Voices of reason on the Danish cartoons

by Dave Schuler on February 3, 2006

There’s been an enormous amount of aburdity written about the cartoons of Mohammed printed in a Danish newspaper and now re-printed in a number of European papers. But through all the din a few voices of reason have managed to come through, some from rather unexpected sources.

Hugh Hewitt

The furor over the Danish cartoons is sparking an odd reaction among some commentators in the West who see no contradiction in condemning the idiocy of Joel Stein or the repulsiveness of Tom Toles while urging solidarity with the idiot newspapermen in Denmark who thought it a good idea to not just illustrate Mohammed, but to include some illustrations designed to offend. Like Toles and Stein, they sought a cheap reaction, and getting it, are alarmed that anyone could be judgmental of their efforts.

Of course the thugs who threaten violence against the idiots are evil, and the reaction across radical Islam is every bit as chilling and outrageous as the 1989 fatwa against Rushdie.

But I think the third course between the cartoonist provocateurs and the radicals waving guns at the EU employees in Gaza is to denounce without ambiguity or excuse the latter but at the same time to delineate a very bright line between what the West stands for and the churlishness of the caroonist provocateurs.

Dafydd ab Hugh

One needn’t always rush to do whatever one has the “right” to do; a bit of circumspection is often in order. In this case, shouldn’t somebody ask “is this the right time and place for a war, and is a cartoon the cause under whose banner we march?”

This is imbecilic. I would love to see Europe pick a real fight with militant Islamism… but the first rule of war is only to declare it on people you really want to fight — not on a billion people at once, many of whom would be your allies under better circumstances.

Rantings of a Sand Monkey

As expected, no one started a boycott France and Germany campaign. And when I mention it to people, they mumble uncomfortably and then change the subject. Guess it’s easy to show off your islamic economic might against the makers of Lego and Butter. But Boycott Channel, Cartier, Rolex, Mercedes or BMW? We don’t love the Prophet THAT much.

L’Ombre d’Olivier

Wester people are not the enimies of muslims, but most of them are not aware and studied what is Islam. The duty of muslims is to show them what is Islam by witnessing them as the best people on earth. Only by name as a muslim, there is no benefit, if only they lead a life in accordance with the directions of Allah and prophet Muhammed, a man become a muslim. A real muslim will never keep hate and prejudice in his mind, but sympathy upon ignorance and tolerance upon mistreatment and try to teach them through their excellent behaviour and work, as the holy Quran orders, defent evil with good.

The present cartoons are nothing to bother, as they can never defame Islam or muslims, if muslims lead a good life and stand as a witness for excellent deeds, no body can create misunderstanding in the minds of others.

But one thing is important, all the good men should make their voice upon these kind of bad behaviour as this is making split in the hearts of various religious people and it creates damage to the smooth life and culture.


I have to disagree with the prevailing position. [NOTE: By the end of the post I've learned more and somewhat changed my mind.] It’s not that I think the offending cartoons should be withdrawn. I think they should (voluntarily) never have been drawn. (Well, no. I’ve drawn offensive cartoons, shown them to a few friends and put them in a drawer. It’s cathartic.)

I don’t think we would tolerate newspaper cartoons making fun of Jesus’ suffering on the cross (even though, as the Anchoress points out, we did tolerate “Piss Christ” and Elephant-Dung Madonna and Kanye West in a crown of thorns). I know that we do not tolerate cartoons of stereotypical hook-nosed Jews. We know for a fact that the latter can herald and incite the murder of innocents.

Doug TenNapel’s Blog

The infamous and inflammatory cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad have been gaining traction and airtime for the past few weeks for one reason, and one reason alone, the misguided reaction of Muslims worldwide. Muslims, by reacting so violently, played right into the hands of the cartoonists, who drew the cartoons to illustrate the very point that Muslims are violent and uncivilized. In fact, one of the cartoons includes the following words: “Jyllands-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs” serving as a warning to all Muslims that the aim of these cartoons is to get them to react.

