muslim states won’t work (note: Turkey was among them – a concern. Isn’t it supposed to be a secular state?)
The European Commission’s VP Frattini has also weighed in with a criticism of Jyllands-Posten – see this – but he does after all come from Forza Italia party (not known for being liberal or progressive). I wonder whether the Commission actually agreed that line?
And how have some extremist Muslims reacted to the cartoons, especially one which has a bomb in Muhammad’s turban (see it here)? They have issued death threats against the editors of Jyllands-Posten and the person who drew the cartoon! Bitter irony there then…
Seriously though, what is the best way through all of this? Any newspaper editor would surely have known that the cartoons were likely to cause great offence. Yet we publish all kinds of things each and every day that cause many people offence. Just pick up a copy of The Sun for example. Does not make me want to go and issue death threats against their editor. We are once again on the hallowed turf of religion, and hence all notion of rationality tends to go out of the window. Be it with text, drama (remember the Sikh play in Birmingham?), humour or cartoons, religion tends to occupy this ludicrous position where it is immune to the critique to which we subject just about everything in our everyday lives. I fear there is no way to allow that critique without religious leaders crying foul. Anyway, if you care about this, join the National Secular Society – for a fair and tolerant approach to these issues!