Situating Cartoons: Politics of a New Europe


Criticisms and condemnation of some Modernists, Post-Modernists, and others including many governments of the so-called ‘democracies’ in the liberal parts of the world over the worldwide demonstrations (including some violent protests) against the provocative publications of the grossly offensive and false caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) should be carefully assessed before reaching any reasonable conclusion. If their interpretations were taken without applying reasonable criteria of judgement over this issue, then the Muslims would be categorised as terrorists, intolerant, uncivilised, barbaric and freedom hating people against freedom loving, peaceful, rational and civilized people. As a result, the planned purpose and strategy of the far rightists for polarisation and ethnicisation of liberal Europe based on concrete bags of prejudices and perceptions would bridge gaps and differences between them and the neo-conservatives who need to wage a long war against the larger parts of the non-conformist Muslim world.

Western response

It is important to mention that far-rightist forces are on rise in many parts of Europe, which can be better compared with the Neocons of the US. Muslims’ protests against such publications have speeded up their growth, which may be reflected in the forthcoming elections in Italy. Thier purpose is to transform European-Muslims differences into conflicts and tensions for motivated designs. This long and undeclared war against the Muslims would mildly be categorised as ‘war against terrorism’, which is at present being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some fresh results of this European kind of 9/11 (publications of false and frenzy caricatures), which go against the interests of mainly Muslim countries. Denmark has closed its missions in Syria, Iran, Indonesia and Pakistan. It has warned its citizens against traveling theses places. Some Arabs have announced boycott of Danish goods. Israel is even objecting (due to new encouragements) to the visits of the winning party of Palestine to Turkey and Russia.

Europeans have hardened their position on the issue of Iran. The EU is taking U-turn over the Palestine issue. Like before, Israel is setting the Palestinian agenda not the elected leaders of Palestine. Former US president Bill Clinton, seen here in Islamabad, said that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was a mistake but that violent protests by Muslims have wasted a chance to build bridges with the West. Worldwide gathering of survivors and relatives of people killed in terrorists attacks worldwide in Valenica (Spain) in a two-day congress on Victims of Terrorism on February 13, in which the EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattinicalled terrorism “the main threat in democratic society” and vowed that European governments would leave no stone unturned in fighting it.

On 16 February 2006, France has for the first time explicitly accused Iran of using its nuclear programme as a cover for clandestine military nuclear activity. For media propaganda, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Congress for an additional $75m to subsidise dissident groups and to fund a 24-hour television station broadcasting in Farsi. French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy said Iran was being disingenuous. BBC quoted him on February 16, "No civil nuclear programme can explain the Iranian nuclear programme. It is a clandestine military nuclear programme," Same day, EU lawmakers rejected calls for limits on media freedom in the wake of the row over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, insisting current law on offensive material sufficed. The EU assembly said in a resolution, "Freedom of expression and the independence of the press as universal rights cannot be undermined by any individual or group that feels offended by what is being said or written". In an interview with the International Herald Tribune newspaper, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he understood the offence caused but asked: "Is it better to have a system where some excesses are allowed or be in some countries where they don’t even have the right to say this?"

Whither freedom of expression

Some have taken up the debate on the pretext of democratic rights and freedom of expression. They have also claimed to be tolerant, free, liberal, civilised and scientific against the forces of dogmas, old order and pre-modern religious values. Intercultural communication experts have debated this issue with apologetic mind-set. They claim that Denmark falls in the category of ‘low-context culture’ against the Arabs/Muslims’ ‘high-context culture’ in which the former does not accord primacy to sentiments of others and reciprocal expectations. Recently, the decision of the far-right party (Northern League) member Mr. Roberto Calderoli to print blasphemous caricatures over T-shirts has been opposed by the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and others. The great American Supreme Court judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes gave a classic illustration of what I mean. Mr Justice Holmes said it was legal for a man to go into a large empty field and shout "fire" at the top of his voice even if there wasn’t a fire. But if he mischievously shouted "fire" in a crowded theatre he was acting illegally.