Of course, as a Muslim, I find the images offensive and despicable, furthermore, as a reader, I find the cartoons tactless and sensationalist. They are idiotic and merely highlight the unbridled ignorance of the cartoonists about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. However, their outrageous trash does not provide me enough of an impetus to start threatening people with death. If I want to prove the cartoonists wrong, I have to act calmly and peacefully, all the while making clear my disgust and outrage at the cartoons and the newspaper’s decision to print them.

The Strata-Sphere

I really admire Michelle Malkin. She has graced this site with many an appreciated link. And I know she puts up with a lot of garbage from the leftward fever swamps.

Which is why it pains me to say how disappointed I am with her latest post. From my small little niche in the blogosphere I have tried to alert folks to the fact that we need to be setting an example to the moderate Muslims how to deal with ugly free speech. The best way is to dismiss hate speech and marginalize it. Not one of the best ways is to get in an escalating yelling match…

Crossroads Arabia

The point remains that in the West, individual values start with Freedom of Speech. If that freedom is abridged, then the entire concept of democracy is endangered. No country will willingly ignore its fundamental values.

Equally, religion in the Islamic world is not a separate–or even separable–issue from day-to-day life. It underlies, infuses, and covers all aspects of life. Therefore, anything that attacks an aspect of religion is seen, is felt, as an attack on the entire body politic.

Westerners would be wise to consider that just as strongly as they feel about Freedom of Speech, many Muslims feel about the sacred nature of the Prophet. Muslims would be wise to consider how the West feels–equally strongly–that Freedom of Speech is as sacred as they believe their religion.

There is no room for compromise on either side.

I’ll add others as I find them. I’ve posted my own thoughts on the subject here:

Conflicting values
Generalization, over-generalization, and moderate Muslims

UPDATE: Another voice of reason, Right Wing Sparkle

I have to disagree with so many blogs who seem determined to show as much disrespect for Muslims as possible with not only reprinting the offending Danish cartoons, but making up their own. I realize that many feel they are throwing it back into the face of fanatical Muslims who threaten us, but they seem to forget peaceful Muslims are offended too.

I also think it is a bit hypocritical for us to get all angry at crude depictions of Christ, yet feel that it is somehow ok to depict Mohammad in the same way. Yes, I understand that we don’t believe in Mohammad, but the people that depict Christ that way don’t believe him either.

It’s really about common courtesy. Why do we seem to think that the only Muslims we offend by this are the ones who are terrorists? There are over a billion Muslims in this world and most of them are not terrorists. We have to learn to live together on this planet in peace. I don’t think offending their faith will bring them any closer to democracy and it especially won’t bring them any closer to understanding our faith and freedoms.

And my man, Dean Esmay is pretty much on the side of the angels, too.

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February 10, 2006 at 4:13 am

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

AJStrata February 4, 2006 at 7:03 am

Thanks for the mention. I am glad I am not alone!

Dave Schuler February 4, 2006 at 7:09 am

I was beginning to think I was alone myself. Dymphna has expressed similar thoughts but I haven’t been able to reach her blog for some reason.

beautifulatrocities February 4, 2006 at 11:51 am

I have no idea what Strata means by hate speech. In a free society, you will always have people who are provocateurs. In America, when effete literati like Terrance McNally write plays pissing all over Jesus Christ, they do so in part precisely because they know they will win plaudits from their peers, & that there is absolutely no risk in doing so.

To dismiss the Danish cartoonists as fey hooligans is shallow & presumptuous. They are all too aware of the possible consequences of their act, living in same sort of rising threat as the Netherlands, where two prominent people who have spoken out against intolerence are now dead, where ‘restless youths’ who happen to be Muslim have recently run riot, & where Muslim children learn to write Death to the Netherlands.

Since Mohammed’s Dark Ages morality is the problem, it makes no sense to admonish Danish satirists to show more sensitivity, & I certainly would not presume to do so, not living under the same knife. This is the kind of reasoning I expect from someone like Gandleman, the entire purpose of whose blog is to never take a position on anything. That’s not an accomplishment to be proud of, as there are some things you have to take a position on.

Dave Schuler February 4, 2006 at 5:59 pm

First off, Jeff, I think that your take on the subject over at BA was perfect: you were going for the right targets. Muslims at large are not the right targets as the offical statement of Ali Sistani and the posts at L’Ombre d’Olivier and Rantings of a Sandmonkey show.

