Denmark Stands Tall


The cartoon images of Muhammed may have been offensive. They may have been shocking to some. Perhaps publishing them was in bad taste. Maybe it was even a sin. But no one should be harmed for publishing them, nor should the Danish government either punish the publishers or apologize for their publication. For more information, visit Wikipedia. “Rantings of a Sandmonkey,” a blog out of Egypt, also weighs in on the topic. Another source of banner ads is available here.

33 Responses to “Denmark Stands Tall”

  1. Glad (but not surprised) to see we’re on the same page here. They’re burning Norwegian flags as well since we had a newspaper do the same thing, so I’ve blogged about it too. France Soir had a great front page cartoon today that led to the firing of the edior, and Die Welt published pictures too, so there’s gonna be a lot of countries to boycott and a general increase in flags sold I presume.

  2. Well, now that newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Holland published them, we will see what will happen with that boycott foolishness. I am guessing the boycott will be dropped, because while it’s easy to boycott Denmark exports of cheese and Lego, I don’t see the arab religious and political leaders boycotting Mercedes, Cartier, Versace or Rolex anytime soon. You know?

    So 2 options lie ahead: either the broohahaha will die down, or it will take the shape of terrorist attacks. The head of Hezballah just stated that had salman rushdie been killed 16 years ago, this would’ve never happend. Fantastic, no?

  3. Good for everyone who is printing & posting these extremely mild cartoons. The cartoons are mostly funny and all too accurate (particularly my favorite “Relax, it’s just a sketch by a Dane in southwest Denmark.”)

    The muslims who are protesting have no clue as to what freedom is, nor civilized behavior. The only thing offensive about this affair is the behavior of the religious fanatics. It’s important that the west — us — not cave in on this…let the muslim world come to the 21st century and accept free speech, rather than the western world join them in suppressing it.

    Some Muslims, BTW, are taking this position. A representative of the Free Muslims Coalition interviewed on BBC said that while cartoons offended him, he hoped editors would continue to print the cartoons if they wish, because it is important that free speech be preserved, and that the Muslim world begin to understand this.

  4. Richard Relph

    Thank you for the reference. I’d not heard of that group before. I couldn’t find the interview you cited on-line, but I did find the Free Muslims Coaltion web site and their comment on the topic.

    I wonder if those calling for or fearing terrorist action as a result see the irony in the situation. “We’ll teach those Danes to not depict the Prophet as a terrorist by terrorizing them!”

    Even the Free Muslims Coalition doesn’t make the point that Muslims need to understand that to the common ‘western’ (not to mention Israeli) citizen, Muslims are perceived (incorrectly) as terrorists. I wish some leader in the Muslim world would pause for a moment and explain to his followers this underlying problem and denounce terrorism.

  5. Thanks for the website, Richard.

    The interview was on BBC Radio; I have no idea if it’s available anywhere.

    It’s unfortunate that almost no Muslims are taking the side of free speech, nor condemning the violence that other Muslims are prepetrating in this affair. This would be a perfect opportunity for them to discredit those who argue Islam is inherently totalitarian, but by remaining silent or joining the fanatics they discredit themselves.

  6. Adam Allouba

    “These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,” State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question.

    “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”

    That’s hardly “backing” Muslims. Not to mention that the dispute isn’t fuelled by “Muslims” but by “idiots who call themselves Muslims.”

    The cartoon of the prophet with a bomb in his turban is clearly offensive, and I don’t think that recognizing that is meant to stifle freedom of speech. Having the freedom to do X doesn’t mean you *should* do it whenever you want, however you want, and in front of whomever you want. The state shouldn’t ban adultery, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

    What really upsets me is the pathetic inability of people in so many Muslim countries to make a distinction between the acts of individual citizens and the government and realize that asking political leaders to apologize for this kind of thing is just idiotic.

