Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Van Gogh Redux

Le Monde has a short article (French) about death threats against newspaper illustrators (political cartoonists) who published drawings in a Danish newspaper. I can't find this article anywhere in the Anglosphere. I thought it was important because of similarity to the Van Gogh affair in the Netherlands, so I have appended my own (very rough) translation. Le Monde has its own spin in the last paragraph.

A young man of 17 years was interrogated Saturday Oct. 15 in Aahrus in the west of Denmark for having threatened two newspaper artists/illustrators (political cartoonists?) with death. The "Visages de Mahomet" (Faces of Mohammed), published Sept. 30 in the conservative daily paper Jyllands-Posten, were caricatures of the Prophet of Islam. Such representations, of humans in general, are proscribed under Islam. One of the caricatures shows Mohammed with a turban in the form of a bomb.

In Denmark, where politics regarding foreigners has become much harsher in recent years and where Muslims are often stigmatized, the publication of these drawings has a particular political resonance. Several thousand Muslims demonstrated on October 14 against these drawings considering them to be "provocative and arrogant". "Islam is angry", chanted the crowd, taking the words of the Imam Fouad Al-Barazi, one of the speakers. Following the advice of the police, according to the paper, the two artists under threat have gone into hiding. The young man arrested Saturday was, according to the paper, in possession of a knife, noting that the individual is known to be "psychologically unstable".

In publishing this series of pictures [?], Jyllands-Posten wished to prove that the artists where victims of self-censorship[?]. The paper had launched an appeal for artists after an author/writer had complained that no one dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. Twelve artists have responded to the appeal. Islamic organizations have asked the paper to retract [?] the pictures, but in vain.

If the politicians and the Press are largely standing behind the paper regarding these threats, some people are doubtful, as in the instance of Lars Refn, one of the twelve artists. He has chosen to represent not Mohammed, but rather a Danish student writing in Persian on the blackboard: "The journalists of the Jyllands-Posten are a bunch of provocateurs and reactionaries." For Rafn, the true intention of the paper is to poison the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. Flemming Rose, the editor of the cultural desk, defends himself. He explains that, in his opinion, "Religious beliefs cannot expect a special treatment [status?] in a secular society."

This affair shows to what extent the situation has degraded in Denmark for the Muslim minority of some 150 thousand people (3 percent of the population) mostly from Turkey and Pakistan. The Danish Popular Party [?] (DF, extreme right, receiving 13.2 pct. of the legislative vote in February), provides indispensable support in Parliament for the liberal-conservative government, but is always putting the fat in the fire [?]. Louise Frevert, a candidate of DF for mayor of Copenhagen, compared Muslims to a cancerous tumor and represents Muslim men as potentially violent. Although several people [Muslims?] have filed complaints against her, the police have chosen not to file charges, arousing the indignation of the Muslim community.

Please feel free to correct my translation.

UPDATE: 10/18/05 05:16PM

The "Editors Web Log" has a version of the same story here.

UPDATE: 10/21/05 10:24PM A reader, Hans, has posted a comment with two links to online news articles about this. The illustrations are really very good, particularly the second where the turban is a bomb. These are not just cartoons.

Hans Henrik Pictures of Mohammed - two of the provocative illustrations. Some good comments.

Hans Henrik Article on reaction to Denmark newspaper pictures of Mohammed

(If link fails, do a cut and paste from "Properties" or start with http://www.newspaperindex.com/blog/ and follow search for Muslim issues.)

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At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 5:09:00 PM, Blogger mal said...

I fear the militancy that has been percolating thru Islam. Some where along the way they have lost the foundations of their faith and look outside of the faith for the fault.

Some where in Islam they must to look towards perfecting them selves in the eyes of god rather than continue to subjugate those not of the faith

Sadly, they have the Christians of the middle ages as a sterling example

At Tuesday, October 18, 2005 8:07:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

I remember reading Kahlil Gibran when I was in college. Whatever happened to that stuff?

If you're referring to the Crusaders as the Christians of the Middle Ages, they were just barbarians, unbound by religious considerations. One of the worst things they did was to sack Constantinople, a Christian city, much more civilized than the Crusaders were.

At Thursday, October 20, 2005 6:44:00 AM, Blogger mal said...

yup...Barbarians is an apt description

At Friday, October 21, 2005 4:20:00 PM, Blogger Hans said...

You can find the drawings here:

And read more about here:


At Monday, October 24, 2005 6:57:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Thanks, Hans.


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