Provocative caricatures have nothing to do with the democratic rights and freedom of expression because it cannot be applied differently. Caricatures means distorted presentation of a person, which is a popular art for form for entertainment and not insulting or hurting the popular sentiments and feelings. In April 2003, Jyllands-Posten had rightly refused to publish caricatures on the Prophet Isa (peace be upon him) prepared by the artist Christoffer Zieler. It is a crime in Switzerland to deny the claim of the Armenians for their genocide by the Turks. Therefore, it is difficult to challenge the level of claims in most of the European dailies. Bernard Lewis was condemned for the denial of Armenian genocide in the French Le Monde. David Irvin was jailed for writing that Jews had not been subjected to genocide at the hands of the Germans. In January 2006, Flemming Rose, Cultural Editor of the Jyllands-Posten told Dan Bilefsky of International Herald Tribune that he would not publish the cartoon of Ariel Sharon strangling a Palestinian baby, since that could be construed as racist. After the British Independent published cartoon in 2003 showing Sharon eating the head of a Palestinian child, Zionist Jews and Western media condemned the cartoon as ‘anti-semitic’. Both the US and Israel stopped the play of the serial made by the Egyptian Dream TV in 2002 on all Arab stations–”Knight Without a Horse, which showed the treatment of the Palestinians by Israelis.

It is almost unthinkable for most of the Western media to report on Iraq’s realities since 19 March 2003. They have been following the instructions of the occupiers. Some of those who tried to come out of the facts were killed on the ground. It is difficult for the European media to investigate into many hidden facts related to 9/11. Many Arab local newspapers had published the report soon after the 9/11 that the father of Mohammad Atta, one of the so-called hijackers, had received a telephone call form Atta from the US that he is alright after the 9/11 explosions. Do we know that Dick Cheney knows many secrets of the 9/11? Many American intellectuals have rejected the 9/11 report as half baked and trash in which very few amount of money was spent in comparison to the investigations in the Monica Lewinsky case. Do we know, as it is available in the works of Eric Hufschmid and others that the plane, which had crashed into the Pentagon on September 11 was not Boeing 757 but a Global Hawk weighing 4/5 tonnes. It is based on the materials found and collected after the crash. Can the Western media publish investigative reports as how any fire can cause collapse of the twin towers in New York? According to the Fire Chief of New York, it was not possible for any fire to collapse this building in 8to 10 seconds. Can we find the iron and metal scraps of the twin towers for investigations? No they were soon removed and melted by a contractor. It is, therefore, not reasonable to claim freedom of expression when it comes to create hate and hostile engagements.

We can find corresponding results. Violent demonstrations occurred in Beirut, Indonesia, Pakistan and Damascus. On February 1, Turkey witnessed a demonstration and boycott of Danish goods. Next day, 11-armed men fired in the air near the EU headquarter in Gaza and threatened Danish and Norwegians to leave the area. This was enough for Condoleezza Rice to accuse Iran and Syria for stocking violence. Danish goods were boycotted. Withdrawal of ambassadors occurred. The EU temporarily closed its office in Palestine. This was perhaps the first level of goals achieved through the publication of caricatures. This is to recall that the UN resolution 60/150 calls for combating defamation of religions. Demonstrations in larger parts of the world have been peaceful but the message spread through the Western media and others is that Muslims are freedom hating, uncivilised, autocrat and barbaric. This would be cashed in the UN Security Council over Iran nuclear issue. This has already embittered relations between the Hamas and the EU.