    The Danish government has nothing to do with cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, but because so many of the countries we’re talking about are under brutal dictatorships – Egypt, Pakistan, etc. – the people have this mentality that the government is responsible for everything that happens in a country. It’s the same logic that leads people to stop buying Danish cheese, as if that company’s employees having something to do with publishing the cartoon. Or kidnapping Germans in Gaza (to demand what, exactly?).

    Stupid. Utterly, utterly stupid.

    – Adam

  7. The State Department response is cowardly and anti-liberty. Freedom of thought, speech, and press are under attack, by Muslims. And the cartoons are not designed to incite religious hatred — they make statements about the state of Islam that Muslims themselves are going to great lengths to validate.

    Mohammed with a bomb in his turban seems apt — empirically, Islam seems to give its adherents a tendency to explode. If Muslims find this objectionable, maybe they should begin by showing that it is an unfair characterization, instead of exploding.

    At least three of the other cartoons make the point that Muslims are frequently prone to violent reaction against dissent. And it appears to me to be right on target, as the insane response of so many Muslims is demonstrating.

  8. Adam Allouba

    “Mohammed with a bomb in his turban seems apt — empirically, Islam seems to give its adherents a tendency to explode”

    So in light of the Catholic Church’s child molestation scandal, would you say the same about a cartoon of Jesus touching a small boy? I doubt it.

    Some of these cartoons were plainly designed to be offensive. That doesn’t mean publishing them should be illegal or that this ridiculous reaction is justified, but the drawings were the product of a rather repugnant mind. Just like the depictions on Arab TV of the Jewish blood libel.

    If you want to make a statement about Muslims, draw a picture of a generic suicide bomber, or bin Laden, or the Ayatollah, or some other appropriate figure. Depicting the prophet as a terrorist is way, way beyond what’s acceptable. And again, the fact that it’s not acceptable doesn’t mean anyone deserves to be threatened or thrown in jail. It just means the person responsible is reprehensible.

  9. Juan Carlos Hidalgo

    I believe in freedom of speech and I don’t think the Danish government should apologise for anything. However, I think Adam is right. And let me put it this way: What if the cartoons had been anti-semitic? Would the reaction in Europe have been the same? Is there are double standard on which groups are right to offend and which aren’t?

  10. Lawrence links to a cartoon that portrays Ariel Sharon as a demonic figure, miming a famous painting by Goya of Saturn devouring his children. That cartoon is not, however, in the least comparable to the Mohammed-the-terrorist cartoons defended by Tom Palmer. Ariel Sharon is not a universal symbol of Jewry: Mohammed, however, is the founder and fountainhead of Islam. Sharon is not a religious leader, but a politician: Mohammed, on the other hand, is.

  11. Juan Carlos Hidalgo

    That’s a good point Juanita. I remember that back in the summer of 2002 I dared to criticise Ariel Sharon over some attacks on Palestinian civilian targets. I found this critic pretty fair: I despise terrorist attacks on civilian targets as well as government attacks that cause large number of civilian casualties (like bombing a building full of children to kill a suspected terrorist inside). To my surprised, many of my fellow interns charged me with being anti-Semitic.

    We have to make a clear distinction between fair criticisms to a government and outright anti-Semitism. Unfortunately many in this country seem incapable or unwilling to do this.

    Just one correction to Juanita’s remark: Tom Palmer is not defending the cartoons, but the right of newspapers to publish them. Another critical distinction.

  12. James Bond 2006

    I think the that the artist of this cartoon has proven a point that the political elite of the world refuses to realize or pretend that it is not so. The point is to demonstrate that many in the muslim world are not mature enough to accept constitutional liberty.

    In the USA, freedom of speech is the first protected individual right. This is protected no matter how offensive, ridiculous, distasteful, or praiseworthy this speech may be. This is a very tough thing to accept, but life is tough.

    The best way to counter this cartoon is with a civil argument pointing out the error or errors with facts. If it can be proven that the depiction in the cartoon is false, then most reasonable intelligent people will have no problem in believing that the cartoon is a false representation and dismiss it as bad humor.

