The Spectacle Blog

Taboos or Free Speech?

By on 2.3.06 | 12:11PM

The battles over the cartoons published -- first in Denmark and then in several other Euro nations -- depicting Islam's founder Mohammed are still escalating. Danish PM Rasmussen characterized the controversy as a clash between Islamic taboos and western freedom of the press. In that, he is entirely correct. But the EUnuchs had yet to sound off. Now they have, as reported here in the Financial Times:

Peter Mandelson, European Union commissioner, said republishing the caricatures was "throwing petrol on the flames of the original issue."

"I can understand the motivation at one level; they are standing up for freedom of speech. They also have to understand the offense that's caused,'' he told the BBC.

Nadeem Elyas, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, a moderate German Muslim lobby, said the cartoons were "insulting."

"Freedom of the press and of artists must be protected. But it ends where you start trampling on people's dignity," he told the FT, while adding that he recognised newspapers had a duty to report the controversy."

Elyas is echoing the sentiments of Kofi Annan who said almost the same yesterday. Which of the EU nations will be the first to outlaw cartoons depicting Mohammed? How soon will Brussels declare the cartoons a violation of human rights? And how long will it be before the hyperlibs here begin to apologize for the European cartoons?

Salman Rushdie was condemned to death and a life in hiding for "Satanic Verses." Which cartoonists will be condemned as he was? Taboos or free speech? Which will govern in Europe?

More important that European reaction is the reaction of leading Iraqi Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani. Condemning the cartoons, Sistani also said that radical Islamists were partially responsible for distorting the image of Islam. His comments show a courage sufficient to distance most Iraqi Shia from Iran. He, unlike Ahmadinejad, is someone with whom we can deal.

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