Mar 9, 2008 1:21 pm


This is the cartoon accompanying JP's forthright response to Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s minister of foreign affairs who said at a recent Copenhagen press conference:

I condemn in every possible way that the right to free speech is being used to insult one billion Muslims. It’s a result of islamophobia. Instead we need to use our right to free speech to enlighten our people and promote cultural dialogue that is being threatened by two kinds of extremists: Those fighting on the battle field and those who are sitting behind their desks.”

The cartoon accompanied the following article translated for the Gates of Vienna :

“Killer-pictures! Killer-words!”

It is probably in vain, but anyway, let us for a moment play with the thought that the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, might be susceptible to common logic and rational arguments.

Then, quietly, we would explain to him that drawings are not capable of killing anybody.

In certain cultures in Central America and Africa they believe that it is possible to hurt a person by sticking needles through a doll that looks like the particular individual, but that, we know, is superstitious and without any connection to reality.

No, it is not something that we believe, it is something that we know.

One would explain to him that it is impossible, without seriously damaging the evaluation of one’s intelligence by one’s colleagues, to compare the act of making a drawing and publishing it in a newspaper with the act of throwing a brick through your neighbor’s window.

At the same time you would have to try to make it clear to him that his comparison between the news editors in Denmark and the criminal Taliban warriors does not bear up to close scrutiny.

For example, Danish editors do not kill people, they do not grow opium, and they do not take hostages only to cut their throats after torture and mutilation.

Actually, in our part of the world, we consider it “bad behavior” to reply to verbal provocations with bricks, the burning of embassies, threats, the killing of movie directors, and murder plans against artists.

If we had actually gotten this far in our instruction without being interrupted by insulted outbreaks, we could have continued by explaining to the man that the country he represents has more serious problems than some drawings in a Danish newspaper.
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As a matter of fact his country is being ravaged by criminal gangs and his government is not exactly characterizing itself by outstanding stability.

To help him with these problems we have, at his request, been so kind as to send a number of soldiers who together with colleagues from other civilized states help him and his government prevent his country from disintegrating.

Even though it is far from our nature to play insulted on behalf of others, we would still find an occasion to raise the notion of gratitude.

If he would still listen to what we had to say, we would explain to him that the drawing which he, on behalf of one billion muslims, is so infuriated about illustrates the fact that his prophet is being used by fascists who support their violent ideology with a professed divinity which they proclaim a self-enforced right to interpret in a violent, threatening and oppressive way.

In parentheses we note that an imam [Abu Laban, the late radical Muslim] who lived in this country represented a faith community who felt themselves entitled to claim insult on behalf of 1.3 billion muslims.

What happened to the last 300,000,000 we could maybe, if we were still speaking to each other, ask the insulted minister about.

If we had even a little bit of the consternation possessed by the sensitive Afghan Foreign Minister, we might be tempted to be a little bit angry about distant dictators, criminals, lunatics, and ordinary confused human beings interfering in what is being published in Danish newspapers.

And maybe we would also mention the very reason why Danish newspapers chose to publish a range of Muhammad drawings recently. The reason was that the secret intelligence service revealed concrete murder plans against the artist Kurt Westergaard. This — to us — rather important fact does not mean much in the Foreign Minister’s way of looking at the big picture. For us it means quit a bit, however, and we reserve the right to not let ourselves be intimidated by people who meet verbal arguments with violence.

Luckily this is still what characterizes the civilized Western world.

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