Palestinians return fire by trashing Danish flag

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. 

Update (2006-01-31): 
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.

  • eteraz

    you gotta admit, for guys with guns and a proclivity to burn things, they sure are resourceful when it comes to getting flags to burn. how the hell do you get a danish flag into gaza??
    question: why do we want the danish GOVERNMENT to condemn cartoons about the prophet? the government is supposed to be neutral. if they condemn these cartoons then when non-christians make cartoons about christ, they’ll have to condemn those too. that makes no sense. the only time the government could enjoin something relating to expression is if there is an imminent danger of disorder or violence.

  • Abuljude

    What a surprise – another demonstration effort as a monumental waste of Arab and Muslim time. No more fun burning Rushdie’s books, I suppose.
    What are they going to do to bring Danes to their knees over this ridiculous farce? Boycott Lurpak butter?

  • Abu Sinan

    Freedom of speech is fine, but there are other things out there more important. I guess I could have more sympathy with these people if they went into the streets and got just as mad about the church bombings in Iraq. I view both things as an attack on Islam.

  • Svend White

    Thanks for the comments, folks.
    No, I wouldn’t expect the Danish government to defend the Prophet nor would I even expect it to ban such cartoons, but I would expect responsible political leaders to speak out against harmful publicity stunts which incite hatred. This isn’t really about religion. That 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.
    And you can be sure that the government would’ve (and for good reason) found a way to speak out against similar cartoons portraying Jews or Judaism offensively. But Muslims and Islam are increasingly unpopular in Denmark now, so different rules apply.
    Personally, I see nothing terribly objectionable about the Palestinians’ response in this context. They’re just fighting fire with fire–”Danes denigrate what we care deeply about, so we denigrate what they care about.”–and letting Denmark know that such controversies will hurt its relationship with Muslims around the world.

  • Svend White

    Just updated this entry.