In the wake of some rather unpleasant (but amusing) bigotry expressed in the comments section last week, perhaps it’s the moment to revisit some familiar recent history, and get an update. (All quotes below from the NY Times).
Last month the Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent on charges of plotting to kill [Kurt] Westergaard, one of the 12 cartoonists whose pictures of Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked protests, some of them violent, by Muslims around the world in 2006 and put bounties on the heads of Mr. Westergaard and his editor, Flemming Rose. Mr. Westergaard (he drew Muhammad with a bomb in his turban) has been in hiding ever since.
“It was not about mocking a minority but a religious figure, the Prophet, so it was blasphemy, not racism,” Mr. Rose said of the cartoons. “The idea of challenging religious authority led to liberal democracy, whereas the singling out of minorities, as minorities, led to Nazism and the persecution of the bourgeoisie in Russia. So this distinction is crucial to understand.”
Blasphemy good. Racism bad. By George, I think he’s got it. In the one case, you’re dealing with a belief system voluntarily adopted by the believer. In the other, you’re just a bigoted moronic asshole with a bad attitude. Maybe there’s a more diplomatic way to express it, but why bother?
“I have always been an atheist, and I dare say these events have only intensified my atheism,” [Westergaard] said. “But the same clash would eventually have occurred over some book or a play. It was waiting to happen.
“Disagreement is an essential part of democracy,” he said. “I want to explain my sense of this clash between two cultures because I have grandchildren who will grow up in this multicultural society.”
He added: “This will go on for the rest of my lifetime, I am sure. I will never get out of this. But I feel more anger than fear. I’m angry because my life is threatened, and I know I have done nothing wrong, just done my job.
“Anger,” he said, smiling, “is the best therapy.”
Gotta love that (smiling) last line. Wonder how this nation of Orka Winfrey adorers would approve?
photo: Pakistanis burning a mock coffin representing Denmark (NY Times)