What’s been happening in the world lately besides Harriet Miers and Valerie Plame and the World Series? Some of them, like the vote in Iraq last weekend, are big. Others are small, but no less portentous and full of religious riposte.
According to the Weekly Standard Newsletter the big story on the Brussels Journal this week has been the troubles at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Here's how the trouble started:
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten is being protected by security guards and several cartoonists have gone into hiding after the newspaper published a series of twelve cartoons (view them here) about the prophet Muhammad. According to Islam it is blasphemous to make images of the prophet. Muslim fundamentalists have threatened to bomb the paper's offices and kill the cartoonists. . . .
The publication led to outrage among the Muslim immigrants living in Denmark. 5,000 of them took to the streets to protest. Muslim organisations have demanded an apology, but Juste rejects this idea: "We live in a democracy. That's why we can use all the journalistic methods we want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures," he said. The Danish imam Raed Hlayhel reacted with the statement: "This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims. Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world." . . .
The affair, however, has also led to a diplomatic incident. On Thursday the ambassadors of eleven Muslim countries, including Indonesia, a number of Arab states, Pakistan, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, complained about the cartoons in a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. They say the publication of the cartoons is a "provocation" and demand apologies from the newspaper.
Jyllands-Posten was also included on an al-Qaeda website listing possible terrorist targets. An organisation which calls itself "The Glorious Brigades in Northern Europe" is circulating pictures on the internet which show bombs exploding over pictures of the newspaper and blood flowing over the national flag of Denmark. "The Mujahedeen have numerous targets in Denmark--very soon you all will regret this," the website says.
In this one example we see nearly the whole of the problem presented by the collision between Islam and Western liberalism. But amidst the many difficulties, two stand out. First, is the statement from imam Raed Hlayhel, "This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims." Certainly Hlayhel does not speak for all of Islam. But the worry is that if he speaks for even a tiny minority--say, 5 percent of the world's Muslims--that's still a lot of people.
The second shock is the support of 11 Muslim states for this bullying of the Danish press. It is one thing for a lone imam to try to mau-mau a newspaper. It is another to see him standing, arms linked, with foreign governments.
To highlight the true nature of this impasse, to the Brussels Journal’s Paul Belien notes a situation in Belgium:
Meanwhile in Brussels a young Muslim immigrant published a poster depicting the Virgin Mary [unclothed]. Though the picture has drawn some protest from Catholics (though not from Western embassies, nor from the bishops), this artist need not fear being murdered in the street. On the contrary, he is being subsidised by the Ministry for Culture.
Freedom of the press verses freedom of religion verses The Beatitudes?