    However, on the other hand, by looking at the present greater Muslim World, it is easy to believe that the artist’s portrait of Islam has a great deal of merit. Without question, the Muslim world is the most aggregious violator of human rights. And it is funny that there is no protest, flag burning, or an apology demand for human rights.

    Also, Muslims are warring with everyone. The Muslim World is full of strife and violence. Muslims are fighting Europeans in the Balkins, Kurds in the Middle East, Hindus & Sikhs in India, Chinese in South Western China, Asians in Southeast Asia, Africans in the Sudan, Russians in Middle Asia, Americans in America & the world, and Muslims are fighting Muslims. I may have miss some other areas, but my point is that the artist of this cartoon may be seeing what I’ve mentioned. By looking at the conflicts in the Muslim world, it is hard to believe that Muslims are a people of peace.

    Anyway, distasteful art is not a crime. You may not agree with it, but you can disagree and respond in a civil manner.

  13. Tom G. Palmer

    Thanks, Juan-Carlos, for the correction. You’re right. I would not have published a cartoon showing Muhammed with a bomb in his turban, not out of fear of persecution (although that’s worth considering), but for the same reason that I wouldn’t depict Jesus or the Pope molesting children. The issue is their right to publish without fear of violence, not whether what they published was tasteful. That is the principle that must be defended.

  14. Juan-Carlos — I support the right of anyone to say anything about any religion, including Christianity. Nor I would not have been upset had some cartoonist taken on Catholic hypocrisy in child-rape scandal, even if it were in a “blasphemous” way.

    In general, America’s press is far too kind to religion — it is treated as something that must never be critically examined or portrayed in a negative light. Religious doctrines may be illogical, or empirically falsified, and they may drive adherents bigoted and immoral behavior, but they are still treated as sacred, beyond challenge.

    The Jyllands-Posten cartoons are really quite clever. And again, note how accurate they are: “Relax folks, it’s just a sketch…” lampoons the insane behavior of religious fanatics…who are responding by behaving exactly as the cartoon portrays them. We need to insist on full freedom of expression, without compromise or mealy-mouthed PC qualifiers designed to mollify the enemies of liberty.

  15. Adam Allouba

    Charles Steele seems to think that refraining from being insulting equals capitulation. It isn’t.

    First. Whether you personally would be insulted by a cartoon depiction of Jesus as a pedophile is besides the point. The point is that no newspaper editor in North America (at least outside the fringe ones) would ever, EVER think that this representation of Christ is one that could or should be shown on his editorial page. It would never get published because people understand that you exercise your freedom in a manner that is responsible and respectful of other pepople, unless there is a damned good reason to hurt them.

    Second. There is absolutely nothing clever about drawing the prophet with a bomb in his turban. It’s juvenile and reminiscent of the kind of “artwork” one would see scrawled on the side of a bathroom stall.

    Third. Full freedom of expression does not exist, not in a legal sense and even less so in a moral sense. I can’t go around telling people that my neighbour is a rapist. Not without getting sued. I can’t send someone a letter threatning them with death, not without ending up in jail. And morally, I have no right to, say, celebrate the vicious murder of a gay youth by holding a placard that says “Matt Shepard rots in Hell” after his brutal murder. I don’t believe a Westerner can fully understand just how offensive the continued publication of these drawings is; there is simply no equivalent taboo in our culture.

    Fourth. It is not just religious fanatics who are outraged, it is Muslims of every stripe. Newspaper editors need to recognize the fact that while the cartoons are newsworthy, they are not morally acceptable as material as content of their publications. They should exercise better judgement as to what they put out and their continued publication of drawings that they know to be deeply offensive is totally without justification and reprehensible. They would not, I repeat, ever publish a Jesus-as-pedophile poster because they understand that you just don’t do that.