Creating conformist Europe

Politics behind the provocative caricatures are to create a reliable “Conformist Continent of Europe”, which Donald Rumsfeld called ‘New Europe’ against the opposition of France and Germany as ‘Old Europe’. Neo-conservatives, Zionists and their supportive agencies have been doing their jobs in systematic way. They have already silenced the France and Germany over the ongoing holocausts in Iraq. In fact, the Old Europe is actively engaged with the Americans in their greater Middle East projects. Engineering of the Madrid bombings and the London Tube bombings and ‘directional’ programmes and visions of the Western media discouraged the Old Europe and ‘cultured Europeans’ to debate terrorism, which defy American interpretations. Anti-immigrant and far-right parties in addition to the New Europe’s ‘ethnicised political culture’ would bring about more prejudiced governments, which would be supportive of war against the Muslims on the pretext of terrorism. On the other hand, the expansion of the European Union with former communist countries and the inclusion of disputed island of Cyprus have created more pro-American forces in Europe, which can be found in the participatory list of the ‘American-led coalition’ in Iraq.

In fact, EU’s opposition to the inclusion of Turkey and its extensive support to the Armenians and the Kurds on the pretext of genocide, freedom and human rights violations clearly show its ‘psyche’ towards Turkey, which is, till now, a very secular, modern country with Muslim majority population. The Zionists’ agenda is to create EU as an ‘American lobby’ against the Muslims all over the world because it is a potential unit to oppose the hegemon. They believe in ‘blind’ and ‘total’ support in generating a ‘New Cold War’ between the Muslims and the Western world and later rest of the world. The EU seems to be falling in the Zionists traps. European themselves are not free to research on the ‘myth and reality’ of holocaust of Jews in Europe. If holocaust is a reality then it must come out more openly in new research works and investigations. Why one should fear about it? If holocaust is not a reality, then it must be exposed in Europe and outside. Many Germans perhaps do not know that the American jets bombed their cities in 1944-45 when the German army and resistance had completely eroded. One can find almost similar situation in the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945.

The EU, of course with the opposition of many European and American people, followed the American consortium of elite in the case of the Balkans, East Timore, Darfur, and Palestine. Both are united against Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba for their anti-poverty schemes and redistribution of national resources. Both have shown their fraternity in ballooning the agitation of the agents in Georgia and Ukraine as Rose and Orange revolutions. They also pumped anti-national elements in Lebanon as Green revolution. But they succeeded in forcing out the Syrians from Lebanon, which would only strengthen the Zionist forces in the region. This Syrian withdrawal has already resulted in depletion of ‘national consolidation’ of Lebanese people due to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and explosions in Beirut. As a matter of fact, Syrian withdrawal has at least removed ‘checks’ from its northern border. Emergence of ‘unchecked’ and ‘absolute’ Israeli State would compel the EU to conform to its demands and the EU would have otherwise no options. Such a situation is being created in the Middel East. This can be finally observed in the EU’s threats to stop economic aid to the Palestinian administration after the resistance force sought majority in the first-ever free elections held on January 25.

In pursuit of conformity for ‘unity’ against the ‘other’, EU’s approach to Iran on the nuclear issue can be underlined. It is quite disturbing to note that the EU has completely overstepped its legacy of ‘self judgement’ due to various factors such as the 9/11, occupation of Iraq, Madrid bombing and London Tube bombing. The new addition made by the fruits of the worldwide protests would further consolidate the EU’s position against both Iran and Hamas. Provocative caricatures in Europe have brought about political mobilisation in the whole continent. It is a kind of ‘European 9/11’ targeting the interests of the Muslims. Its main purpose is to create differences, prejudices, hate and aggressive attitudes between the Muslims and Europe and to indulge both of them into internecine situation. This is what happening all around the world. After 9/11, there exists a ‘negative’ environment between the Muslims and the American government. The Republican Party of George Bush and Dick Cheney made this 9/11 issue as the greatest threats to the Americans within and outside the United States. They linked 9/11 with anti-Alqaeda Baath Party of Iraq. They demolished Afghanistan, occupied Iraq with their continuing hostile engagements in both the places. They have cornered Iran and Syria. On the other hand, they have created numerous military and air bases in and around the world. Since long, their approach to the Palestinians’ agony is all-evident.

