The Washington Post has risen to the defense of the disgusting Tom Toles editorial cartoon that drew a letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “‘Wash Post’ defends Toles cartoon that drew angry protest letter from Joint Chiefs.” By contrast, the Post reporters covering the Islamist response to the Danish newspaper’s Muhammad cartoons cater to the folks who have drawn their guns and threatened kidnappings in response to the letters: “Tension rises over cartoons of Muhammad.” Molly Moore and Faiza Saleh Ambah write:
Under Islamic teachings, any depiction of Muhammad, the faith’s founder and messenger of God, is blasphemy, including depictions that are not negative. The cartoons violated that dictum, and many of them also ridiculed the prophet. In one, he is depicted as a terrorist, with his turban holding a bomb with a burning fuse.
Political analysts from both sides described the newspapers’ printing of the cartoons as a dangerous incitement in a conflict that has already alienated the growing Muslim populations of West European nations and hardened extremists in both camps.
Alexandre Adler, author of “Rendez-vous With Islam,” criticized the newspapers. “We’re at war,” he said, citing the Iraq insurgency and the electoral victories of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “And sometimes war demands censorship. In this context, anything that might strengthen the hate of the West is irresponsible.”
The European Union’s trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, said the continued printing of the cartoons was “throwing petrol onto the flames.” Acknowledging the desire to stand up for press freedom, he said newspapers must understand “the offense that is caused by publishing cartoons of this nature.”
But more news organizations continued to display the cartoons Thursday, including the BBC, which said it hoped to “give audiences an understanding of the strong feelings evoked by the story.”
In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped a German citizen from a hotel restaurant and threatened to seize more foreigners. The German was later released, Palestinian security officials said.
Many Europeans left the Gaza Strip as a precaution Thursday. The E.U. shuttered its office there after warnings that staff members would be kidnapped. About a dozen gunmen briefly surrounded the empty building, firing their weapons. Some European countries warned citizens against travel in the Middle East.
In the city of Multan in central Pakistan, several hundred students from Islamic schools burned French and Danish flags in protest. Boycotts of Danish grocery products expanded across the Middle East
Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ahmadinejad of Iran issued statements of condemnation, as did King Abdullah of Jordan. In a speech in Washington, the monarch said that while “we respect and revere freedom of speech, we condemn needless desecration and injury of Islamic sensibilities, such as the recent cartoons misrepresenting and vilifying my ancestor, the prophet.”
Newspapers throughout the Muslim world condemned their European counterparts. Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News ran a one-word headline on its front page that summarized sentiment in the region: “Apologize!”
The Egyptian publisher of France Soir, which printed the controversial caricatures Wednesday, fired the paper’s managing editor, Jacques LeFranc, late Wednesday night, saying, “We present our regrets to the Muslim community and to all people who have been shocked or made indignant by this publication.”
But the dismissed editor’s boss, Faubert, wrote an unrepentant editorial in Thursday’s editions: “We had no desire to add oil to the fire as some may think. A fundamental principle of democracy and secularism is being threatened.”
But critics argued that publishers should be more discerning in the battles they choose over freedom of expression. “This is the sort of thing that will feed into al Qaeda, alienating and angering a lot of educated young people,” Najam Sethi, editor of Pakistan’s Daily Times and Friday Times, said in a telephone interview from Lahore.
We pause here to catch our breath for the mandatory Holocaust reference:
Sethi and others see a double standard at work. “People who question some of the facts of the Holocaust are ostracized; most publishers are so sensitive they won’t even get into the argument,” Sethi said. “A degree of censorship is imposed that is not articulated.
Regarding the Toles cartoon, Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt commented that “a cartoonist works best if he or she doesn’t feel there’s someone breathing over their shoulder.” Moore and Ambeh unfortunately didn’t seek Hiatt’s comment on the response to the Muhammad cartoons.
Michelle Malkin has much more in “International Day of Anger” and “The cowardly American media.” Michelle, for example, quotes the CNN report noting that “Muslims consider it sacrilegious to produce a likeness of the Prophet Mohammad. CNN has chosen not to show the cartoons in respect for Islam.” Michelle asks: “Where was that deference when Ted Turner was calling Catholics ‘Jesus Freaks?'” See also Jim Hoft’s “Islamic Society of Denmark used fake cartoons to create story!”
UPDATE: Joe Malchow writes:
Everything that reasonable people need to know about the cartoon uproar is embodied in the comments of yesterday of Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah. He said: “If there had been a Muslim to carry out Imam Khomeini’s fatwa against the renegade Salman Rushdie, this rabble who insult our Prophet Mohammed in Denmark, Norway and France would not have dared to do so.”
And that is it, isn’t it? He’s given away the game. This is not piety or religion or offense-taking. It is terrorism.
Joe’s Dartblog post is here, and the AFP story with the cited quote is here.
Our friend Hugh Hewitt condemns the cartoons out of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Hugh writes: “Cartoonists seeking to offend need to be defended against violence, but they don’t deserve praise and certainly not praise for their gift to the jihadists. Decency, and a respect for the opinions of mankind, ought still to be highly valued.”
The United States State Department concurs. Is it time, as Joe suggests, to revisit the case of Salman Rushdie?
Bill Carmichael observes “RoP on the march” in London here and notes “still nothing on the BBC.”