    Fifth. I can’t be clearer that the violent reaction by Muslims is abhorrent. The people holding signs that say “behead those who offend Islam” in London should be arrested and charged with incitement to violence. And the police should use whatever methods are necessary to protect Danish (or any other) embassies that come under attack, including live fire if necessary. You don’t mess around with people that are burning down the neighbourhood. There is no way that anything published in a newspaper can justify violence, ever.

    Sixth. Respect is not compromise, nor it is “mollification of the enemies of liberty.” This is the kind of mentality that is going to quicken the move to totalitarianism: having the freedom to do X is the reason to do X. Keep up that kind of attitude and people will be begging for the thought police to keep us all in check.

  16. Adam — you are mistaken. First, the cartoons are clever, not immature. Where’s the insult in the cartoons? At least one of the cartoons actually mocks the cartoonists. At least three of them make accurate comments on how it might be dangerous to even dare draw any picture of Mohammed, because Muslims might commit violent acts against the artists…all too true. One cartoon mocks suicide-bombers. *None* of the cartoons portrays Mohammed as a terrorist. Muslims and non-Muslims alike have interpreted the turban-bomb cartoon this way, simply because it readily comes to mind, given what we’ve all observed. All of the cartoons are pretty good.

    Second, the fact that editors in America also fail to give Christianity fair scruntiny is not good argument for giving Islam critical scrutiny.

    Third, and most important, backing down of freedom of speech out of fear of offending people is indeed capitulation, particularly in this case.

    Apparently the cartoons are so offensive to Muslims that they can’t keep themselves from rioting. Where were they when Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg were beheaded in the name of Islam? Where were they Muslims murdered 100+ children in Beslan, again in the name of Islam? The Muslim that finds these actions nothing to object to, but becomes violent when someone in Denmark publishes a cartoon of Mohammed, has an utterly contemptible form of Islam that deserves mocking. I do not care a whit about offending these people. They need to be shocked, because their misbegotten worldview cannot change otherwise. They need to be confronted. It is not blasphemy to suggest to them that Islamic and terrorism are found together far too often. (Of course, few of the rioters are subscribers to Jyllands-Posten. I suspect it is anti-West anti-freedom Muslim clerics who are organizing these riots.)

    If you worry about offending devout adherents, where will you draw the line? Fundamentalists, whether Jew, Christian, or Muslim, are deeply offended by disbelief, by atheism, by freedom to choose one’s sexuality, by freedom of of thought and expression, etc. I don’t worry about offending them. I worry about defending freedom.

    Also, Adam, your final point is “having the freedom to do X is the reason to do X. Keep up that kind of attitude and people will be begging for the thought police to keep us all in check.”

    Your attitude here is exactly the problem: in other words, “we can have the freedom to do X so long as we don’t do it, otherwise the thought police will come.” This is EXACTLY what I am warning against — freedom of thought and expression so long as we don’t think and express things that offends others is no freedom at all.

    Again, to me, the feelings of those who are offended by a few mild cartoons are nothing to me, compared to real freedom.

    Finally, I can’t tell if you are arguing I am being disrespectful of Muslims or not, but I have a clear statement on Islam on my blog that states clearly (I hope) my position on Islam.

  17. Adam Allouba


    If you can’t see how these cartoons are highly juvenile and outrageously offensive, then there’s something you’re just missing. I see on your website that you have a PhD in economics. I often listen to people ramble on about the economy, job creation, trade, and other topics about which they have previous little understanding. I just want to tell them that if they don’t know anything about economics, it’s totally understandable: they have lives to live and better things to do. They should just refrain from discussing it since they don’t know what they’re talking about.

    What I am trying to say is that there is something here about Islam and Muslims – all Muslims of all descriptions and political persuasions – that you clearly do not understand. I’m not trying to insult you, I’m just saying that there is a cultural issue here that you don’t get. It’s not that you’re being disrespectful, it’s that you don’t realize that these cartoons are offensive. That’s understandable, but you have to realize that this lack of understanding is there. There cartoons are NOT offensive only to a few Muslims, they are offensive to ALL of them.

