Friday, February 03, 2006

Something's rotten in the state of Denmark.

I'm just using that line from "Hamlet" to get a good headline for this post. I don't think there's anything wrong with Denmark, except for the fact that they had to be really stupid to publish those infamous pictures of the prophet Mohammed in "JyllandsPosten".

Now, freedom of speech is one thing, but using your brain is another. In this case they're hiding their stupidity behind the freedom of speech. If they had just stopped to think about it (that involves using the brain, not the ass) they would have realized that publishing those pictures would hurt a lot of people, not only Muslim extremists, but ordinary Muslims too.

Had these pictures been about Jews, they would never have been published. Had these pictures been about black people, they would never have been published. Even I, your typical Average Joe with not-so-much political sense, know that.

If the editorial staff at "JyllandsPosten" had made a series of caricatures involving Muslims, Jews, Black people, Hindus, Christians and so on, they would have defused a potentially dangerous situation AND shown some kind of purpose with their publishing. But no, they targeted Muslims specifically, they can't really explain why, but mumble something about freedom of speech.

The freedom of speech is a right we fortunate westerners all earned through hard work but it's ALSO an obligation NOT to be misused, especially by the media, to discriminate people by their skin or religion. That's exactly what "JyllandsPosten" did, they misused the freedom of speech to sell a few papers more.

In October 2005, the Danish social-democratic Prime Minister told SEVEN Muslim ambassadors that he didn't have the time to discuss this matter. Imagine him saying the same thing to seven ambassadors from the European Union! It would never happen. But now, as Danish economic interests are threatened, he has the time to sit and be interviewed and hide behind empty phrases about the free press in Denmark.

Now, the outcry amongst Muslims all over the world, the threats from extremists against Danish citizens and burning of the Danish flag have now fueled rascist elements in Denmark and suddenly the publishing of those pictures can transform Denmark into a 1930's Germany.

Yes, I'm worried. Not because of rascism but because of the lack of brains amongst journalists. If I, with my limited education, could see this coming, why couldn't they?


Anonymous said...

One thing you have to understand though, is that this is typical Danish humor. Yes, they would have and have done cartoons about jews, their own politicians and even themselves. No one is sacred because Danes do not understand tact and subtetly. Their society being what it is that everyone is equal and NO ONE is better than anyone else, then they feel like it is NOT a problem to make fun of anyone, since they make fun at everyone.
As an American I understand that this was SUCH a wrong move. As an American living in Denmark..I understand why the Danes are confused.
This is how their society works.

Virginia Gal said...

As a Muslim this is an issue of particular interest to me - certainly our entire world-wide community has been called to protest (don't think this Friday that most Mosques will not be mentioning this situation, oh cause they will).
You have brought up an interesting point...I do wonder if another religious leader would have been subject to this treatment? I suppose at one time people made fun of the Pope, so now its just us Muslim's turn...?
I think what bothers me is the implication of the cartoon, that the Prophet (pbuh) was a terrorist. Its an idea so cloaked in ignorance that I'm surprised it was allowed to be published.
Yeah I think the whole freedom of speech arguement is weak at best.

PissedOffPencil said...

I'm sorry anonymous, but living on the other side of Ă–resund and meeting Danes frequently, this is not the Danish people that I know.

Yes, they do laugh at themselves and many others too, but not even Danes are, nor could be, unaware of the situation in the world and especially the media should think twice. There's a big difference in exercising the freedom of speech and using the freedom of speech to infringe a group of people. It's kinda like saying that men and women should be equal in all aspects, except blondes because they are all whores.

With that said, I acknowledge the fact that extremist groups among Muslims have taken the opportunity to foment a mood of violence amongst the politically unaware and poorly educated. In Indonesia, a country with a population of 241,973,879 and 88 per cent Muslims, about a hundred or so protesters showed up outside the Danish embassy in Jakarta.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem is generalization, and we are all guilty of it in some form. Blondes are airheaded, fat people are lazy.. it extents into the infinite beyond where the acts of one person or persons mold and influence the views of an entire group, culture or country.

I doubt many people could even identify Denmark on a map.

The point I was trying to make before and the point I am making now is this.. tolerance and respect are the only way we are ever going to have world peace.