I think we need to distinguish between the European situation and the United States. Dafydd ab Hugh characterized it well: the actions by the European newspapers is just to stir up a nest of scorpions to see what comes out. The penalties paid for that won’t be by the newspapers in question (or, probably, even the countries in which the newspapers operate) but by Westerners in the Middle East including our own troops.

We’re in a war, dammit, and that means we’ve got to show some restraint. And that means that the NYT shouldn’t publish a story that reveals our intelligence methods to the enemy and that Danish newspapers shouldn’t undermine what we’re trying to achieve in the ME (which is to transform their societies without levelling them first).

I think that Islam is only incidental to what’s going on. I think the real problem is people from traditional, mostly shame cultures. There is simply no compromise possible on that. They can’t “turn the other cheek”. This out-of-proportion search for shows of respect, the honor-killings, and so on aren’t Islam. They’re traditional cultures older than Islam raising their ugly heads.

The ethnic states of Europe are on the horns of a dilemma. They’ve invited people from these traditional societies into their midst and made few demands on them. They don’t have to learn the language, or live among Danes or Frenchmen, or buy into anything the societies believe in because they’ll never really be Danes or Frenchmen or Germans because they’re not ethnically Danes or Frenchmen or Germans.

Either these ethnic states need to make demands of their citizens towards greater tolerance and sensitivity—even if it means restraint in freedom of speech and of the press—or they need to show their incompatible foreigners the door. What they’re doing is just raising hell.

Daniel Berczik February 4, 2006 at 7:38 pm


These cartoons were first published in September, with a bit of a dust-up, and some stern words from a few Islamic governments, but really, fairly mild stuff. Suddenly, they’re a big deal. Why now? Possibly because they were distributed throughout the ME by a Danish Muslim group, which whipped up a frenzy by including a few cartoons not included in the paper’s project (in fact, there is some question as to who in fact drew them).

The big question, for me at least, is becoming “who has more to gain in this controversy?”

Dave Schuler February 4, 2006 at 7:54 pm

Yes, and I think that the distribution throughout the ME by the Danish Muslim group—which included significantly more inflammatory cartoons that had not been published by the Danish newspaper and were apparently fabricated by the group itself—is significantly worse than the publication itself.

Another question is “Who has more to lose?” and I think the answer is Muslims. The more violence is perpetrated and the more threats issued the more confirmation it will provide that Muslims are dangerous, violent thugs.

It saddens me enormously when I read remarks like those of the Palestinian imam who longed for conflict with the West. The ignorance! The West does not lack the means to exterminate all Muslims everywhere merely the will. Such stupidity brings conflagration closer and it’s one that Muslims will lose.

What’s worse is that now that they’ve made the big threats they can’t back down. If the Western press (and bloggers) stop keeping the ball up in the air, they lose exactly nothing.

But for me the most important question is does this help or hinder the war effort and I think that it hinders it.

Daniel Berczik February 4, 2006 at 8:34 pm


Another interesting question is “If a Muslim drew these fake cartoons, what will the punishment be?”

beautifulatrocities February 4, 2006 at 8:44 pm

And who’s going to impose this ‘restraint’ on free speech / free press? As soon as you propose this, you’ve bought their line. Make no mistake, as soon as they capitulate & declare Mohammed off-limits, there will be another demand. Islam / Mohammed is the problem, because it’s an ossified medieval value system that’s never gone thru an Enlightenment & makes no distinction between the public & private spheres. I just don’t know how to respond to the suggestion Danish satirists should take sensitivity training because they’re upsetting people in Lahore & Malaysia, an idea that speaks for itself.

As for the war, it’s being fought in a very half-assed way only because of its genesis in a UN quagmire. Muslims – particularly the mullahs – are making a grave mistake underestimating the US military, which would be entirely justified in levelling any regime that threatens its security, & worrying about PR later.

Dave Schuler February 4, 2006 at 8:45 pm

Their punishment is in progress. When its reached its fruition they’ll lose everything they’ve ever known and everything they’ve ever believed in: the countries in the Middle East will be tolerant, liberal, democratic, and prosperous. Women will be valued social and economic contributors to these societies.