    The question of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg is irrelevant, unless you think all Muslims bear guilt for what happened to them and therefore should apologize (ironically what these protestors mistakenly think about Danish people).

    These cartoons are the newspaper equivalent of homophobic protestors at Matthew Sheppard’s funeral waving signs that say “God hates fags.” There are things that you have the right to you that you JUST DON’T DO. You don’t. You exercise your freedom responsibly.

    The criterion here to determine whether the speech is morally justified isn’t whether it’s offensive – it’s whether the offensive it gives it outweighed by some more important purpose. That’s a highly subjective test but we have to use our judgement and not simply say (in effect), “I can do whatever the hell I want and I don’t care who I insult or what I trample on.” Offending people for the sake of offending them is unacceptable.

    I am not saying speech that offends is wrong. I am saying that speech, which serves NO PURPOSE OTHER than to offend is immoral and should be the subject of self (not government) censorship.

    I don’t know what better example to use than the Matthew Sheppard one. These people clearly thought it was appropriate to rub their beliefs in the faces of his grieving family and friends. I hope there’s a special place reserved in hell (but not the country jail) for them. You just don’t DO that.

  18. James Bond 2006


    Who’s morality do you use to judge with.
    God’s?, Darwin’s?, Man’s?, Woman’s?, Yours?, Mine?.

    Morality is subjective. It is only held in regard to those who believe the same as you.

    Constitutional Law is objective. The rule is the same for everyone.

    Pornography is insulting to some, but to others it’s a work of art. Rap music is offensive to some, but to others it is fine music. Some comedy that attack a person’s character is insulting to some, but to others it’s good humor. Premarital sex is a taboo by some, to others it is a natural event. Divorce is immoral to some, but to others it’s a great relief. On and on.

    My point is, everyone has sensibilities about something. What’s moral to me may be immoral to you. This is why morality cannot be legislated. People do not have or use the same standard of morality or immorality.

    I agree that liberty is not a license to trample on the sensibilities of others. However, the world is not Utopia. And, those in the Muslim world must come to realize that there are many that don’t regard their prophet as highly as they do. The best response is to intellectually rebuke, not violence.

  19. Adam — first, I understand and appreciate that you are not trying to insult me. And I hope you understand I don’t wish to insult you, nor do I bear you any ill will.

    I am sure that the cartoons are offensive to many Muslims, perhaps the vast majority. But they also are good cartoons that make valid comments on various issues.

    Here’s an issue I have debated elsewhere: “Islam is an inherently violent religion.” This statement is a positive one (as opposed to normative), i.e. capable of being objectively answered, at least in principle. It may be offensive to Muslims, but it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask and debate about *any* worldview, including “sacred” ones. Is it beyond the limits of decency to subject religious ideas to scrutiny? Or is it acceptable only if it is in a dense form, such as a thick book, but not something grasped quickly, such as a cartoon, film, song, etc.? I answer “no” to both questions.

    Would the Muslim rioters be less upset by George Smith’s book “Atheism, the Case Against God?” This book essentially denies that Allah is anything other than a figment of overactive imaginations, and perpetuated by rent-seeking clergy. Are such statements accepatble to Muslims, or deeply offensive? (My guess is that is that it depends upon what their clerics tell them about it, just as is the case with the cartoons.)

    You appear to want to draw lines that put religious ideas off limits for perfectly legitimate scruntiny. I realize you don’t want the state to enforce these limits, but you seem willing to let them be defined by the people who disagree with the criticism. This is a standard that turns freedom of speech into freedom to say things that everyone agrees with…and this is no freedom at all.

  20. I object to the State Department adding their opinion about the content of the cartoons in the process of defending the freedom of the press. When the press is being intimidated with violence, everything else pales by comparison. Even the passing critique of the content of the work in question gives succor to those threatening violence.

