Tag Archive for 'Muhammad cartoons'

The Week

Steve Bell for the Guardian


The week in review.

I guess the past week may end up being seen as a kind of turning point when it comes to Denmark’s international reputation. “Jewellery-Gate” as it has become known in Denmark seems like it may leave a lasting stain on my country’s image abroad. The new law is a particularly egregious — and hard-hitting — example of pandering to the voters that may just have backfired, precisely because its symbolism is conceived for maximum effect. Not even the politicians who proposed and passed it seem to have spent much time arguing that confiscating valuables from refugees would make much of a difference to covering the considerable costs of admitting and accommodating them. It is purely a way of showing their resolve to prevent too many immigrants coming to Denmark. Less attention has been paid to the more consequential and fundamentally more serious decision to delay family reunification for refugees by three years, a measure that has been roundly criticised by human rights groups.

In addition to appeasing the reluctance on many Danish voters’ part to see large numbers of new immigrants, the new law is clearly part of an effort to deter refugees from seeking asylum in Denmark, prompting them to go elsewhere. In this, at least, the government may end up claiming a measure of success. At least in the short term. But at what price? In addition to being inhumane on the face of it, the new law is a flagrant instance of lack of solidarity with the rest of the EU, a demonstration that Denmark is unwilling to do its part to deal with a problem that belongs to everyone. Beyond that, there is a risk that the last shred of Denmark’s good name abroad as a champion of egalitarianism and humanitarianism — gained through the selfless (if also fortuitous) rescue of the country’s Jewish population during World War II and the success of the Danish welfare state in the postwar years — is now history. This will seriously affect our country’s diplomatic credibility and will make it harder for us to forge the kind of international relationships we depend on as a small nation.

This all recalls all too sadly aspects of the 2006 cartoon crisis, another instance of Danish politicians not grasping the international scope of their actions. But where that conflagration, however poorly handled by individual decision makers, erupted in defence of basic democratic principles, this one is happening in contravention of them. And where Denmark could reasonably have expected more support from its allies back then, this needlessly alienates them.

It’s a sordid and depressing case, and one that — because the symbolism is so blatant and so fraught — obscures similar measures taken elsewhere in Europe, putting our country first in a race to the bottom and distracts from real, international solutions to a very real and pressing problem. The crisis in Europe, brought on by the current wave of migration, is potentially existential and at the core of any solution will be the interpretation and integrity of the foundational principles of universal human rights. While it is extremely unlikely that these will go unchallenged by whatever decisions are made in the next few years to solve the problem, it should be clear from this mess that measures that blatantly flaunt them for short-term political gain only make matters worse. In that respect, perhaps, Denmark has done the international community a favour?

No links this week.

Never Just a Joke: Representations of Race in Scandinavia


Over at Hooded Utilitarian, the latest installment of my very irregular column, DWYCK, focuses on recent media controversies in Sweden over representations of race: Stina Wirsén’s empoyment of pickaninny stereotyping for her childrens book and film character Lilla Hjärtat and Makote Aj Linde’s infamous cake installation at Moderna Museet in Stockholm earlier this year.

The dicussion also touches upon the media kerfuffle a few months back over the projected removal of Hergé’s Tintin in the Congo to the adult section of the Kulturhuset library in the same city, as well as — inevitably — the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s a complicated set of issues that have implications of cultural integration and free speech and I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over there and have a look.

The Week

The Week in Review

Amidst the turmoil in Brussels, which I’ve found rather hard to make sense of, one piece of less equivocally positive news emerged this week, namely that Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has spent thirty years on death row in Pennsylvania has finally had his death sentence revoked in favor of life behind bars. This is a major symbolic victory in the struggle against the death penalty and in his personal efforts to prove his innocence. Convicted in 1981 for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner on the basis of highly dubious evidence and testimonies, his has become something of a cause celèbre for opponents of the death penalty and critics of the American penal system, a speaking, highly-articulate symbol of all that’s wrong with both (hear him talking about the “prison-industrial complex” in the clip above).

Abu-Jamal has faced execution several times in his three decades as a prisoner and each time he and his counsel succeeded in postponing what seemed inevitable for the longest time. To have the sentence deferred this way, especially after the disgraceful recent execution of the similarly dubiously convicted Troy Davis, is a victory for human rights. Abu-Jamal may be guilty, but he hasn’t been given a fair trial. The Philadelphia District Attorney didn’t seem disposed toward giving him one anytime soon when he announced the news, but we may still hope that it will happen eventually. For him and the many other people who share his fate in the American penal system.

This week’s links:

  • Peter Mandelson on Britain’s Euro veto. Excellent analysis of Britain’s predicament.
  • For Danish readers: Georg Metz om lækagesagen. Som altid er pennen skarp og som ofte er tonen tæt på det skingre, men sagen kalder ligesom på det.
  • Christopher Tayler on Murakami. A review of the new novel, 1Q84, taken as an opportunity incisively to examine the oeuvre. Good reading!
  • Ligeledes for danskerne: Rhymesayers MC og troende muslim Brother Ali snakker om Muhammedtegningerne i et interview fra Roskilde sidste år.
  • The Week

    The Week in Review.

    As the Arab Spring is moving into its second, rather messy and somewhat disconcerting phase in certain countries, it figures that we would get another cartoon flareup. The firebombing of the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is yet another low point in the ongoing and increasingly polarized discourse surrounding free speech and religious iconoclasm today. In this post-Danish cartoons landscape, the despicably violent response of the anonymous firebombers naturally tends to get all the attention, but it is also the easiest part of the event to deal with, in that it can be condemned outright.

    The real question, as I see it, is why Charlie Hebdo figured it was a good idea once more to trot out the “likeness” of Muhammad. I found Luz’ cover, showing the prophet threatening a hundred lashes to whoever didn’t find it funny, worth a chuckle, but what purpose did it really serve? Why, exactly, did we need this piece of satire? The extra-legal power exercised by Islamic extremists deserves to be mocked and condemned, but it is also something most of us can easily agree to despise (stay safe Charlie!). It seems to me, however, that the blunt instrument of depicting the prophet merely further encourages these maniacs, while broadcasting once again that the beliefs of millions of non-violent Muslims is apparently not worthy of respect here in the West.

    Satire has no prerogative to be constructive, but free speech is such a potent idea that ceding it to this kind of bullying is unfortunate. Yes, we are entitled to insult whatever belief we like, religious or otherwise — and that is how it should be (good on Libération to open their offices to Charlie) — but it would reflect well on our principles if we also employed them to speak out against the general coarsening of what was once civilized discourse.

    Oh, yes, links:

  • Slavoj Žižek on the Arab Spring, the recession, Occupy Wall St., and everything else going on. Rambling and insightful as usual, Žižek is always good company. It all comes back to communism, of course…
  • Gary Groth interviews R. Crumb. This is perhaps the quintessential Comics Journal interviewer/ee constellation, and although this time around is a little light-weight, it’s still the good and fun read you’d expect from these guys.