Although NOT a Mohammed Drawing, here's an example of a Danish political cartoon from today's Politiken, drawn by Roald Als (who was not involved with those other cartoons, fortunately for him). It shows Prime Minister Anders Fog Rasmussen (caveman), who is speaking to the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller (dressed as an Arab), whom Anders Fog has publicly embarrassed several times by hogging all the power for himself.

"Look, I know I haven't always been
especially fair to you, Per Stig, but now I've
come to realize that Foreign Policy actually IS
under the authority of the Foreign Minister."

12 February 2006

a letter from Copenhagen, Denmark...
under siege

Several friends have sent us e-mails asking the same questions about being in Denmark these days, since the 12 satirical cartoons of Mohammed published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten have created such a fuss.

I'd already been in a dialogue with Ken, started an answer to Sandy which was turning into a long essay, when I got the same questions from Randy, so here-- I'll just write a newsletter to everyone.

Sandy asked if I knew any of the cartoonists. Not personally, although I've seen some of their stuff before. Might never get to know them either, since there have already been threats on their lives. And bomb threats against the newspaper itself, of course. They're all pretty nervous right about now.

If you haven't seen the cartoons check out:

Had I been among the artists asked to contribute to that project, I'd never have done it. Not because I'm totally against sacrilege (which can be pretty funny), but simply because I remember Salmon Rushdie.

The story is that Jyllands Posten commissioned the cartoons in response to a Danish author who had just written a children's book about Mohammed, but couldn't find an artist who dared to illustrate it. Being a champion for Freedom of the Press, the editor of Jyllands Posten put out a challenge to any artist who had the balls to boldly go where no man has gone before. He got 12.

So suddenly the entire Moslem world passionately hates Denmark; we've got Arabic countries boycotting Danish products; demonstrators are going amok burning embassies and getting killed by attacking armed soldiers; and then there's the all-engrossing debate about freedom of speech vs blasphemy.

And the question was: what's it like living in cozy little Denmark these days?

Well, we certainly can't ignore what's going on. It's in all the media all the time-- and we find ourselves listening to every news update we can catch. Everybody is involved, one way or another, and they all have an opinion or two. You go into a music store and all the employees are debating about it, the customers join in; you buy your fruit and vegetables from the Turkish grocer just to let him know you're still friends; actually, most Danish people are sympathetic to the Moslem's discontent.

Our local Moslems are indeed offended by the drawings, but there has been no actual violence or flag-burning here. They know what's going on in respect to the fact that freedom of the press allows the government no legal power to stop the drawings from having being published, even had they been informed in advance, which they weren't. They also know that the whole mess is the fault of a few specific people, rather than the entire population of Denmark. Basically all they want is a convincing apology from those responsible.

You've probably figured out that most of those fanatics we see rioting out in the Moslem world have never even SEEN the drawings, they've been TOLD about them in flaming rhetoric by ambitious Islamists with their own agenda, so that the poor masses with no personal power will now show the world what power they do have.

Most of the Danish Moslems who live here are hardly interested in permanently poisoning their relationship with Danish society. Any inclinations some of them might have for exacting revenge are surely tempered by the fact that nobody wants fanatic Islamists like Al-Qaida showing up in Denmark; the generally random nature of suicide bombings would put the Danish Moslems in just as much danger as any of the rest of us.

But there has been some shit going on, not all caused by Moslems. We've got Danish nationalists and racists here too, who have done vandalism to Moslem-owned shops and pizzarias, threatened immigrant families, etc. The government has put the word out that anyone fanning the flames at this time will be doing prison time, so there's not really a lot of that going on. However, having mentioned the current Danish Government regime, a lot of this mess is because of them. More about that farther on.

As for bad Moslem behavior, it's been mostly political: there was a delegation of local Moslem imams and "leaders" that travelled to several Arabic countries as representatives for Moslems in Denmark-- officially our buddies --to support Denmark through this crisis and smooth things over in the Moslem world.

However, what they actually did was lie about how many drawings there were (12 became 120), showed off some especially offensive examples which had never been seen here at all, said that Danes were publicly burning the Koran in the streets of Copenhagen (never happened), recommended a boycott of Danish goods, and generally did everything they possibly could to make things worse. It seems that they assumed that whatever they said in Arabic would never be translated back into Danish. They've tried to deny that they did any of those things, but they went on al-Jazheera TV News and it's all on tape.

"And here's the worst of them all, really disgusting," one of them said, presenting the now infamous picture of a man with the face of a pig-- indeed, a truly insulting version of Mohammed-- except that it was of a French mechanic who won this year's prize for the funniest pig costume at some annual pig farmer's celebration (whose name wasn't even Mohammed). Published in a French rather than Danish newspaper. Oh well, close enough.

Oops-- just now saw a TV coverage of a demonstration in Indonesia, where a man was interviewed saying "the people responsible for this must be tried and sentenced to death by Islamic law!" Strict!

An interview with Chinese Moslems revealed that they were also upset, but that they blamed only the few who had offended Mohammed, and couldn't understand why Arabs were out to punish the entire nation of Denmark. Different mentalities, inscrutible, huh?

You know, if we thought like that, we'd have to blame each and every Moslem for 9/11!

More news today: Danes evacuating Teheran, Jakarta, Damascus, Beirut; direct threats of intended murder, you name it. No end to this, the fundamentalists have struck the mother lode and are going for the gold.

Hard to believe that all this started out with 12 typical satirical drawings. They've been called disgusting, offensive, belittling of a minority, all sorts of awful names. But actually, most of them are pretty innocent-- ok, slightly disrespectful, sure, but that's the nature of political cartoons, otherwise they wouldn't be funny. Hey, you should see how unflatteringly they draw Anders Fog, our Prime Minister, he's usually an unshaven cave man.

And fair enough, for one of the real reasons behind the entire crisis is specifically that Prime Minister's caveman politics. A little offence became a Major Insult to the Entire Moslem World because of the actions-- or rather deliberate inaction --of Denmark's Prime Minister. An official group of Embassy folk from several Moslem nations requested a meeting with Anders Fog to address the irritation of those 12 drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed-- and he absolutely refused to meet with them. Not his problem. Pissed off all the embassies in Denmark.

A few weeks later, when Danish imports started losing billions of dollars due to boycotts, he decided that it might be his problem after all and attempted to shrug out a sort-of apology on Arabic TV, but stressing that freedom of speech was the real issue here, just pissing them off even more.

I'm not going to elaborate on the Danish political system, but like in most of the western world right now, it has turned from left-wing socialistic to right-wing capitalism and has developed a rather unfriendly tone towards immigrants and refugees. One nationalistic political party in particular has become part (12%) of the power structure, mouthing racist tendencies echoing good old Onkel Adolf, etc. All of that is part of this crisis.

Another great headline seen today: "16 Islamic Teen-agers Ready For Suicide Attacks Against Denmark!" True? Who knows?

If any good comes out of all this, it will be that many of the silent majority of Moslems who enjoy living in peaceful Denmark instead of those repressive regimes from where they have escaped, are finally beginning to come forward and be counted.

It's not all bad: there have been many peaceful demonstrations, we went to one last weekend to express our solidarity with the peace-inclined, and heard Danes berating the stupidity of thye Jyllands Posten as well as Moslems speaking out against the unreasonable overreaction of the Moslem World, met modern people unwilling to accept representation by extremists and fanatics, learned that Danes and Moslems are even now forming groups to help promote local integration, and so on.

And of course it'll all blow over eventually. Just can't help wondering what else is going to get blown up before then.



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