    When I defended the right of an “artist” to created and display “Jesus in urine”, I never gave my opinion on the content. And that was not in the face of physical violence, although one might say so-called violent emotions where obscuring the issue of subsidized funding vs. free speech. I refused to accept a disruption of government funding that wasn’t tied to a total ban of federal funding of the arts. And I would have welcomed a comprehensive separation of fine art and state control (including funding.)

    While the government must protect free speech by refusing to pass laws prohibiting speech, it also has to deal with intimidation. The latter is tricky since there is no such thing as preventative justice–only prosecution after the fact. The fact of the matter is that just laws can’t prevent intimidation. It takes a cultural atmosphere. That is why it is crucial not to give succor to those using intimidation. Any discussion of the grievances, valid or not, should be shelved until the intimidation stops. The atmosphere of civil debate requires more than laws. It requires resolve on the part of members of society.

  21. Adam Allouba

    I agree that liberty is not a license to trample on the sensibilities of others. However, the world is not Utopia. And, those in the Muslim world must come to realize that there are many that don’t regard their prophet as highly as they do. The best response is to intellectually rebuke, not violence.

    Would the Muslim rioters be less upset by George Smith’s book “Atheism, the Case Against God?” This book essentially denies that Allah is anything other than a figment of overactive imaginations, and perpetuated by rent-seeking clergy. Are such statements accepatble to Muslims, or deeply offensive? (My guess is that is that it depends upon what their clerics tell them about it, just as is the case with the cartoons.)

    I think this is at the heart of the matter. Charles and James: none of these things would be nearly as offensive to *all* Muslims as a gratuitous and vicious insult to the prophet. Of course the Salafis and unthinking extremists will find any excuse to can to foment violence.

    The difference is that it’s not just the usual suspects who are offended – deeply, deeply offended – by these cartoons and their repeated publication. There isn’t really any logical argument or evidence that I can adduce to support this point, but then again I don’t want to say “trust me, I know what I’m talking about.” Not to say people aren’t taking advantage of these feelings for their own purposes, but the spark was not manufactured.

    Find a devout Muslim (someone who prays and fasts during Ramadan) who judgement you can respect and ask him/her about their thoughts on these drawings. The chances are overwhelming that they will say something along the lines of violence is unacceptable, but you can’t imagine how hurtful these cartoons are.

    The average Muslim is not going to be so deeply hurt by a book saying there is no God. They might think the author’s an idiot who’ll be punished by God, but very few would bother taking to the streets to protest are even fewer would call for violence (remember that even 0.1% of Muslims acting like thugs still makes for a huge number of people, which is why it’s always easy to find someone who’ll say this person should die for having said this).

    More importantly – and on this one, as much as I hate to say it, trust me – it is NOT just the clerics fomenting anger here. The sentiments you are seeing are very sincere and very heartfelt. They’re absolutely genuine. So often when we see angry protests against X people will say “well, it’s not REALLY about X, it’s a whole host of other things.”

    This time, it really is about X. Intelligent, moderate, peaceful Muslims (not just stupid, extremist, violent ones – of whom there are too many) are profoundly offended to a degree that a Westerner who hasn’t been immersed in an Islamic environment just can’t imagine. I hate to sound like I’m pulling out the “it’s a black thing, white folks don’t get it” line. You definitely would understand with sufficient exposure to Muslims, but of course living in the West that doesn’t usually happen, which is normal.

    Sometimes you just have to say, “I don’t understand why this is upsetting you so much but I can see that it is. So I’m going to stop doing it because it’s just not worth it to cause you so much pain.” I am positive that anyone who understands Muslim culture and Islam, no matter how strongly they believe in freedom of speech, would agree that this is one of those times.