The entire negative view point and generalization has led to the point we are at now. A terrorist attack linked the muslim relion to terrorism. (I don't personally believe that the muslim religion has ANYTHING to do with it..yet generalization and the ability to spin information has made the link). The narrow minded people of the world see muslim's as terrorist, and anything considered different or scary has always been the subject of ridicule and scrutiny. And thus, the Danes did it. I don't believe the drawings were done as an exercise in free speech. I'm reminded of the line from Jurrasic Park "Just becaue you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD". I think the Danes behind these cartoons were trying to continue the stereotyping and generalization of the muslims as terrorist. My personal opinion was to that they were trying to gain support for the Danish troops being there. The muslim nation responded by demanding an apology from the Prime Minister, who said no because the Danish government does not own the paper or control the press. Since he has to live here and run this country, it was a smart move for him, BAD move for international relations. He was free however to voice his opinion which should have been that he agreed that the cartoons were in poor taste. However, that was his mistake. I have no more control over him than I do any member of the muslim nation. And now there is boycotting and death threats and flag burning.

I read someone who had wrote that now the muslim nation were trying to control the freedom of the press in other countries. I don't agree with that either. I think the muslims have every right to be offended and upset. Just like every blonde who hears a blonde joke has a right to feel offended and upset.

I believe that the only way to fix these problems is to practice and teach tolerance. Muslim tolerance over a couple of Danes who made a really dumb mistake and Danish tolerance for things different then themselves.

Any situation has the ability to be spun and exploited by those people wishing to create problems, by people who are ambitious and fanatical in their pursuit of what they believe is the truth.

Shark-fu said...

For me the problem is that we no longer try to teach respect or understanding. We tolerate nasty smells or ignorant behavior...we should not seek to tolerate diversity, but to understand it and respect it for the value it brings to our world.

All of that is much more work than merely tolerating each other...but then tolerance is a delicate balance and as you can see easily thrown into chaos. Respect stands on much more solid ground.

Thanks for sharing this perspective!

Muslim Unity said...

I think they have really made a big mistake by making fun of something so sacred to us.

PissedOffPencil said...

Well anonymous, it's nice to see that we actually think alike but you express it so much better, having the advantage of English as your native tongue. :)

I'm sorry I had to cut my earlier comment a bit short since I was in a hurry. It was to continue in much of the same way that you already have written.

Virginia Gal: Of course the Pope and even God have been ridiculed but Christians have lived in a secularized society for a much longer period than Muslims. Most of us aren't practizing our faith (if we have one) at all. Democracy has, in a way, replaced religion. I strongly believe that this applies to many Muslims too.

Nevertheless the media, in Denmark and everywhere else, should take in consideration the overall political situation before publishing things like those twelve caricatures. In this case, the war in Iraq and previous threats by Muslim extremists.

Freedom of speech was never intended to be used to ridicule people, spreading slander or views of hatred. It was intended for two things, and two things only: The right for people to freely critizise their governments and a means of creating political diversity. If those before us, who fought so hard for this right, had seen all that is done in the name of their achievments, I think they would be ashamed of us.

Shark-Fu: I hear you. :)

PissedOffPencil said...

Welcome Muslim unity! I'm glad if you want to join the discussion which I hope will be a civilized one.

Littlemilk said...

I am on my way to Germany for some work related stuff. And after being there for 4 years and having Nazi students in my classes, dealing with executives and managers that have never seen a black person in a position of being a teacher or consultant, and dealing with embarrassing questions concerning my origin (are you really an American or a immigrant from some poor place in Africa?) in the immigration office, I must say that Europe has a long way to understanding how to live in a pluralistic society.

Labels and caricatures take the place of actual knowledge about people that are not Western European to the point that when you go to a store to buy music, all African-American music is called BLACK MUSIC in Germany. Like Aretha Franklin is next to 50 Cent.

Give me a break!

After Paris this fall.

After the Augsburg exhibition this summer.

Russian Skinheads murdering and killing anyone foreign with no response from authorities or the government.

And after this "Danish Incident", I think that this weak minded excuse of freedom of the press is a mask for how totally inexperienced the media and many European societies are in dealing with other people.

Europe is the center of the world.

No other place has history or culture.

You still find whites in black face in Germany. You still find cartoons in the political magazine Titanic that depict Africans with big lips, bones in their noses, and drawn scribble black with an ink pen. A bar in Stuttgart serves "Afro-Juice" (according to a student) The predominant picture of blacks in Germany is that of a hungry child. Or exotic and proud warriors of the savannahs.

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!

I wonder what life is like in Denmark for people who are from a different ethnicity besides Western European or from a rich Western Country.

I am black and American. I will tell you, my life and dealings with Germans is far different and safer in many respects than those that are poor, or Muslim or from a country considered to be Third World.

Francesca said...

I agree!

It was a disturbing and foolish move on the part of the papers.

Sune Trudslev said...

Here's a Danish persons take on it (not all Danish peoples take, just mine)

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments about the issue of freedom of the press, here is what what I believe: defines freedom as:

free·dom ( P ) Pronunciation Key (frdm)

The condition of being free of restraints.
Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.

