Monday, February 06, 2006
Arab American Organizations' Responses to Danish C...
The Muslim world has exploded recently in violent outbursts over the publication of cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad in an obscure Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. The images, which appeared in September of last year, were created by 12 different cartoonists as part of a discussion of free speech. According to Wikipedia, "the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, commissioned twelve cartoonists to draw them and published the cartoons in response to the difficulty that Danish writer Kåre Bluitgen had finding artists to illustrate his children's book about Muhammad, because the artists feared violent attacks by extremist Muslims.
The Danish writer had great foresight, as violence has indeed been the Muslim response. To date, violent protests have occurred throughout the Muslim world culminating in the burning of the Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut and the deaths of several protesters. Additionally, rather aggressive protests have been staged throughout Europe including cries for "behead(ing) those who insult Islam." Ironically, due to "vandalism" Wikipedia had to restrict any editing on this topic.
Surprisingly, American newspapers have generally avoided the controversy while American - Muslims' reactions have been more subdued. CAIR and other Arab American organizations including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have issued a series of statements condemning the violence stemming from the cartoons' publication. But these organizations and the protesters interviewed seem to be more concerned with the Muslim community’s conviction, "that the controversy is not an issue of free speech, but is instead based on concerns over hate speech and incitement." Even the ADL, issued a statement about the cartoons calling them, "troubling" and urging newspapers to, "take into account the sensitivities of racial, ethnic and religious groups.”
While it appears that the American Muslim organizations have suddenly become concerned with justice and an aversion of "hate speech", they are noticeably silent on the fact that the Arab media is rife with anti-Semitic caricatures, cartoons, and videos. The ADL correctly observes, "What has been overlooked in the controversy is the fact that despicable anti-Jewish caricatures appear daily in newspapers across the Arab and Muslim world. While invoking the supposed "freedom of the press" in their countries, Arab and Muslim leaders have refused to take any action to stem the drumbeat of anti-Semitism in widely circulated newspapers, many state-sponsored. Indeed, leaders of regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have virtually ignored appeals from the United States and Jewish organizations to put an end to incitement in their media, excusing it in the name of "freedom of the press." One would hope that leaders of Arab and Muslim countries would turn all of the anger being aimed at the European press into a larger lesson for their own people about the power of images." In fact, even Arab American Newspapers have printed anti-Semitic cartoons!
About the Danish cartoons, Kareem Shora of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), had the chutzpah to say, "This (controversy) echoes the historical problems that Europeans had with anti-Semitism." Yet he failed to acknowledge the constant discharge of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sentiment which percolates endlessly throughout the Arab world. When a reporter in New York asked some Muslim protesters about the demeaning caricatures of Jews that regularly appear in Middle Eastern newspapers, a group of teenaged girls holding picket signs said that the comparison was false.
Although the protests in the U.S. have been peaceful, their message and that of Arab American Organizations has not - it is fine for Muslims to denigrate and humiliate others but any hint of "free speech" or "controversy" involving Islam will be met with intimidation, threats, and violence.