I feel obligated to formulate some sort of opinion about the Danish Muhammad illustrations because I am the closest thing to a Moslem that most of my friends and colleagues know. Though my parents call themselves Moslem, I really had a secular upbringing born and raised here in Canada, and would call myself atheist. In my more zealous moods, I might be classified a humanist.

As a result, I may have some of my facts wrong about Islam, despite my attempts at fact-checking. I am finding conflicting opinions on the prohibition of images of the Prophet. I have seen images of the Prophet in Persian books on display in a museum in Barcelona last year. It is possible that Shi'a and Sun'ni moslems view the restriction differently. I will relay more to you as I attempt to confirm these facts. In the meantime, at left is a page from an Afghan manuscript with an illustration titled "Journey of the Prophet Muhammad" that I found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection.

I found this helpful article at BBC Online deconstructing the 12 images. Now I understand why there is an orange in the turban of author Kare Bluitgen's caricature.

Prime Minister Chirac has warned against republishing the images and condemned their publication as "overt provocation." Denmark's prime minister stupidly alleged to the BBC that "it was not for the government to censor the media." Western democracies do it all the time to prevent libel, defamation, or incitement to hatred. For example, it is illegal to publicize denials of the holocaust in Germany.


The Double Standard

This one's also about the cartoon thingy. I saw philosopher Roger Scruton's bang-on perspective on an obvious and horribly damaging double standard perpetrated by too many Moslems:

"There is, in the Muslim culture that is growing in the modern world, a lamentable attachment to double standards – an assumption that you are free to express the most violent hatred, incitement to violence, and group antagonism, including attacks on embassies and the symbols of peaceful coexistence, while condemning all invasions of the sacred Muslim space as intolerable breaches of the law."

"Can't You Guys Take a Joke?"

I have been thoroughly disgusted and disappointed by the reaction in the Arab world to illustrations depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The violence perpetrated against foreign embassies and representatives is unforgivable. Why do leaders in some Arab nations goad their citizens to such primitive furore? Why do they reject forums for reasoned discourse in favor of effigy-burning hordes screeching for bloody murder?

I took a look at the illustrations. They were published in the Danish paper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Postenas part of a series on free speech, this instalment featuring 12 illustrations by Danish cartoonists depicting the Prophet Muhammad. (Read this great entry at Wikipedia for more) Any illustration of the Prophet is considered sacreligious. That is why his image does not adorn Moslem scripture or mosques.

You can see the illustrations yourself and some other clap-trap at this blog. I am too repsectful of Moslem custom and not reckless enough to post them here to the Pharos Review. You will see that the illustrations are for the most part amateurish, which causes me to wonder about the sad state of illustration in Denmark. One shows the Prophet with a turban in the shape of a bomb. Another depicts him with horns. A third shows Muhammad at the pearly gates, turning away a line charred suicide bombers saying, "Stop! Stop! We have run out of virgins!" I have to confess I thought that last one was a little funny.

The rest are rather self-conscious about the whole exercise. For example, one shows a turban-wearing illustrator with an orange bearing the words "PR STUNT" nestled in his turban (?), and holding up a stick figure Muhammad. Another shows Muhammad brandishing a scimitar with his eyes blotted out by a censor's black strip.

In an open letter to "Honorable Citizens of the Muslim World" dated January 30, four months after the cartoons were published on September 30, 2005, the newspaper's Editor-in-Chief, Carsten Juste, endeavours an apology. He states:
"In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive"


"Because of the very fact that we are strong proponents of the freedom of religion and because we respect the right of any human being to practise his or her religion, offending anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unthinkable to us. That this happened was, consequently, unintentional."


"[The newspaper] takes exception to symbolic acts suited to demonise specific nationalities, religions and ethnic groups"

I gagged on this lame bullshit today. Hiding between the principles of freedom of religion and freedom of speech, this reckless provocateur dares to say that offense to Moslems was unintentional? Knowing that any depiction of the Prophet is sacreligious, and knowing Moslems' low threshold for tolerating insult to the Prophet--just ask Salman Rushdie--how can he expect anyone to believe that his intent in publishing these images was anything but deliberately provocative?

I call bullshit. Juste's chickens are coming home to roost. He should also be careful about the xenophobes cheering him on.

What if he published a single illustration of the Prophet, one with a reverential tone? That might spark an interesting and less charged discussion about the suitability of such an image. But Juste has heaped insult upon injury with his scimitar-brandishing, bomb-toting, demon-headed Prophet. "[O]ffending anybody [...] is unthinkable." Yeah, right.