Hitchens on the Danish cartoons

March 9, 2010 • 11:37 am

In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons criticizing the virulent version of Islam, some of them depicting Muhamed.  Four years later, more than a dozen Danish newspapers, in a joint response to Muslim violence and threats to free speech, republished the cartoons.   Now, under threat of a lawsuit from Mohamed’s “descendants,” the Danish newspaper Politiken has apologized for offending Islamic sentiments.

The cowardice of Politiken is shameful, and a danger to free speech everywhere.  Over at Slate, Christopher Hitchens, in excellent form, decries the attitude that religions should be uniquely immune to public criticism (note the wonderful title of his piece):

The thing would be ridiculous if it were not so hateful and had it not already managed to break the nerve of one Danish newspaper. In Ireland a short while ago, a law against blasphemy was passed, making it a crime to outrage the feelings not just of the country’s disgraced and incriminated Roman Catholic Church but of all believers. The same pseudo-ecumenical tendency can be found in the annual attempt by Muslim states to get the United Nations to pass a resolution outlawing all attacks on religion. It’s not enough that faith claims to be the solution to all problems. It is now demanded that such a preposterous claim be made immune from any inquiry, any critique, and any ridicule.

34 thoughts on “Hitchens on the Danish cartoons

  1. Hitchens article is a great read. The disgust and disdain of those who assume privilege solely based on religion is contagious.

    His final paragraph is a noble goal for us all:

    This has to stop, and it has to stop right now. All democratic countries and assemblies should be readying legislation along the lines of the First Amendment, guaranteeing the right of open debate on matters of religion and repudiating the blackmail by law firms and individuals whose own true ancestry would not bear too much scrutiny.

  2. Hitchens: “All democratic countries and assemblies should be readying legislation along the lines of the First Amendment”

    Wow. You mean that awful, despised, primitive, uncivilized, uncouth, religious, imperialist, racist, colonialist, nation of the United States actually has something which Europe should emulate???

    Perish the thought!

    Why, America should “catch up” to the “civilized” nations of Europe, repeal the First Amendment (via another Constitutional Amendment), and implement our own anti-blasphemy laws, just like the “civilized” state of Denmark!

    Oh, well, we “primitive” Americans will just have to get by as best we can without “civilized” anti-blasphemy laws.

    See you later, good people of Denmark. We still welcome refugees if they come here legally.

    1. Sinz54, precisely where did you read that the State of Denmark has an anti-blasphemy law?

      Hitchens’ article is on the kneejerk reaction of precisely one moderate leftwing newspaper, Politiken, it’s 2 weeks ago and they have been scorched in the press- also by their readers.

      The Danish government (then led by current NATO leader Fogh Rasmussen) has always been completely consistent and maintained the stance that DK did not owe anyone an apology, as this was covered by freedom of press. They didn’t even cave in for pressure from large export players like Arla food.

      Please do your homework.

  3. Dr Coyne, you forgot to say: صلى الله عليه وسلم‎ after citing the name of the last prophet. I worry.

      1. Arabic accent…? oh man this sounds bad, I mean your characterization-and whats “arabic accent”?

  4. Shameful, perhaps. And they have indeed received broad critique for it. In fact I believe that the staff themselves have told off the editor in chief.

    But Politiken is traditionally the paper (of the party) of ‘political correctness’. I haven’t followed this closely, but it strikes me as being in line with the general behaviour of that particular paper. One thing is certain it has generated publicity. Were you familiar with Politiken before this?

  5. A very serious problem that arises from this kind of threat, (particularly the threat that all criticism of or inquiry into statements (or cartoons) about any cult or sect a person can imagine might be protected by law). It is the death, as a matter of fact, of freedom of speech.
    Freedom of speech has proven to be very difficult to defend, although the ACLU has (as often as they really piss me off) probably done as good a job as is possible to defend it. At least we still have the First Amendment in print, even though it does have its enemies.
    I hate to admit it, but I fear that much of this current wave of nonsensical attacks agains free speech can be traced back to us 1960’s-style liberals. (Yes I am liberal — perhaps a shade beyond the valley of the liberals.) I think my generation of educated Americans (by the standard of my time) invented the concept of “Political correctness”.
    We declared that it was politically evil to call anybody an insulting name or to hurt anybody’s feelings with our language. Seemed like a nice idea at the time. What happened was that eventually certain people are allowed to say all sorts of things that would get other people severely punished. For example, it actually increased linguistic racism and other “isms”.
    I watched some of the prologue to the Oscar event. I saw a female reporter walk up to a young sexy sort of a hunk and asked him if he were going to show his private parts in his next movie. I don’t know what happened next. I had an image that instantly filled my imagination of Tom Brokaw or Dick Imus, (no – I know they are quite different and I am not equating them) had walked up to some semi-clothed but buxom young actress and asked her if show were going to show her private parts. Either one would have instantly lost his job, and any commercial sponsors or social/economic connections he had.
    Nor, as our Arab lawyer (whatever happened to Jewish lawyers anyway) insists, should there be allowed any insulting or derogatory words. We already know how difficult it has been to protect naughty words from insulting people who insist on pretending they weren’t harmlessly using these same words in the boys’ room when they were in the third grade.
    It becomes clearer and clearer as time goes on that certain people don’t understand the meaning of what we call “freedom of speech”, nor many other parts of the Constitution (such as the part about separation of church and state).
    What is scary is that there are some (thousands or millions) who believe that the slightest verbal of visual insult, or verbal naughtiness of any kind, is punishable by death. And, worse, every true believer is fully qualified for and encouraged to perform the job of executioner.
    How does a civilized society (as we call ourselves) protect our civilizations from such outrage. I am afraid I have no idea.

