A Response to the Cartoon Controversy
A Danish reader offers some perspective
I was randomly surfing the web when I found your article on the Mohammed cartoons and, though it did offer insight into the Muslim thinking, I have to admit that I found the point to be without insight into what has actually caused the situation in the first place.
I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I am a Dane. I am a Christian, and I did not enjoy those cartoons. However, anyone from the Danish culture, would interpret them differently than you did. Which is why I thought you might find the background story interesting.
You probably already know, that what started the whole ordeal was a man who wanted to make an informative book about Islam for children. Harmless? No, because he wanted cartoons in it…that belongs in children’s books.
In our culture however, lately we have had many incidents, of an extreme Islamic subculture who openly oppose the Danish values of equality, and freedom (speech, religion, etc). The main group behind this is called Hith ub Tahir, whose purpose and goal (according to themselves) is to have Sharia laws (Islamic laws based on the Koran) in Denmark. We have had attacks motivated by racists with religious motives from these groups, and since the Muslim subculture stays separate from the Danish culture…well, I am sure that you can guess what fear and ignorance that leads to on both sides.
Anyway, the cartoonist, fearing reprisals refused to make these drawings.
Making the drawings in the first place, may seem unnecessarily cruel for people outside the Danish culture, but (and this may sound weird, but keep in mind that Danish culture, and humor is built around irony and sarcasm) making fun of things is a tradition. The Danish church, and Christianity, and my savior have certainly not been spared. However, out of fear, Muslims have been spared.
The man who wrote the book was very offended by this because there should be no need of fearing reprisals. It does not belong in a free country. (Also, keep in mind that Theo Van Gogh was killed on an open street in Holland by an extremist for making a movie that dealt with people who use the Koran to justify beating their wives–this still had many in shock). He told a newspaper about his problem and the newspaper thought that this was worth raising a discussion over–hence, the 12 drawings. If you do some research you will quickly find that this way of raising discussions on matters from politics, to state church, have been used many times in Denmark.
Personally, I found the cartoons to be unnecessary. The idea was to raise a discussion about Muslim extremism and violence. I do not fully understand the reaction, but I try my best to show sympathy, and understanding.
The newspaper cannot issue a complete apology, because this would be as if they are saying that it is ok to threaten people with violence and the like. They did however issue a statement of intent which says very clearly that the intention was not to hurt Muslims, and they apologized for doing so.
lets kill him.”
As a Christian, I have been the victim of things far worse than this, even from Muslims. Especially now when the winds of this ordeal are still blowing strong, I have nearly gotten my butt kicked by angry Muslims who reasoned like this: this is a Dane…it was a Danish newspaper who printed these cartoons…lets kill him. (fortunately I escaped, but only thanks to a taxi).
Many Muslim countries have for years made fun of Jews and Christians with cartoons and they have every right, regardless of how distasteful I find it.
I realize that it’s hard to understand for outsiders. It’s another culture, and hence it may not make sense to Americans, or Muslims (who have a very different outlook and culture), but I believe this to be a major cultural misunderstanding. At least all the Danish Muslims friends that I have understand this point.
Sorry to be so long…I hope that you did not get the picture that I was mad or offended or anything. Really, I am not. I just think that Danish people as well as Muslim people should try understand each other’s culture better. Ignorance and closed subcultures and racism never leads to anything good. But I don’t believe that any one side is to blame.
The paper did have a point however as we can see from the reactions. European people were kidnapped, and almost killed (until they found out that they where not Danish). Everywhere, European people are shocked to find that the Muslim people they thought were so well integrated now scream for blood and reprisals. This leads to fear, and fear leads to anger, and so on.
From the Muslim side, it’s the same thing. Hurt feelings leads to hate (as seen on CNN almost daily). Just imagine what this can ignite.
Danish people (and I mean all Danish people, Muslims, Christians, Atheists etc.) have started a campaign called Reconciliation Now. Regardless of what people thought of the cartoons, this movement is for everyone who wanted to work for understanding between cultures.
I long to see a similar incentive from Muslim countries