  22. I can’t believe there are some people around the world who thinks drawing that sort of cartoons are normal.It’s directly attacking to a Muslim’s belief.Despite of your courage to upset Muslims,we are the people who always think being kind to all beliefs are very important.We never say anything bad to Jesus or someone else…Because he’s not your jesus…he was sent to all human being…One thing that you can’t and won’t understand is that you don’t know anything about human rights.As you say,human rights doesn’t mean attacking our beliefs.May be you will understand that one day but it will be so late…But don’t forget:The things that you do will be reminded you in hell and you will pay for it in the other world…either you believe or not….

  23. Tom G. Palmer

    It’s not clear to me to whom Mehmet is addressing his remarks, especially when he writes “you,” as in “you don’t know anything about human rights.” Let’s be clear: I think that there should be no violent retribution against anyone for publishing a cartoon in a newspaper, even though it was insulting to someone. That’s not the same as believing that such cartoons should be published. Newspapers should be free to publish cartoons that are cruel to Jews, or Christians, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or anyone else, including atheists, agnostics, and so on. That’s not the same as saying that newspapers should publish such cartoons. Being free to publish means being free to make the choice to publish or not, free of the fear of coercion; it does not, however, mean that one is free from being criticized or ostracized. Muslims (and others) who find the cartoons offensive should express their distaste or outrage through peaceful means and only through peaceful means; in doing so, they exercise their rights. That’s precisely what it means to enjoy human rights.

    It seems that it is Mehmet who has a shaky understanding of the concept of human rights, especially when he throws together a lot of very diverse people and addresses them as “you,” followed by some vague threats. Is the punishment to be meted out by God, or by Mehmet? If only by God, then that is compatible with an understanding of human rights. But if Mehmet is making some kind of a threat (“As you say,human rights doesn’t mean attacking our beliefs.May be you will understand that one day but it will be so late”) of violence on his part, he’s revealed a profoundly faulty understanding of human rights. If there is to be a punishment for blasphemy, it rests in the hands of God alone, and not of man.

  24. Adam: You state that “There cartoons are NOT offensive only to a few Muslims, they are offensive to ALL of them.” What do you mean by that? Are muslims not individuals? I refuse to believe there are not a least a handfull of Muslims going “I wouldn’t have drawn that but to behonest I can’t really say that I’m offended by some Danish cartoonists making a couple of cartoons” The same way as some Christians objects to even the mildest swearing as taking the Lord’s name in vain or whatever it is again, but most don’t really get upset if I should be so unfortunate as to slip one in here and there in a conversation.

    Also I don’t think being offended gives you a right to anything at all except perhaps having a grim look on your face for a little while, and I really don’t see the alternative to these cartoons being published and governments saying “We don’t like it, but we support free speech and will do nothing about it”.

    What does it really mean when the US and others say the cartoons are unacceptable? If you don’t accept something you usually imply that you are going to do something about it. What?

  25. Adam — You make a persuasive case that these cartoons are very offensive to many Muslims, which is also confirmed by the continuing uproar.

    But it doesn’t follow, “you just don’t say that.” And backing down on free speech in the face of violent intimidation is completely wrong…as we’ll learn if we give in to radical Muslim demands (or anyone else’s demands; arguments against free expression come from many other sources.

    Where will the line be drawn? And on which side of it will Salman Rushdie’s novel “Satanic Verses” appear? Or articles that argue Mohammed was suffering from a form of epilepsy that was the source of his visions? Note that Mehmet states that simply attacking beliefs is wrong. (He doesn’t, BTW, make threats — he says we’ll be punished in the other world, in hell.)

    Beliefs should be open to scrutiny, so should behavior, and there are *no* exceptions.

  26. Adam Allouba

    But it doesn’t follow, “you just don’t say that.” And backing down on free speech in the face of violent intimidation is completely wrong…as we’ll learn if we give in to radical Muslim demands (or anyone else’s demands; arguments against free expression come from many other sources.

    Charles: you’re absolutely right. It’s a fine line to draw. In this case I think we’re definitely past that line, but of course there is lots of grey where other matters would not be so clear.

