The Danish cartoons: no double standards [Archives:2006/938/Opinion]

April 17 2006

Jan van Prooijen
In this reaction to Imran Khan's article, “Europe's Double Standards,” in which he comes to his conclusion about double standards based on several wrong assumptions, I will point out the wrong assumptions about Holocaust denial. Then I will point out that Muslims failed to clarify what was the problem with the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, which ended up being an attack on European beliefs.

First, I will clear up something about the Holocaust. In some European countries, denying the Holocaust is a crime, while in others it is not. In most countries, it is not forbidden and Denmark is one of them. Accusing the Danes of double standards makes no sense in this regard.

This does not mean that you can freely say that there was no Holocaust. In most all European countries, you would break anti-discrimination laws because such laws also forbid making false accusations about ethnic or religious groups.

Holocaust denial usually includes false accusations against Jews, like claiming they made up the story. False accusations are even worse in this case because such accusations were the reason to begin systematic extermination of the Jews. These same laws also forbid saying things like, “All Muslims are rapists,” or “All Muslims should be expelled from Europe.” Holocaust denial is about lies, racism and calling for hatred.

The other issue is on what grounds the 12 cartoons should be banned. Muslims say it was an insult to their religion, but more to the point, they have different reasons:

1. In Islam, it is forbidden to depict human beings in general, but especially the Prophet Mohammed. This is not forbidden in Europe. To a lot of Europeans, the cartoon debate with its threats feels like an attempt to force Muslim rules upon Europe.

2. The cartoons are blasphemous. I have seen the cartoons. I and many Europeans do not see anything blasphemous about them. In some of them, it is completely impossible to see anything blasphemous about them because they do not show the prophet at all. I never have encountered an explanation as to why the cartoons are blasphemous. In most European countries, you must give an argument in a trial because shouting “Blasphemy!” is not enough to convict somebody.

3. The cartoons are an insult to Muslims. Are they? Some of them attack terrorism. Is an insult to terrorists an insult to Muslims? This argument itself seems an insult to Muslims and is made by Muslims.

These cartoons were published much earlier and printed in Egypt's Al-Farq newspaper. At that time, no Muslim made a fuss about them. However, months later, some political leaders called for revenge. Even stranger is the fact that some extra cartoons were added to them, but those cartoons need no explanation about their insulting character. Not one Muslim bothered about them or their creators. They were traced back to a group of Danish Muslims who went to the Middle East to ask for the cartoon protests. Not one fellow Muslim requested an apology for their publication, which weakens the argument against the cartoons much further. The worst cartoon was published by a Muslim and that was all right! For me, that is outright unbelievable.

There are some free speech restrictions in Europe, the most important of which are about racist and discriminating lies and false accusations, while others concern blasphemy. If you want to convict someone, you go to court. But Muslim leaders wanted something else – no court, no argument – just conviction. Europe just had to believe the complaining Muslims that the cartoons were wrong. Some Muslims were very quick to connect the case with the known false accusation of the Holocaust lie. They did not care that much about the prophet – they rose up for the right to be a racist liar.

Muslims asked for a conviction, but they forgot to give the argument and they linked the case to older false accusations and threats to kill. What judge would convict on those grounds? There has been a public debate in Europe about whether it was decent to publish the cartoons and if they are blasphemous or not. But Muslim rage did not allow much discussion.

Jan van Prooijen is a writer from the Netherlands working in the field of Information and computer security.