February 10, 2006
Organized Apoplexy

By David Warren

It is important for people in the West to realize how the “Danish cartoon apoplexy” was started. Contrary to the impression left by most mainstream media, most of the Muslim world does not read Danish, store Danish flags in their closets, or have sea-mail subscriptions to all the Danish provincial newspapers. Everything they needed to riot was supplied, including a large volume of hateful lies.

Riots seldom, perhaps never happen spontaneously, in the Muslim world, or in ours for that matter. You need people committed to setting the bold example -- to pitching the first rock through the first window. And as we were reminded by the recent riots in France, it takes organization to keep a riot going. Witness the young men on scooters with cellphones, scouting fresh streets for the vandals to attack.

On Monday morning, the Wall Street Journal fleshed out what Danish media and the interested blogosphere had been uncovering through last week: the true history of how the international riots were organized and seeded.

The cartoons were nearly ignored when they first appeared: there was one death threat from a Muslim immigrant, but police determined the man was mentally ill. Trouble began stirring when imams called attention to the cartoons, with incendiary sermons in Danish mosques. An imam in Aarhus publicly reminded the editor of Jyllands-Posten of what had happened to the Dutch filmmaker, Theo Van Gogh. But even that could have blown over.

From several sources, we now know that word of the cartoons was then carried systematically through the Muslim world -- to principal mosques, madrasahs, and government offices starting in Egypt. This was done by delegations sent by Ahmed Abu-Laban, the Saudi-supported Imam of Copenhagen. And in addition to the dozen cartoons that had actually appeared in that obscure provincial newspaper -- most fairly innocent, and one actually satirizing opposition to Islam -- the delegations' "media kits" included as many as 30 graphics that had never appeared, and by their nature would never appear, in a Western mainstream newspaper. For instance, a photo of a man dressed as a pig, over the caption, “This is the real Mohammad.”

The fake pictures not only outnumbered the real ones, they were much nastier. Many were in the style of anti-Semitic cartoons that appear frequently in Arab papers, but turned around to target Muslims instead of Jews. And the covering letter, which I have read in translation, was full of outrageous lies about events in Denmark, and misrepresentations of what had been said by Danish journalists and politicians.

It is this document, and not any copy of Jyllands-Posten from Sept. 30th, 2005, that is at the root of the Muslim riots, the Saudi-sponsored pan-Arab boycott of Danish goods, and various fatwas and other acts that put Danes and other Europeans, who had never previously heard of Jyllands-Posten, in peril for their lives.

That the first violent acts were performed in Gaza and Damascus, under the oversight of Hamas and the Syrian Baath party, respectively, speaks volumes. That the Danish embassy in Beirut was torched just after the one in Damascus, says more. Lebanese police arrested nearly 200 provocateurs, most of them Palestinians and Syrian nationals. These people also tried to start a rampage through the whole upscale Maronite (Levantine Catholic) neighbourhood that is also Beirut's embassy quarter, by pitching rocks into random windows, and leading anti-Christian chants.

The barometer is still falling. Local Islamists have now seized upon the issue to launch more riots in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia. Across Europe, attempts are being made to rekindle the sort of thing we saw in France. And apologies are being demanded, that would be very foolish to give.

For the whole point of this exercise is to enhance the power and prestige of radical Islam, over the great number of Muslims who have not been looking for trouble. Simply by recognizing the least reasonable Muslim voices as the legitimate representatives of Islam, terrible damage is done to moderate interests.

It is utterly wrong to appease an Abu-Laban. Here is a man who gave an interview on Danish television, pretending great distress, and condemning the excesses of the international campaign against Danish persons, property, and products. But he also gave an interview to Al-Jazeera, in Arabic, cheerfully congratulating the world's Muslims on putting a scare into the Danes, and gloating over the success of the boycott. Alas for him, the Danish television network, DR, has now shown excerpts from the Al-Jazeera interview, translated into Danish.

This has to be spelled out very plainly to people in the West who don’t get it, including ignorant scribes in the U.S. State Department, the British Foreign Office, and the Vatican, who have added their official voices in condemnation of those irrelevant Danish cartoons.

Every time we refuse a radical Muslim demand, by sticking to our sound Western principles, we strengthen reasonable Muslims against the fanatics. Every time we relent, we strengthen the fanatics.

Copyright 2006 Ottawa Citizen

David Warren

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