- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Danish cartoons

Last week’s column about our coverage of the Danish cartoon controversy prompted several critical e-mails. Some backed the Muslims, and some backed the publication of the cartoons. Some tried to bridge the differences. Here is a sampling, edited only to fit our style and the space available:

Mr. Jones: Your column of Feb. 5 on the always fascinating inner workings of the paper, left me amazed that you (collectively) considered trivia like the Mexican stamp, as if it were in some sense comparable to the cartoons like the one I reproduce here?

1) Why did you not list a URL, as I have here?

2) Why has The Times rarely (if ever) published or URL’d the cartoons in Middle Eastern papers that have had the pope, [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, and many others portrayed in cartoons that are savage, extremely vicious: Jews drinking Arab blood, etc.?

3) Why did no one consider the standard free-speech-exclusion formula: “No one is free to shout ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater.” Speech that results in needless immediate harm to innocent bystanders is always forbidden, and unforgivable. Suppressing such speech is not censorship: the warning of a fire in a public theater can be carefully and accurately spoken over management’s PA system, etc.; or the attempted hoax written about after the fact. …

At least, you all have a lot of explaining to do.

Dear Sir: I find your coverage of the Danish cartoon controversy troubling. You failed to examine the problems the Danes are having with their Muslim residents. The cartoons in question asked and may well have answered the question: Is their a clash of civilizations?

Furthermore, you failed to examine the role that 11 Danish Muslim leaders played in creating the current situation. I could go on and on, but I believe that I have made my point. Finally, you should have printed the cartoons.

Cowardly decision?

Sir: Since the publication of those drawings … there have been public demonstrations (during the time of, and overshadowed by, the French riots), death threats, bomb threats, the European Union and the United Nations have weighed in, diplomatic missions have been recalled, Danish Muslims filed a lawsuit claiming the drawings were blasphemous (and lost), Muslim organizations in the Middle East have demanded meetings with the Danish prime minister and some called for governmental punishment of the newspaper’s staff and the cartoonists, some Muslim countries had already boycotted and removed Danish goods from their shelves, etc., etc. And all that before you folks became aware of the situation. …

Several of the original drawings were clearly intended to offend, and Jyllands-Posten should not have published them, in my opinion. But should Muslim beliefs prohibit non-Muslims from creating benign drawings of Muhammad?

Indeed, if the artistic efforts of non-Muslim cartoonists and artists were to be constrained by the Islamic traditions and beliefs of some Muslims, they would be prohibited from creating images of Jesus, or Mary, or a politician, or a child.

So where do non-Muslims draw the line?

Mr. Jones: “No one thought we should hold back because of the threat of violence; that part was easy.” Was it? Come on David, just admit you are scared, please.

I know France is betrayed by its coward press and leaders but I thought things were more encouraging in the USA, the country of Freedom.

As a French citizen, I am appalled. I thought the United States was a free country. It is very concerning that even the U.S. press is scared. You feel free to criticize your politicians etc. but when it comes to Islam then the freedom of speech disappears.

Very concerning. Very disappointing. If you give in, who will resist?

David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.

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