Just came back from Mexico; my winter vacation with Charlotte. What a great and immense country and the peoples haven't been anything but nice, funny and helpful. And not to forget the entertaining Montezuma Oropendula in the tree at Bonampak. I guess this is the eternal lesson from travels around the world: People are just people, and usually they are much nicer than me!
I'm not Christian. I'm not Jewish. I'm not Muslim, I'm not believing in any "paper" God perhaps except the pink invisible unicorn or the massive invisible and immeasurable Higgs boson.
Coming back to Denmark was with mixed feelings. Already in Mexico City, the night before leaving the immense country, we watched our UN dissident and Pia Kjærsgaard supported Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, expressing his general principles of the human rights to the freedom of expression. This is right and important, of course, but at the same time it revealed his non-Scavenius shadow of non-diplomacy approach to the Muslim world in this matter.
The more I think about it, the more I find him incompetent when it comes to foreign policy: The arguments for going to war with Iraq without a UN mandate, the lies about weapons of mass destruction and of links to Al Qaeda, the Kyoto agreement, the wretched unilateral focus on humanitarian help to victims of the tsunami and of the earthquake in Pakistan He wanted to seem strong and firm. Later, though, he lost firmness anyway. Firm abdominals are not enough.
The notorious twelve Muhammed drawings were published in the Danish Newspaper Jyllands Posten on my birthday last year, September 30th, 2005. See the chronology here [in Danish, sorry, but you'll find loads of links to the originalJP article, to television and to sources of the history of Muhammed portrays].
The Muslim community in Denmark urged the newspaper to apologize for affronting Islam by drawing e.g. the prophet with a bomb in his turban – and later the PM was requested to dissociate himself from JP, which he didn't. The majority of Danes acknowledged that this was an offense to (Danish) Muslims. Naturally, typecasting all adherents of the world's largest religion as following some "terrorist prophet" wasn't excactly a smart move. Had Osama Bin Laden been depicted this way – with a bomb – the offense would't have been taken, I'm sure.
Depicting all Christians as adherents of the Pope's crusade againts infidels (as in e.g. the Albigensian crusade in 1209) could perhaps be a proper comparison. Perhaps not. Comparing the two religions doesn't really make sense. Comparing historical events doesn't either. It is nonsensible to use the religions as eachother's yardstick. Either way, the printing of the drawings clearly demonstrated a complete lack of understanding and appreciation of Islamic faith and the prerequisites for printing Muhammed like this were wrong in the first place, I believe. The reason is that there was really no reason to do so whatsoever, except for deliberately enhancing the divide in a polarized world in fear of terror. Viewing Muslims as one homogenous group is obviously a BIG mistake, especially these days. I really pity all the peace-loving Muslims in the world.
On the other hand: The moderate Muslim groupings are now under so much pressure that perhaps their counterreactions against extremist islamists will lead to new dynamics within Islam. Perhaps they will go up against those of the most extremist imams such as Abu Laban and against countries that do not respect the laws of other nations that that of own country of origin. Again, it is difficult to speak about – or wish for – a "reformation" of Islam as some kind of analogue to the Lutheran/Calvinist reformation of 1536.
What is the most important aim here: Tolerance or freedom of expression? The concepts don't necessarily have to conflict eachother. I find that an apology would have been proper in this particular case. And this is not just because I'm a "naïve left wing" who view all Muslims as victims. Left winged people have for long faught for their right to criticise Christianety. Now the same right has been challenged to Islam. Is it the same? Is the comparison proper? The circumstances are – and will be – different in every possible way. This asymmetry has been evident in e.g. the New York Times. I find the apology proper with reference to plain and simple respect and tolerance for other's beliefs. I wish to dissociate myself from the mean intensions of JP. Right now newspapers shout about their freedom of expression. Noone about their obvious freedom of not expressing themselves. Ok. So, this was a mistake. But then the imams took over and since then the matter has escalated to an international conflict of boycott and even dead demonstrants. The cause for these sad consequences are not to be found in Denmark, I believe. This is evident from the attitudes that have been expressed by the extremist imam-envoys.
National laws hold within the national borders. This is true for Danish laws like the racism or blasphemy section – or the affirmed right to the freedom of expression. Iran's bizarre national laws for the right to kill anyone who have offended the prophet (and who has two witnesses), also only holds for Iran, and not internationally, luckily. The paradox here is the pan-national character of Islam. Danish extremist imams like Abu Laban wanted to internaionalize the issue of the Muhammed depictions and gathered a party to bring the drawings south to the Levant. And he certainly succeeded. But this action does not appreciate or respect the national boundaries of the Danish law. It could perhaps be compered with killing an Islam-blasphemic in Germany with reference to Iranian law. Bad comparison, perhaps, but I believe the point is clear: Escorting the drawings to the Middle East and Arabian countries was a completely wrong action.