a Danish newspaper called the Jyllands-Posten published
a dozen cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The illustrations included
various depictions of the prophet Muhammad, some innocuous (Muhammad
walking in a pasture) and a few with provocative references to
radical Islamic terrorism. One showed Muhammad with a bomb in
his turban; another had Muhammad wielding a sword in front of
two, wide-eyed Muslim women covered in black abayas; another featured
a cartoonist hunched over his desk, sweating in fear, as he drew
Muhammad in suicide bomb-like apparel.
was making a vivid editorial point about European artists' fear
of retaliation for drawing any pictures of Muhammad at all. (Remember:
It's been a little over a year since Dutch filmmaker Theo van
Gogh was murdered by an Islamist gunman over his movie criticizing
violence against women in Islamic societies.) A Danish author
had reported last fall that he couldn't find an illustrator for
a book about Muhammad; the Jyllands-Posten editors rose
to the challenge by calling on artists to send in their submissions
and publishing the 12 entries they received in response (available
to the cartoons has resoundingly confirmed the fears those artists
expressed about radical Islamic intolerance and violence. In fact,
the Jyllands-Posten reported, two of the illustrators
received death threats and went into hiding. The Pakistani Jamaaat-e-Islami
party placed a 5,000-kroner bounty on the cartoonists' heads.
A terrorist outfit called the "Glory Brigades" has threatened
suicide bombings in Denmark over the artwork.
how relatively tame the pictures actually are (compared not only
to Western standards, but also to the vicious, anti-Semitic propaganda
regularly churned out by Arab cartoonists), the drawings have
literally inflamed the radical Muslim world and its apologists.
Eleven Muslim ambassadors to Copenhagen immediately protested
to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen demanding retractions
from the newspaper. The ambassador of Turkey urged Rasmussen to
call the Jyllands-Posten to account for "abusing
Islam in the name of democracy, human rights and freedom of expression."
in a rare show of European spine, steadfastly refused to appease
As a result,
anti-Denmark sentiment has simmered over the last four months,
and it boiled over this past week. In Gaza City, masked Palestinian
gunmen representing the so-called Religion of Peace raided a European
Union office to protest the cartoons. Muslims burned Danish flags
and banners depicting Rasmussen (American and Norwegian flags,
as well as portraits of President Bush, were thrown into the fire
for good measure). A Danish company, Arla Foods, reports that
two of its employees in Saudi Arabia were beaten by angry customers.
Danish aid workers are evacuating Gaza in fear for their lives.
now faces an international boycott from Muslim nations whose fist-clenched
protesters led chants this week of "War on Denmark, Death
to Denmark" while firing bullets in the air.
mouthpieces are blaming the messenger for the conflagration. Former
appeaser-in-chief Bill Clinton condemned the cartoons as "appalling"
and "totally outrageous." Where was Clinton's condemnation
of the gun-wielding, death-threat-issuing, flag-burning bullies
of Islam who have targeted Denmark for jihad?
On the Internet,
supporters of free speech have launched a "Buy Danish"
campaign in solidarity with the nation under siege. But this isn't
just about Denmark. American-based Muslim activists are on an
angry campaign to stifle the speech of talk show hosts (most recently,
KFI morning host Bill Handel in Los Angeles) who offend their
sensibilities. And on Tuesday afternoon in advance of the State
of the Union address, the Council on American-Islamic Relations
issued an ultimatum warning President Bush to "avoid the
use of hot-button terms such as 'Islamo-fascism,' 'militant jihadism,'
'Islamic radicalism' or 'totalitarian Islamic empire'" in
his speech -- in other words, advising Bush not to identify our
enemies for the sake of tolerance and diversity.
came for the cartoonists. Then, they came for the filmmakers and
talk show hosts and namers of evil. Next, who knows?