Muslim Response to the Cartoons in The Danish Paper

Muslims have and should strongly condemn the poor taste and bigotry of the Danish paper as well as the other papers that have republished the offending cartoons. People of goodwill from other communities would also join in condemnation because they understand the principle of upholding the public dialogue to a decent level. [1]

But at the same time in a democratic society it is very important to uphold the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. Governments can not, and should not muzzle the press, even in cases of gutter-journalism. They can and should condemn such practitioners help their constituents understand the harm it does to civil society.

Unlike the Rushdi affair, so far the Muslim world has dealt with the offence properly and the economic response is the right course.

It is extremely important to keep the hot heads among Muslims who indulge in offensive sloganeering; insulting others or threatening violence be kept in check and loudly condemned by the Muslim leaders. Yellow journalism exists. The constitution of democratic societies have very limited options in keeping it in check. The only way to keep it at a low level is condemnation by the society at large and not draconian measures by the governments.

Under the freedom of the press, the Danish paper had the discretion to print those cartoons. Muslims and decent people from all religions and even atheists who have taken an offense to the indecency have a right to not subsidize the paper by not buying it.

In the world at large, Muslims and all those who abhor indecency and bigotry have a right not to associate with those who subsidize yellow journalism, such as the advertisers and others form within that society, thus the economic boycott is a very good and civilized idea.

Economic boycott is a two edged sword and should not be taken lightly by those who are doing it, and by those who are the target. The sooner this is brought to a conclusion the better. A long drawn out war of words eventually deteriorates and is taken over by the extremists on both sides. Therefore it is also very important to have a view of what would be considered an adequate redress. The following points should be helpful in resolution.

  • If the European governments condemn the offensive cartoons and disassociate themselves, they should be lauded and appreciated. It is not as easy for them to do as some would say. They pay a heavy political price to the bigoted part of their political base.
  • If the paper apologizes and prints the apology. It should be gratefully accepted. Again because it is a very difficult step for a major newspaper to do.
  • Some extremist fringe papers with only a small constituency may take up the cause of bigotry to increase their circulation. They should be ignored.

In a mercantile world where ideas are often valued in monetary terms, it is the only civilized and principled way of combating bigotry.

Note & Related Column:

[1]. "Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark’s Free Speech :: Twelve Despicable Danish Cartoons of Islam’s Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ::"
by Mohamed Khodr (Friday – December 09, 2005)