Failing that those same countries will be scorched cinders. Either way they’ll be punished.

Dave Schuler February 4, 2006 at 8:53 pm

I don’t think the Danish satirists should take sensitivity training, Jeff. I think the Danes should throw the traditionalist Muslims out of their country.

One of the reasons I’ve been skeptical about the long haul approach we’re taking to the “War on Terror” is that I have always believed that with that approach it’s inevitable that we’ll need to compromise basic values. And the longer it goes on the more we’ll compromise.

I believed and still believe that we need a much harsher, sharper, shorter strategy. But that’s not what we’re doing and for good or ill we need to commit to doing what’s necessary to win.

superfrenchie February 4, 2006 at 10:48 pm
Derek H February 5, 2006 at 12:59 am

No, we don’t want to pick a fight with 1 billion Muslims, but I don’t think that’s the objective; I think it’s an inevitable by-product of doing what is necessary, though; and that is to show the Muslim world their hypocrisy. Let them take a good look at the man in the mirror. We’re talking about a whole culture in denial. What can be more hypocritical than the violent reactions to the depiction of their religion as. . .violent? And how is it that not just a few isolated individuals, but institutions and governments of the Muslim world feel free to publish hatred, blasphemy, and indoctrination regarding the Jews, but they are oh so offended when someone provokes them? I think it’s so telling of the Muslim world, by and large, when they are paying way more attention to a cartoon, offensive though it may, than they are to the tragic sinking and loss of life on the Al-Salaam Boccaccio in the Red Sea. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

Jeff Medcalf February 5, 2006 at 10:46 am

I find it quite ironic that angry Muslims are committing terrorism to protest caricatures of Muslims as angry terrorists.

Dave, I’ve been working on a piece for a couple of days, and it is at least a week away from completion, based on the short, fast war/long, slow war dichotomy, and how our definitions of the enemy, tolerance for risk and appraisal of benefit, and our beliefs about the morality of our actions. In short, I’m trying to show that people who think differently about the war are not necessarily stupid or evil (though I’ll point out some places where they are, too), and that there is a framework where we can discuss the war without poisoned political shouting matches.

One of the major points I’m trying to make in the upcoming post is how these differing evaluations lead to different policy choices. For example, the State Department, taking as its basis a hybrid of the AUMF and the President’s base strategic evaluation, has been trying to isolate the Muslim radicals and encourage the reformist or at least non-aggressive elements in Islamic society, and thus put out a carefully worded statement noting the primacy of free speech, and criticizing Jyllands-Posten for publishing the offensive cartoons.

On the other hand, Europeans have effectively isolated their Muslim immigrants into ghettos, treated them in frankly racist ways (in particular, denigrating them in common stereotype as lazy, stupid and dishonest), and made clear that Muslims aren’t welcome as Europeans, just as cheap labor. In effect, the Europeans don’t see a differentiation between ordinary Muslims and jihadis, and as a result have focused on “let’s you and him fight”: trying to get the US and Muslims entangled with each other so they would leave Europe alone. This has clearly been failing, but the Europeans have not seen that the problem may be a misconception of Muslims; instead they see an elevated threat level and no way out. Hence, Jyllands-Posten sparked a crisis because they undercut the continental European strategy by bringing the fight to Europe.

It’s a real mess, and largely because there are no good ordering theories that encompass the need for both reform and progress in Islam, and the need for different approaches in the West to solving the various problems in the Muslim world. In fact, we don’t even have a common taxonomy that names the enemy; how do we expect to have a common strategy to deal with the enemy while preventing future enemies from arising?

It’s a tough problem, to be sure.

collounsbury February 5, 2006 at 11:16 am

A very nice list. Good work.

On who has to gain, in the short term it is of course the Salafiste fringe which desires confrontation and wants to drive alienation.

Despite the hysteria about ‘censorship’ and the like, a small bit of tactical self-restraint with respect to the controversy would go a long way, as the opposite, while playing into juvenile desire to excercise rights, is a strategic mistake.

Performance Appraisal February 13, 2006 at 11:46 pm

Does this blog provide a subscription feed?

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