Opinion: "Rotten Judgment in the State of Denmark"

February 8, 2006

Source: Spiegel


On February 8, 2006 Spiegel ran an opinion piece by Jytte Klausen, a professor of politics at Brandeis University who is originally from Denmark, on the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a newspaper there. Klausen writes, "This all would have been very well if the paper had a long tradition of standing up for fearless artistic expression. But it so happens that three years ago, Jyllands-Posten refused to publish cartoons portraying Jesus, on the grounds that they would offend readers... The paper wanted to instigate trouble, just not the kind of trouble it got. And in this mission it acted in concert with the Danish government. 'We have gone to war against the multicultural ideology that says that everything is equally valid,' boasted the minister of cultural affairs, Brian Mikkelsen, in a speech at his party's annual meeting the week before Rose's cartoon editorial last fall... Freedom of speech versus respect for the feelings of devout religious followers -- Christian, Muslim or otherwise -- is an important issue. When I did my interviews with European Muslims, many religious leaders told me that in their view the central problem was a general lack of respect for religions. They reported that in day-to-day politics they found it easier to work with the local rabbis, pastors or priests than with the politicians. But neither Europe's growing domestic problems with religious pluralism nor a Danish newspaper's clumsy provocation of local Muslims explain the unwanted international crisis we are suddenly faced with. Rather, the cartoons apparently provided a grand opportunity to extremists: for radical elements in Islamic countries rife with internal dissent, and for right-wing extremists in Denmark and Europe, to mobilize supporters from the disaffected. Among the victims are the moderate Muslims in Europe and worldwide, who now find themselves increasingly wounded in the crossfire between xenophobes and Islamists."