Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper first published the inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad on 30th September 2005. When both the newspaper and the Danish government saw no reason to apologise on the grounds that they were defending the principle of free speech, a storm of protest erupted throughout the Islamic world. That rightwing Danish newspaper has now been exposed for its blatant hypocrisy and double-standards. Reports have come to light that less than three years ago, this reactionary newspaper in Copenhagen refused to run a series of drawings lampooning and ridiculing Jesus Christ.
The London Guardian carried a story on 7th February 2006 revealing the duplicity of this xenophobic Danish newspaper. At the time, this much-heralded standard bearer of press freedom refused to publish the cartoons of Christ, on the basis that they would be offensive to readers and were not deemed to be funny. When Christoffer Zieler, a Danish illustrator submitted a collection of cartoons poking fun at the resurrection of Christ in April 2006, the Editor of Jyllands-Posten rejected these caricatures: I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”
Here we have it in black and white. This high-minded Danish newspaper is properly respectful of the sensibilities and beliefs of its Christians readers. However, this ultra-conservative publication considers that it has an absolute right, a public duty and moral obligation to insult Muslims by maligning their Noble Prophet. But by insisting on their partisan, one-sided selectivity, they have totally nullified their own arguments regarding the freedom of the press. They are now seen, not as champions of free speech and press liberty, but as cynical deceitful hypocrites harbouring a deep-seated hostility towards Islam and Muslims.
The Editor’s humiliating admission that he did not want to offend Christians clearly illustrates the deplorable double standards, two-facedness and hatred that some Westerners hold against Muslims. If that reactionary Danish daily newspaper wanted to be such an outspoken vehicle of freedom of expression and freedom of speech, then why did it not also publish caricatures of Jesus Christ?
This is the question that this newspaper must answer to full Muslim satisfaction. It is also a question that should be asked of all the other European publications that have been so quick to re-print these controversial cartoons against the founder of Islam. Would they publish caricatures against all those beliefs and values that THEY hold precious and sacred? Will they deliberately satirise the taboos in their society? Would Europeans deliberately denigrate and deny the Holocaust or advocate racism and paedophilia? Would they print cartoons ridiculing all the sacred beliefs and holy cows that their secular society respect and revere?
Only when Westerners consistently ridicule and caricature EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING WITH NO LIMITS OR CENSORSHIP WHATSOVER can they claim to be upholding complete freedom of the press. Otherwise, all that they are engaging in is outright hypocrisy and a very selective ‘freedom of speech’ when they target Muslims with such deliberate impunity.
It is precisely this kind of palpable duplicity and double standards that 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide find so demeaning and insulting. What this deplorable incident teaches Muslims is that they need to respond in a co-ordinated, non-violent and strategic fashion to protect and promote their faith. By using their tremendous global purchasing power, they can legitimately boycott people and places that gratuitously offend them. Anti-Muslim bigots and xenophobic racists should know that there is a price to pay for prejudice and discrimination, whatever the shade of belief.
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Extracts of this MECO PRESS STATEMENT were printed in the Oxford Mail on 3rd February 2006