Since the Danish government has refused to condemn the now infamous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, a boycott effort is brewing in the Middle East.
Palestinians in the West Bank are getting into the act by denigrating the Danish flag in variuos ways. This article in a Danish newspaper shows photos of Palestinians burning and walking on the Dannebrog [pronounced "DANna-broe"], or Danish flag.
Fair’s fair. If the Danish government is so committed to freedom of expression that it can’t condemn this cynical and irresponsible PR stunt at the expense of an already disliked and misunderstood minority within Danish society, it can’t very well complain when Muslims elsewhere peacefully exercise their right to offend others needlessly, as well.
It’s all very unfortunate, and even more unnecessary.
The BBC reports on the growing momentum for a boycott of Danish products in the Middle East. At risk are Denmark’s major exports of butter and feta. (Denmark’s a key supplier of such products to the region, as the high visibility of the Danish brand Lurpak in supermarkets shows.)
I think it’s important to realize that this controversy isn’t really about religious freedom or freedom of speech, but rather public support for prejudice and communalism in Denmark. No other religion could be discussed in such an outrageous manner calculated to offend and stir up fear.
Denmark, like much of Europe, has all sorts of laws banning various forms of hate speech that are deemed (sometimes debatably) to contribute to prejudices against minorities. What Jyllands-Posten did isn’t (and probably shouldn’t be) illegal, but it should be condemned. As a recent case shows–a Danish radio show host by the name of Kay Wilhelmsen advocated expulsion and violence against Muslims in Western Europe–the Jyllands-Posten action occurs against a backdrop of increasing prejudice and tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in Denmark.
The newspaper’s actions were not apolitical or innocent–they knew they were pouring oil on the fire, intentionally creating an unnecessary crisis guaranteed to further polarize an already polarized Danish society.
As a Muslim, I take great offense at that deliberate slander against the Prophet and support a peaceful and balanced response to that attack on me and my religion. A boycott is an appropriate response.
Actions should have consequences, especially in an interconnected world. I’m just glad that for a change Muslims are able to effectively pressure those who malign them (which includes those who stand by while others do so). The same can’t be said in the case of anti-Muslim/Arab ideolgues in the US (many of whom are on a firstname basis with the various families and juntas ruling the Middle East, as the surreal 2002 Tom Friedman/Crown Prince Abdullah peace proposal shows).
If only a comparable economic boycott could be mounted against those in the American media who relentlessly slander Islam, Arab and Muslims. There are all sorts of columnists and media outfits that do what Jyllands-Posten did in various ways every day.