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ISSUE 119 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/24/2006

Religious cartoons provoke protests

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten (“The Jutland Post”) – Denmark’s largest-selling daily newspaper – published 12 editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad on Sept. 30, 2005.

Four months later violent protests around the world (London, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Pakistan, for example) continue to make headlines with their death tolls and numbers of inured, causing Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to describe the controversy as Denmark’s worst international crisis since World War II.

My experiences traveling to Bangladesh last Janurary and studying Islam have helped me understand the offense many Muslims take to cartoons that portray their prophet with violent intent.

It seems distasteful, irresponsible journalism to publish such an offensive feature. What’s more, Flemming Rose, the Cultural Editor of the conservative Jyllands-Posten, originally contacted forty cartoonists and enlisted them to draw the prophet as they saw him. Was Rose trying to create controversy?

Rose published the twelve cartoons he received in order to highlight the difficulty Danish writer Kåre Bluitgen experienced in finding an artist to illustrate his children’s book about Muhammad. However, the article that accompanies the illustrations promotes a different agenda.

“[Some Muslims] insist on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery, and ridicule. […] That is why [we] invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him,” Rose said in the article that accompanied the illustrations.

The text does not discuss Bluitgen’s experience, nor do the cartoons appear to have been designed for the purposes of a respectful children’s book.

Social justice and unity are fundamental virtues in Islam. But despite Islam’s peaceful nature, the cartoons promote common prejudices against Islam, depicting Muhammad as violent.

In total, five of the 12 cartoons depict religiously offensive material; two of the cartoons portray the prophet neutrally, and five of the cartoons directly refer to Rose’s publishing the cartoons as a publicity stunt for the Jyllands-Posten.

Perhaps Rose published the cartoons to send a message to some radical Muslims to “buck up,” and “stop playing the victim.” Perhaps the message meant to censure violent reactions to negative press. Or perhaps the whole feature was a ploy to increase Jyllands-Posten’s circulation.

After chairing a Muttahida Majiis-I-Amal (MMA) religious party alliance meeting in Pakistan on Monday, MMA President Qazi Hussain Mahmad called the publication of the cartoons in Europe “part of the clash of civilizations led by (U.S. President George W.) Bush,” CNN reported.

“Therefore our movement is against Bush as well as against Mush,” Mahmad reportedly said, referring to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in Bush’s war on terrorism. Last week Musharraf announced a ban on cartoon-related rallies in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, but protesters continued to gather in defiance of the ban.

Mahmad’s response seems disproportionate to the cartoons themselves, which are not connected to Bush or “Mush” in any way.

Mahmad’s response seems to support the theory that radical Muslims are using the cartoons to promote radical action and fuel a fire that seems destined for detonation. Just think, all this because of a Danish newspaper.

Brenna Bray is a senior from Stillwater, Minn. She majors in psychology with a concentration in media studies.

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