    Cato – Tom, in fact, if I’m not mistaken – had a good line about disengaging from the Middle East post-9/11. Anyone who said we should get out of the region, like bin Laden says, got “but you’re giving in to terrorism” in response. It’s a valid concern, but the line was that it’s silly to pursue bad policy for any reason, no matter how logical. Here, I agree that you don’t want to be seen as cowed in the face of these contemptible demonstrations. But if we agree that the cartoons are a reprehensible exercise of free speech – which I don’t take for granted by any means, but otherwise this point is moot anyway – then you have to find a way to back off without looking like you’ve caved.

    Tricky to pull off, but the human mind has tackled far more difficult issues. I leave it others to square that circle because I’m too tired to think any more tonight. 🙂

    P.S. Knud: yes, I do think we should do something about it – like write letters to the newspapers involved to communicate our feelings. Not run around threatening to blow things up. That’s not how civilized people engage in discourse.

  27. If our speech has to conform to the standards
    set by some mullah in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia,
    what’s next? No offending islam with our pork
    ribs and co-ed dancing?

    Many of these countries where there is the most
    rioting are also the most extremely repressive
    of religions other than islam. It’s a little
    much to see muslims burning down embassies
    and rioting over some innocuous political cartoons
    in a Danish newspaper, considering Denmark is
    tolerant of muslims, while in their own countries,
    displaying a cross or star of david is not just
    illegal, but dangerous.

    The cartoon thing is a pretext. The mobs just
    want to vent their hatred of the west. Surely
    many aspects of ordinary western culture are more
    grossly offensive to islamic law than are these

  28. Freedom of speech is our most cherished right, and must be ultimate.

    It is our most cherished right, because speech is so close to our mental state. Behind every utterance is a closely aligned thought. Speech control is as close to thought control as you can get.

    It must be ultimate, because we must let all ideas battle each other out in order to gather knowledge. If Sokrates, Galileo or Hayek had been more sensitive to what others might think, the world would have been a poorer place. We must let everyone from David Duke to Michael Moore voice their concerns. I think it was Locke that said something like this: let’s get all the facts and all the opinions out on the table; the truth will emerge.

    You can, in fact, call your neighbour a rapist. He can only sue if actual damage was done. Say, someone threw a rock through his window because he believed you. Likewise, Eminem can call for the White House to get wiped out (, as long as it’s clear it’s fiction.

    Dr. Palmer has made the point several times on this blog that free speech does not exonerate you if you order or incite acts that are otherwise immoral, but in these cases, we start with the transgression, then work back to the perpetrator.

    Denmark has freedom of expression like few other countries. This is the country of Christania, optional clothes, and Gotlib. OK, Gotlib is French, but you can walk into any bookstore in Denmark and pick up his trash, even if you are underage.

    For those who don’t know Gotlib, he is an outrageous — some would say sick — comics book writer with no sense of shame, but plenty of irony. He will, and has, depicted Buddha stoned out of his wits, Jesus masturbating, Alice having sex with the Mad Hatter. No taboos. (

    To be sure, there are prudish Danes who do not appreciate this kind of thing. They don’t picket city hall or boycott book stores. They do what civilized prudes ought to: they just ignore it.

    Unfortunately, Denmark also has more than it’s fair share of bigots. Native speakers don’t have to walk far to hear an ethnical joke. That said, when it comes to humor, Danes are pretty indiscriminate; they’ll make fun of everyone, the rich, the poor, fat people, thin people, the French, Swedes, even themselves.

    A few years ago, there was a cartoon in a Danish newspaper making fun of Norwegians. It was a ‘Europe map as used in Norwegian schools,’ satirising the Norwegians’ self-absorption and depicting them as somewhat ignorant — which is, on the second count at least, completely unfair. The Norwegians responded by running it in their own dailies, with headlines to the effect, “Darn, the Danes figured us out.”

    I think some muslims could learn from the Norwegians.