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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

February 13, 2006

One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.

The inflammatory and racist cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed originally published by a sensation-seeking Danish newspaper have turned into a cause célèbre and are producing a firestorm of hysteria and racism around the world.

Mobs of enraged Muslims have rioted from Morocco to Indonesia and burned Danish and Norwegian embassies. Editors of other European newspapers that foolishly ran the offensive cartoons piously insist they did so to defend the sacred right of free speech.

This writer detests any form of censorship, including so-called `hate laws' that are really modern forms of heresy and blasphemy statutes.

But free speech, as the great American jurist Felix Frankfurter said, does not include the right to scream `fire' in a crowded movie theater. And that's just what the European newspapers did. They were trying to boost circulation and pander to anti-immigrant right wingers by attacking Islam.

Nor is it a coincidence these grave insults occurred in Denmark. Its current rightwing government has been close to President George Bush, sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has not done enough to talk to Denmark's small Muslim community.

While the Danish government had no direct responsibility for the cartoons, it helped foster a climate of hostility to Muslims and was clearly playing to rightwing voters. In fact, anti-Islamism is becoming a staple for many parties of the right.

This whole ugly cartoon business is really about anti-Islamism - the modern version of 1930's anti-Semitism. Today, promoting hatred and scorn for Islam and Muslims has become one of the few socially and legally acceptable modern prejudice in western society.

Just questioning the Jewish holocaust in Germany or Austria can result in a jail sentence. The historian David Irving is in an Austrian prison right now for having questioned some details of the Jewish holocaust over a decade ago.

In the west, it's totally taboo to make claims like homosexuality is wrong, or women are less intelligent than men. No American, Canadian or European newspaper editor would ever dream of running grossly anti-Jewish cartoons. But it's OK to slander Islam.

The Danish paper that ran the racist cartoons `to defend free speech' refused in 2003 to run satirical cartoons of Christ, saying `it would provoke an outrage.' So much for claims of defending free speech.

America's four leading evangelical Protestant leaders, reverends Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, and Marvin Olasky preached a `crusade' against Iraq. Graham branded Islam `an evil and wicked religion.' They called the prophet `a terrorist.' Among American evangelical Christians, 87% supported invading Iraq and hoped to convert Iraq's Muslims to Christianity. Yet they condemn Islam as a violent faith.

Italian writer Oriana Fallaci churns out best-sellers calling Islam a dirty, backwards creed of violent thugs. In Paris, a Jewish newspaper editor, who should know about promoting hate against minorities, ran the Danish cartoons in his newspaper.

In liberal Holland, it's cool to despise Muslims. In America, pseudo-historians like Bernard Lewis and professional hate-mongers like Daniel Pipes scourge Islam and Muslim movements.

One Danish cartoon of Prophet Mohammed shows him with a long, hooked nose, thick lips, a sinister, malevolent glare on his ugly, semitic face and a curved dagger in his hand. Change the caption `Prophet Mohammed' to `Jew swine' and you have the exact double of Nazi anti-Semitic hate cartoons of the 1930's straight out of `Die Sturmer.'

That's what this is all about. Modern anti-Semitism, reborn. These cartoons are emblematic for what many Europeans are whispering: `we hate Muslims. We want all Muslims out of Europe. Make Europe Muslimfrei!' In the 1930's, Europeans held the same loathing for Jews.

There is no doubt all Muslims and Islam have been gravely offended. But having said this, too many Muslims have been reacting hysterically by rioting and burning embassies. The Prophet Mohammed and Islam don't need rioters and arsonists to defend them.

In an act of incredible childishness, Iran's largest newspaper says it will solicit and run cartoons of the Jewish holocaust, proving there is no sickness as contagious as stupidity. Iranian newspaper editors ca be just as idiotic as Danish ones.

Muslims suffered 150 years of the most brutal European imperialism and exploitation. Millions of Muslims were slaughtered by European and Russian colonialists, though we never hear about this green holocaust. Europe's 20 million Muslims are third-class citizens. Muslims have every right to anger.

But where were all these angry Muslims when Serbs were massacring 250,000 Bosnians, gang-raping thousands of Bosnian Muslim girls and women, and blowing up mosques? Why have there been almost no protests over Russia's horrifying genocide in Chechnya? Or India's brutalities in Kashmir. Or the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Australia's turning East Timor into a political, economic and military protectorate?

Muslims have shamefully remained silent. Or bought arms and goods from nations oppressing Muslim nations. So why now all the rage over some crass racist cartoons in a Danish newspaper, of all places?

If Muslims are to fly into a rage, let it be over these major violations of human rights, not a nasty insult in far-off Denmark.

At least protesting by boycotting exports of nations that are hostile to Islam or persecuting Muslims is a sensible response against injustice. Rioting and burning are worthy of adolescents and simply reinforce lies being spread by anti-Islamic hate-mongers that Muslims are violent and backwards.


  • A glimmer of light on the religious right. Last week, a major group of Evangelical Protestant Christians went public with their concerns about global warming. This was overdue, but welcome. Religious fanatics on the Christian far right have been influencing President Bush to reject measures to combat global warming, which is clearly a huge threat to mankind. Certain extreme US Christian groups have been claiming that there's no point to conserving anything, or protecting the atmosphere, since the world will soon be destroyed. Yikes….and these people are `core Republican voters.'

  • This week's election in Haiti reminds us that wretched nation of 8 million souls continues to slide into the abyss. Once the richest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti is today the poorest, with living standards equal to those of rural Central Africa. In fact, Haitians are even poorer today than in the 1950's. Haiti is well and truly an international basket case. What a tragedy for such an artistic, talented people. I'm thinking hard about Haiti because I just finished Chapter I of my new book proposal, `Dinner with Papa Doc, Camping with Khadaffi, and other Adventures in the Third World.' Now talking to publishers.

  • US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld is in Algeria this week discussing sales of US arms to its government. What a horrible and sick joke this is. Algeria is one of the world's nastiest military dictatorships, complete with brutal secret police and torture chambers. When the junta cancelled free elections in 1991, a popular uprising broke out. The regime and its foes slaughtered some 150,000 Algerians. Abominable atrocities were inflicted on the regime's enemies. And this is how the Bush Administration is promoting democracy? The only freedom in Algeria is the freedom for generals to torture, rape, and murder.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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