  6. Once again, Christopher Hitchens has told it like it is, and has recommended a course of action which, I agree, every free country should take, just to make it clear to everyone how seriously we take freedom of speech. I don’t expect it to happen though. Most governments are too afraid of losing the votes of their Muslim constituents, the first step down the long slippery path to Dhimmitude, because it is an act of Dhimmitude.

  7. Guess it is about time we all in the Western world realise that there is a REAL threat to our cherished rights unless we stand up to the Muslim attempt to curb them in our own countries.

    Since there is no Muslim democracy, and no Muslim country with any real freedom for its citizens, it would be more desirable to drag the Muslims, screaming, into the modern world, and teach them to ridicule the dark forces that deny them rights that every human should have.

    Here in the Scandinavian countries we have been very accommodating to all their demands, and like spoiled brats the Muslims demand ever more. *shudder*

    1. Malaysia is a muslim democracy (though many government officials may be corrupt) and the same is true of Egypt. The same was once true of Iran, although it was a secular state back then but over 80% of the population was muslim. Turkey is another secular democracy with a majority islamic population.

      In Australia many muslims (but certainly not all – possibly not even a majority) will not send their children to public school because they want their children to be brainwashed into islam rather than learning about the system of government in Australia. They do not want their children to develop any of those satanic “western values”. The government not only condones this but encourages it as it encourages the jesus cults by subsidizing them.

      Governments around the world should tell the numerous cults that their gods are subject to the laws of the state; they can start by removing the ridiculous tax exempt status of religious institutions.

  8. Actually the aim of the newspaper was to publish cartoons of Mohammed, a few artists were commissioned to come up with cartoons of him, not really “criticizing the virulent version of islam”. As far as I understand the Muslims are pissed off because the prophet is drawn/pictured not so much because their religion is presented under a virulent version. Not an expert on the subject, just could not help following the thing as it developed since I am in Denmark and there was little else in the news when it blew out of proportions.

  9. Out of everyone, I would expect you would be more tolerant towards the others, less stupid and more open to the world and consequently to others. Apparently, you are no different than teh followers of all other faiths, religions, creeds or so be it, nothing. I would have assumed, premitive me, that you would not touch such issues, defend or attack religious people, or those against them. It’s their way of stating that ‘their religion’ is better, not your venue to criticize this or that. i believe in freedom of speech, but was attacking another religion freedom of speech? Just consider that when y ou may be right, with a little bit of wrong, others could be wrong with a little bit of rightousness. you have no right to accuse, call or name Muslims or any other faith for that matter, violent or criticize them for defending what they believe in, which is exactly, what you will do on any given day

    1. “I believe in freedom of speech, but was attacking another religion freedom of speech?”

      Of course it is! What do you think the first amendment is FOR? Sheesh!

        1. Relax, it has been bad over there, till now. Thats what I meant. Cheeeze..quoting Dr Coyne, (where does this come from? so retentive)

    2. Mind telling us why you think religious speech should be restricted and political or social speech should not? If we prohibit blasphemy, why not also sedition? Why is one form of speech not acceptable while others are?

      It is very simple, Sarah. Threatening violence against those who exercise their rights to make their voices heard is wrong. Intimidating those who exercise their rights is wrong. Silencing those who exercise their rights is wrong.

    3. Just as you have the freedom to post your inane opinions here, so to ought others to have the right to post their opinions about you and your inane opinions… and anything else.

      It’s WORDS. Aren’t your gods supposed to be able to smite at will and fight their own battles?
      Of what value is faith if it can’t stand up to scrutiny or criticism?

      Free speech isn’t just for the speech you agree with– it’s also for ignorant people– such as yourself! Aren’t you glad?! Free speech means that we are free to mock any beliefs we find dangerous or silly or delusional. You would not deny such privileges for yourself!

      1. The above post was directed at Sarah who tried to shame Jerry–but I think her shame might be better applied to herself.

  10. Everyone is so good at zeroing in with laser like precision on the sins of others. The death toll is somewhere around 100 people as I understand it due to cartoon violence. A tragedy and an absurdity no doubt. Meanwhile a few errant strikes from Obama’s drones in his new undeclared war on Pakistan kills 100 in just a couple of weeks. Not nearly so much outrage from Hitchens on that. How many died this week from the illegal but supposedly authorized wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many dead from U.S. proxy regimes in Colombia, Uzbekistan, or Turkey. Who knows? Who cares?

    That’s because it’s funner to note the sins of others. Meanwhile the sins of our own government, for which we have actual control, go unmentioned. Shouldn’t we remove the planks from our own eyes before complaining of the specks in the eyes of others?

    1. “our own government”

      I love when ‘thoughful’ people complaining about unfair treatment of Islam respond with unfair generalisations, like says assuming we are all Americans.

      Jon, your rationalisation would paralyse any American no matter how liberal from ever discussing any topic but American military imperialism. From free speech to female genital mutilation, you would silence people from sincere, progressive critique just because their society is not perfect.

  11. If Mohamed did not want to be made fun of then he shouldn’t have founded a religion. Ridicule just comes with the gig.

  12. What pussies – I’d like to see these “descendants of mohammed”:

    (1) prove they are who they claim to be. Let’s dig up the bastard mohammed’s corpse and subject it to DNA analysis.

    (2) prove that mohammed is upset. After all, what is there to sue for unless mohammed himself claims vilification or some such act against him? I want to see goddamn mohammed’s ghost!

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