Political independence.
Exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty: freedom of assembly.
Exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition: freedom from want.
The capacity to exercise choice; free will: We have the freedom to do as we please all afternoon.
Ease or facility of movement: loose sports clothing, giving the wearer freedom.
Frankness or boldness; lack of modesty or reserve: the new freedom in movies and novels.

The right to unrestricted use; full access: was given the freedom of their research facilities.
The right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship: the freedom of the city.
A right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference: ?the seductive freedoms and excesses of the picaresque form? (John W. Aldridge).
There has been alot of debate about freedom of the press lately, because of what happened with the Danish newspaper printing those cartoons about the muslim prophet.

The defense has become that it was an excerise in freedom of speech or rather the freedom of the press. Here is the first thing that crossed my mind, if the prophet was alive, and this happened in the U.S. he could sue the newspaper for libel. Saying that he is not a terrorist nor does he he condone violence of any kind.

Yet, this is Denmark and in Denmark things work a different way. Sueing is not done here, and freedom is expressed, demanded and cherished by ever Dane living here since the German occupation in WW2.

If we look at some of the definitions of freedom particulary this part. "
Liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression.

Political independence. "
We can understand freedom to mean that every person has politcal indepence from oppression. Yet, in order to live in our country, state, province, town or city we must live by the laws that govern there.

I think the idea of freedom has been warped, in much the same way that fanatics warp religion. What was initially given to oppressed people has been warped into gaining permission to act without concious, without respect and without understanding.

The media (and other groups but that's another topic) has used this freedom to get away with things for profit that most of us moral, law abiding citizens would never ever dream of doing. The newspapers and photographers stalk the rich and famous, not even stopping short of harassment. Haven't we learned anything from Princess Diana's death?

And now, the publishing of politically incorrect and moral devoid cartoons depicting the muslim prophet as a terrorist. Why? Because they could. Because they knew it would sell papers.

It's convient to hide behind the law that gives each of us the right to voice our opinions. And make no mistake, they are hiding behind the law, which is why the Prime Minister of Denmark is powerless to do anything.

Until there becomes some kind of legislation to govern the acts of the press, this will continue. Yet, the fear becomes, where does it stop? How do you make a law that not only protects those things we hold sacred, and not restrict the freedom to make our voices heard?

I think the answer to this question is to begin with our children. Teaching them that the almighty dollar is not worth more than the dignity, respect or self esteem of another person or themselves. That we need to broaden our vision and become familar with other cultures and other opinions, and not just listen to the voices of the fanatics and those who wish to blind us to the truth by spinning the truth so that we believe what they want us to, and not form an informed decision ourselves.

What I would like to see is the muslim nation step forward and inform the world of what their beliefs really are. That they do in fact teach those same values that every one else in the world shares, in one way or another. The problem with the world in general is that when we are offended, hurt or upset, we respond in anger. Making the situation even more negative, than positive.

Take a breath, take a minute, and then show the world what you really want them to see.

My daughter has 2 friends who are muslim, and I encourage those friendships. I think it's important for her to learn about the other people she shares a country with. I will not teach my daughter intolerance, disrespect or encourage her to think that her friends are different. They are just her friends. She calls them by name. They are no different than she is. They share the same country, go to the same kindergarden.

The state of the world rests within our hands. The legacy we pass to our children is the post precious and wonderful thing, it will also determine the fate of the planet and the people who live on it.

soopermouse said...

Freedom of speech is only a right for as long as it doesnot inconvenience or insult others.
The newspaper's actions were foolish, and I would like to see a big fat lawsuit against them as well.
I am NOT Muslim.I am an immigrant, and I have been a British resident for some years. I live in the largest city in Europe with a white minority, and guess what
we do not have racial conflicts here.
Read that again.
Within walking distance formmy house there are a Sikh Gurdwara, the biggest mosque in Britain outside of London, a Chinese Baptist Church and a British Evangelic Church.
And everybody minds his or herown business. With respect.
The problem ... the problem = the white people.
The Danish primeminister should have apologized to the ambassadors. The fact taht he did not is a huge mistake.
I am boycotting Danish products. Racism is not something I support.

Anonymous said...

So just because some Danish people are racist you boycot an entire country's products?

There's not a country in the world, that doesn't have racists, biggots, or extremists.

Why do you put every Dane into that same "box"?

F.M. said...

"The freedom of speech is a right we fortunate westerners all earned through hard work but it's ALSO an obligation NOT to be misused, especially by the media, to discriminate people by their skin or religion. That's exactly what "JyllandsPosten" did, they misused the freedom of speech to sell a few papers more.
"Yes, I'm worried. Not because of rascism but because of the lack of brains amongst journalists. If I, with my limited education, could see this coming, why couldn't they?"

Thank goodness. I was starting to wonder why nobody else was saying this.