Cartoon quarrel deadly serious

Free world must decide - will it submit to de facto sharialaw or assert its rights

Feb. 11, 2006

by David Kopel

Suppose you were a newspaper editor, and you could run any or none of the following opinion pieces, which would you choose?

1. An article that points out that boxing champion Muhammad Ali claimed conscientious objector status to avoid the Vietnam War draft, and which calls Ali and his fans "chicken---- black boy draft-dodgers."

2. A piece claiming that leaders of the ultra-orthodox political parties in Israel (who are exempt from mandatory military service) are "chicken---- Jew boy/ draft-dodging political hacks."

3. A article calling the draft-dodging Bill Clinton and his staff "chicken---- white boy/ draft-dodging political hacks."

4. A piece announcing that journalists who support the Iraq war are "chicken---- white boys/ draft-dodging political hacks."

An editor with good judgment would reject all four of the above pieces because of their childish vulgarity and mean-spirited race-baiting.

The Denver Postshowed poor judgment by publishing Dani Newsum's nasty blog column (Jan. 19) announcing that some journalists from the Cybercast News Service (CNS) who raised questions about the Vietnam War record of U.S. Rep. John Murtha are "chicken---- white boy/draft dodgeing \[sic] political hacks."

Newsum's vulgar racism was nonsensical, since race had nothing to do with criticism of Murtha.

Regarding some other offensive speech, the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote a letter criticizing The Washington Post'sTom Toles for a cartoon (which ran in the Jan. 30 News) which was interpreted as mocking quadriplegic Iraq war veterans. National radio host Hugh Hewitt, who appears afternoons on 710-AM KNUS, has lambasted the Los Angeles Timesfor running an opinion column by Joel Stein, who wrote that he didn't "support the troops" because it is hypocritical for people who think the Iraq war is malevolent imperial aggression to claim to support wrongdoers.

Protests against the allegedly offensive speech of Toles and Stein have stayed within proper bounds, as the critics have merely stated their objections, or urged people to exercise their free commercial choice, such as by canceling subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times.

In contrast, terrorists and state sponsors of terrorism - including Syria, Iran, and Hamas - have worked in conjunction with a dozen pro-terrorist Danish Muslim clerics to incite physical attacks on Scandinavians and Christians, assaults on Danish and Norwegian embassies, terrorist threats, and demands for the execution or hand amputation of Danish cartoonists who drew pictures of the prophet Muhammad for the Sept. 30, 2005, issue of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.The Islamist hate machine has produced assassination threats which have forced the cartoonists into hiding.

The controversy began when Danish author Kare Bluitgen found that no one would draw illustrations - except under condition of anonymity - for his children's book The Quran and the Life of the Prophet Muhammad,which was intended to promote multicultural understanding. In response, Jyllands-Postencreated the Muhammad cartoon contest in order to explore the endemic European self-censorship about Islamic topics.

Contrary to repeated claims by the Associated Press, it is not a fact that Islamic law forbids artistic depictions of Muhammad. The prohibition against depiction of any prophet (not just Muhammad) is not explicitly Quranic, but is a mere interpretation favored by some clerics; the interpretation is hardly unanimous, as shown by the long Islamic tradition of drawing pictures of Muhammad. (See for examples).

You might agree with the U.S. State Department, Hugh Hewitt and the Vatican that the Danish cartoonists' work is so offensive that no one should publish it in the first place. Or you might think the same about Tom Toles, Joel Stein, Dani Newsum, Theo van Gogh, Oriana Fallaci or Salman Rushdie. Even so, every freedom-loving person must insist that no matter how offensive a cartoon or article is, censorship is wrong, and censorship imposed by violence is utterly evil. The free world's response to the anti-Danish jihad may be a decisive moment for whether complete religious freedom of speech survives, or whether Europe and the Anglosphere continue to fall under de facto sharialaw, forbidding public criticism of Muhammad.

The human right to free speech about religion must necessarily include the right to produce blasphemous writings or drawings, since every religion includes tenets which other religions consider to be blasphemy. Moderate Muslims in Denmark and elsewhere who have denounced the anti-Danish terrorism deserve admiration for standing up for Islam's best values.

Several European newspapers have courageously stood up against Islamofascist censorship by republishing the cartoons. The front page of Rocky Mountain NewsWeb site includes a link to the cartoons; the Newsis one of very few American papers that have made all 12 cartoons available to its readers.

Excellent continuing coverage of the story can be found on the Web site of syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin (www.michelle, whose regular column runs in the News.She points out that the jihad offensive against Denmark coincides with Denmark's imminent assumption of the chair of the United Nations Security Council, at a time when the council will consider whether to take serious action against Iran's illegal nuclear weapons program.



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