Main issues

Therefore, the main issue to be urgently attended by the international community is the freedom, liberation and democracy in the Muslims’ regions where American government is involved. For example, liberation of the Palestinians under the resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN Security Council, dismantling of the illegal construction of the over 600 km long apartheid wall in the ‘Palestinian territories, dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements in West Bank against the UN resolutions, creation of the Palestinian State as per the Road map, end of the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, a sovereign part of Syria, Israeli withdrawal from the Sheba Farm of Lebanon, non-interference in Lebanese internal politics, end of occupation of Iraq, end of daily bombings of Iraqi civilian areas, genuine transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, preventing the creation of separate Kurdish state in northern Iraq, defamation of Syria for terrorism and liberating Iran from the proposed UN sanctions or American threats of using force. Issue in the Middle East also include the liberation of the small island states in the Gulf and Jordanian monarchy from American arms build up and inducements. If people of these ‘semi free’ and ‘not free’ countries remain under such threats, pressures and conspiracies, they would become more dependent on their governments, which would further their own interests.

The agenda of the hegemon is to bring change according to ‘their choice’. It is nothing to do with democracy. In fact, spread of democracy in Middle East would free its governmental agencies from the external interferences. The hegemon is against democracy in Venezuela because it is favouring the poor people. It is against Hamas in Palestine because it wants to maintain and protect the minimum sphere of Palestinian interests. It is against the Iranian and Syrian governments because they back the liberation of the Palestnians. Therefore, the issues in the Middle East can be looked into the following questions. Who are to be identified as victims in the Middle East? Are the Americans or Iraqis in occupied Iraq? Are they Palestinians or illegal settlers in Occupied Palestinian Territores? Who is a threat in the Middle East? Is it Iran developing nuclear process for generating electricity or Israel, which possess above 200 thermo-nuclear weapons? Who is occupying power in Middle East? Is it not Israel vis-à-vis Palestine, Syria and Lebanon? Is it not US, UK and Europe in the case of Iraq? Is it not a reality in Middle East that anti-peace forces have been violating natural rights of human beings, society and state in Middle East by destroying their army, constitution, policies, and religious places?

Therefore, one needs to debate the real issue in the Middle East. It is in one word the freedom of people of the region. Under this principled criterion of identification, the ongoing policies of aggressions, violations and propaganda against the target countries and people were supposed to be condemned and halted. This roll back could have further exposed the US-European aggression on Iraq that it was not a war against terrorism but itself terrorism. In order to keep and prolong their hostile engagements in Iraq and hostile policies against Iran, Syria and Palestinian nationalists, aggressively offensive caricatures were invented in four stages. First they were published by the Danish daily–Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005. The issue was raised by local Muslim organisations for apology due to highly religious matter. It was not responded. Then the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed the collective letter of 11 Ambassadors for meeting and reasonable settlement. Danish authorities also failed to take notice of thousands of signatures against the caricatures. In a provocative act, the objectionable caricatures having 12 cartoons were reprinted in the Norwegian daily Magazinet on 10 January 2006 along with an Austrian Daily. Appeals for apology increased. Then on February 1, leading Western European dailies reprinted them. Lastly, Mr. Roberto’s decision to take on T-shirts.

Is it not provocative to do it consciously? Are they not aware that such actions are not the part of freedom of expression? Do they not know that such caricatures is not against an individual only but a Prophet (peace be upon him) whose defamation, under Islamic belief system an in sociological context, is the defamation of the entire collectivity–”Muslims? Provocation against the Muslims seems to be quite systematic. Since 2001, common Afghan people are victims of the foreign occupation. They destroyed most of Iraq along with many mosques and holy books. They have released few pictures of torturing Muslim detainees in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib along with the humiliation of the Holy Quran. Such crimes have sensitised Muslims all over the world on the one hand. There are also efforts to not only isolate the Muslims from Europe but to create deep conflicts between them as it was engineered between the US and the Muslims. It is a reality that Muslims and the West are different peoples. They have differences. In fact, differences are not dangerous as long as they maintain their respective principles of living together in diversity. Differences must not be as much conflictual as they are being made now. The new trend of transforming differences into deep conflicts and hostile engagements are really dangerous and quite disturbing for the world peace.