Speaking of Denmark, there have been interesting developments surrounding the cartoons that launched a thousand boycotts not so long ago.
Uffe Elleman-Jensen, an internationally respected Danish conservative leader who served as foreign minister in the 1980s, emerged in 2006 as a leading critic of Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons, which he viewed (quite sensibly in my view) as a deliberate and irresponsible provocation.
Listening to the mostly idiotic saber-rattling emanating from the GOP presidential debates on the topic of Islam, Muslims and the Middle East at the moment, I think the American Right could sure use some more level-headed conservative leaders like Uffe Elleman-Jensen, but that’s another topic.
He and Flemming Rose are locking horns over the cartoons again.
I’ve written about my rather pronounced skepticism concerning Rose’s professed high minded, apolitical motivations (e.g., here and here). Elleman-Jensen smells a rat in Rose’s explanation, too. When discussing his recently published memoirs [link in Danish] in a soon to be aired TV program, Elleman-Jensen fired a fusillade (quoted by Politiken and translated by me):
He [Rose] went so far as to affirm this (that "in a democracy one must be ready to face scorn, mockery and ridicule [This is Rose’s famous sanctimonious reproach to Danish Muslims offended by JP’s campaign. The line about readiness to endure "scorn, mockery and ridicule" is the controversy’s best known sound byte in the Danish media.] by ordering caricatures of the Prophet, which he then published in the paper. With this he went beyond the original aim, as he order caricatures of the Prophet instead of simple drawings.
Rose fired back, accusing Elleman-Jensen of spewing conspiracy theories and lies that put the cartoonists at risk anew.
Rose claims [link in Danish] to be able to prove that he only commissioned generic drawings of their own choosing and that he did not instruct them to mock Muhammad (peace be on him). The request sent to them simply read, he claims, "Therefore, we would like to invite you to draw Muhammad as you see him" (my translation). Nudge nudge, wink wink.
Horse feathers, retorted Ellement-Jensen.
"I maintain that when one commissions drawings from caricaturists one gets caricatures. What else?" he writes and points out that others have noted how JP turned to cartoonists and not "innocent illustrators".
Elleman-Jensen then told Rose and JP to essentially put up or shut up. If this is such an outrageous charge, he says, come and get me in court.
It will be interesting to see what JP and Rose do. My guess is that this is a losing battle for them, as the closer you look at the details of this case, you more grounds one has for for suspecting political agendas to lurk beneath JP’s idealistic crusade for freedom of speech.
Speaking of free speech and JP, the case that seemed to reveal Jyllands-Posten’s own ambivalence about this sacred right–they sued a lawyer for voicing the "outrageous" suspicion that, in light of the coincidence that the arguably most offensive of the cartoons was produced by a JP staff cartoonist, perhaps Rose didn’t find the original cartoons provocative enough and therefore commissioned this harsher one in-house–was recently dismissed.
Publicly saying one suspects a desire to offend Muslims on the part of a media figure who promotes inveterate critic of Islam and Muslims Daniel Pipes and who is cavalier about stirring up religious conflicts is apparently beyond the pale for these fair-weather defenders of open debate and satire.* Rose and JP editor in chief Carsten Juste sued him for DKK 100,000 (something like $16,000).
* Even one of JP’s original cartoonists, Peder Bundgaard, came to
a similar conclusion, saying he’d been misled and duped into
contributing to JP’s agenda of "self-promotion and provocation for
provocation’s sake" (Politiken, Oct 20, 2005, qtd. on Humanisme) [link in Danish].
[For those looking for background, I’ve provided a lot of links to IMO excellent analyses and backgrounders on this case and related news since it all began.Those so inclined can read all my posts on the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. Note that you have to click the arrow at the bottom to get through them all; there are currently 5 long pages of posts: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, & Page 5. They’re in reverse chronological order, so #5 is the earliest. One of these days, I’ll have to try to organize these links into a concise primer on critiques of the Rose/JP actions.]
Update (2007-01-13): A few edits, including a date correction. Forgot to mention that the lawyer Rose and Juste sued was the representing a group of Muslim plaintiff who had themselves filed suit against Jyllands-Posten in 2006 for defamation.