Have been too busy to blog lately, alas.
A quick update on the Danish cartoon controversy.
Just got my hands on a great new book by Rune Engelbreth Larsen and Tøger Seidenfaden called Karikaturkrisen: En undersøgelse af baggrund og ansvar ("The Cartoon Crisis: An Study of its background and responsibility") which pretty much demolishes the government’s justifications and much of the conventional wisdom about the Danish imam’s supposedly inflammatory contribution to the crisis.
Haven’t read the whole thing yet and don’t have time to translate anything from it at the moment, but suffice it to provides considerable evidence to prove that:
- The government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen had ample opportunity to nip this crisis in the bud over a period of half a year.
- The early Muslim response did not demand government censorship. The October 2005 letter from Muslim ambassadors to the Prime Minister explicitly affirmed freedom of speech (and presciently warned of the danger of unrest in Muslim societies), as did even Egypt’s protest letter the following month to the UN. All that was asked was for him to distance the government from Jyllands-Posten’s divisive PR campaign against Islam. In other words, the argument that the Danish government had no choice but to rebuff Muslims because they were demanding that the government ignore Danish laws protecting speech are patently false.
- While the Danish imams did say some some things that’s weren’t entirely accurate in the heat of the controversy, there is no evidence that they sought to misrepresent the cartoons by including the infamous additional drawings. These additional items were physically separated from the JP cartoons.
- They provide compelling arguments for the view that the imams
and the dossier (i.e., with the JP cartoons and various other more
offensive ones that Danish Muslims had encountered in Denmark) they
distributed to leaders in the region did not contribute appreciably to
the escalation of the conflict. One interesting point they make is
that most of the leaders they met were already quite familiar with the
cartoons, so it is unlikely the additional drawings in any way misled
- Not only is it a myth that the Danish Muslim delegation whipped up the Muslim world into a frenzy against Denmark, they actually were instrumental in delaying the outbreak of the boycott. They opposed a fatwa by Egyptian mufti Ali Guma urging a boycott. The authors note that a senior Danish counterterrorism official publicly thanked them for their constructive and moderate role while in the Middle East. They go on to state that there is considerable evidence for the view that the imams prevented the boycott from beginning two months earlier. The boycott and mayhem did not occur until they’d returned to Denmark (and at a point at which the Danish government had had months to defuse the crisis).
Hope this book gets translated into English soon, as it provides so much important context that’s lacking from international coverage.
Even if you don’t agree with all the authors conclusions–though I don’t see how one could argue against them given the evidence they marshal–it’s hands down the most thorough study of the saga done to date.
It definitely puts the government in a bad light, not to mention supports my take on the sorry saga.
Just finished an article for book on the controversy, btw. More later.