February 5, 2006
The Cartoon Jihad

By Melanie Phillips

The still escalating confrontation over the Danish cartoons dramatically illustrates the now pathological reluctance of the leaders of Britain and America to face up to the blindingly obvious and the extent to which they have already run up the white flag in the face of clerical fascism. With holy war declared openly upon the west, with death threats being issued against cartoonists and editors, with Danes, Scandinavians and other Europeans being hunted for kidnap and in fear of their lives, with blood-curdling intimidation, with mob demonstrations, calls to behead westerners and rallying cries for ‘holy war’ by Islam against Europe, the governments of Britain and America are busy prostrating themselves before this terror, apologising for ‘causing offence’ and blaming the victims of this assault; while their intelligentsia earnestly debates whether it is wrong to insult someone else’s religion, for all the world as if this were a university ethics seminar rather than a world war being waged by clerical fascism against free societies and with people in hiding and in fear of their lives for having exercised the right to protest at religious violence and intimidation.

For two days now, hundreds of Muslims have been demonstrating outside the Danish Embassy in London. ‘Bomb bomb Denmark’ and ‘Nuke nuke Denmark' they roared yesterday. Their placards screamed: ‘Exterminate those who slander Islam’, ‘Behead those who insult Islam’, ‘Europe you’ll come crawling when muhajideen come roaring’, ‘As Muslims unite we are prepared to fight’, ‘Europe you will pay, fantastic four are on their way’ ( a presumed reference to last July’s suicide bombers in London).

This was outright and sustained incitement to violence and to murder. What action was taken against the perpetrators? Nothing. Let’s hear what Jack Straw said again, that freedom of speech carried no obligation ‘to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory’. Now look at what happened when passers-by angered by yesterday’s demonstration in London thought that what they were seeing went far beyond Straw’s definition of what was intolerable. As the Times reports:

There were sporadic clashes with passers-by over chants praising the four British-born suicide bombers who killed 52 passengers on three Underground trains and a London bus last July 7. People who tried to snatch away what they regarded as offending placards were held back by police. Several members of the public tackled senior police officers guarding the protesters, demanding to know why they allowed banners that praised the ‘Magnificent 19’ — the terrorists who hijacked the aircrafts used on September 11, 2001 — and others threatening further attacks on London. The officers said that their role was to ensure public order and safety. Police had closed off main roads to allow the procession a clear route. Protesters screamed: ‘UK, you must pray — 7/7 is on its way.’ Organisers of the protest insisted that there would be more rallies over the weekend and predicted that British Muslims would lead the backlash against those mocking Islam.

Of course they will – because Britain is leading the retreat. The man of straw congratulated the British media for their restraint in not republishing the Danish cartoons, praising them for what he called their ‘considerable responsibility and sensitivity’. A Foreign Secretary might manage to keep a straight face when talking cobblers, but really! The British media have hardly been overcome after all these years by a sudden and wholly uncharacteristic outbreak of cultural sensibility. The reason they didn’t republish the cartoons was because they were terrified of provoking a violent reaction against themselves.

In other words, the intimidation has worked. The media are now craven. Self-censorship over Islam has been the order of the day ever since the Rushdie affair – and it was instructive to see that yet more ‘moderate’ British Muslims have been saying that the cartoons would never have been published had Rushdie been killed. That’s the kind of comment that these days doesn’t even merit any comment in dhimmi Britain. Now the BBC faces the threat of violence, even though it did not even show the cartoons properly but just wafted them across the screen. Not craven enough, chaps! Memo to programme editors: must take care to abase selves unequivocally in future.

Britain’s culture of denial means that even now, the issue is being presented as one of freedom of speech. But it is ever more obvious that this is a war on the west, prosecuted in the name of Islam against the west’s core values – and against those moderate Muslims who are also alarmed by what is now so clearly erupting.

Let us remind ourselves again – the cartoons were not an attack on Islam. They were instead a protest against the violent intimidation being practised in its name after the author of a (totally inoffensive) children’s book about Islam had difficulty in finding an illustrator because artists feared they might be attacked. Since then, the violence that has erupted across the world has more than proved the cartoonists’ point. The problem is that the perpetrators of aggression, suffering from a pathological inferiority complex about the weakness of Islamic culture and firmly believing the lies and libels with which they have been indoctrinated about Jews and the west, invert their own aggression as an attack upon Islam by their victims.

Thus the Times reported remarks by Liaqat Hussain, the secretary of the Bradford Central Mosque, who although adding as a postscript that any protest should be peaceful nevertheless turned the cartoons from a defence against Islamist intimidation into evidence of a world-wide attack upon Islam.

The madness of this protest deepens when one considers that the claim at its heart, that pictorial representations of the Prophet are forbidden in Islam, is not true. Like so much else, it is all a matter of interpretation; but the fact remains that there have been many representations of the Prophet in Islamic art over the centuries. This website shows many images of the Prophet in medieval Islamic paintings and illuminated manuscripts, some showing his face in full, others with it blanked out.

In the Telegraph, Charles Moore makes an excellent point:

There is no reason to doubt that Muslims worry very much about depictions of Mohammed. Like many, chiefly Protestant, Christians, they fear idolatry. But, as I write, I have beside me a learned book about Islamic art and architecture which shows numerous Muslim paintings from Turkey, Persia, Arabia and so on. These depict the Prophet preaching, having visions, being fed by his wet nurse, going on his Night-Journey to heaven, etc. The truth is that in Islam, as in Christianity, not everyone agrees about what is permissible. Some of these depictions are in Western museums. What will the authorities do if the puritan factions within Islam start calling for them to be removed from display (this call has been made, by the way, about a medieval Christian depiction of the Prophet in Bologna)? Will their feeling of 'offence' outweigh the rights of everyone else?

Obviously, in the case of the Danish pictures, there was no danger of idolatry, since the pictures were unflattering. The problem, rather, was insult. But I am a bit confused about why someone like Qaradawi thinks it is insulting to show the Prophet's turban turned into a bomb, as one of the cartoons does. He never stops telling us that Islam commands its followers to blow other people up.

Moore also asks a very pertinent question. Since the cartoons were actually published last autumn and protests at the time were confined to demonstrations in Denmark, why have they only now erupted across the world?

One possible if dismaying answer, which should receive more attention, is suggested by David Conway on the Civitas website yesterday:

But who wanted or caused the heat to become so turned up and why at that this particular moment? The clue to the answers to this second question lies in a second event almost certain to occur to today, if it has not already happened by the time this blog gets posted. This is the likely decision today in Vienna by the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to the UN Security Council for continuing with its programme of nuclear research. If that decision should occur, when the UN Security Council gets round to considering what form of sanctions to impose on Iran, guess to whom chairmanship of the Council will have passed. You’ve got it... plucky little Denmark.

Suddenly, the pieces fall into shape. The rumpus suddenly escalated, complete with fabricated offensive cartoons, to so enflame Muslim opinion that Denmark could be intimidated directly through a threatened Muslim boycott of its goods, or indirectly by the EU fearful of a wider boycott, into voting in favour of Iran.

Whatever the Security Council eventually may decide over sanctions against Iran, it is unlikely to deter that country from continuing to develop the technology needed to manufacture nuclear weapons, Prospect of its acquisition of them is likely to trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, as well as, sooner or later, oblige Israel or the US to make some pre-emptive strike against it to prevent its programme from reaching completion.

At best, such a strike will succeed, but not without precipitating a conventional war in the Middle East the repercussions of which will not escape Europe in the form of suicide bombings. At worst, pre-emption will fail, Iran will acquire nuclear weapons, and, with a President of that country as gung-ho as its current one, we all receive tickets for a one-way trip to oblivion.

It is not a thrilling prospect for sure. But that is all the more reason why the West needs to remain strong, united, and resolved to resist the challenge of militant Islam. If Europe has recently been made more so than it has been of late, it has to thank for that, paradoxically, the malicious militancy of the mullahs and imams whose fabrication of the grounds of the current crisis has given the West a second wake-up call to the true scale and nature of the current danger that it faces to which all too many Europeans failed to have become alerted by the first wake-up call given on September 11th.

Whether or not Conway is right about this, the cartoon jihad has made one thing crystal clear. No more alibis. The roots of global terror do not lie in Iraq, nor in Israel/Palestine, nor in Chechnya, Kashmir or any of the other iconic conflicts which are said to be its cause. They lie instead in the Islamists’ rage that their religious culture is not in power across the world, their determination to subordinate that world to its tenets and their truly pathological belief that it is they who are under attack if their victims dare defend themselves. Twelve scribbled drawings have lifted the veil -- on both the nature of the threat and the disarray that greets it.

Melanie Phillips

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