/ Jimmy's Corner: A message from Denmark!

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Sunday, February 05, 2006 

A message from Denmark!

I have received this message from Denmark this morning. I believe it stresses some of my opinions. I will comment on it, just read it first:
Hello Jimmy,

I'm from Denmark and I'm starting to find the general reaction to this sillyness quite offensive on behalf on both sides.

There are a few points I'd like to point out that apparently seem to have failed to go through.

1) If your neighbour does something that is offensive to me. Will you apologise for that? should you be held responsible for that?. What is happening right now is that my stupid neighbour happened to have offended you - but you are punishing me for what he did.

2) The muslim world entirely seem to have misunderstood what all this was about in the first place. As the situation stands the drawings started because a writer of childrens book about Muhammed was unable to find anyone willing to make drawings for it because they were afraid to be killed by extreme muslims. That spawned a discussion about whether the rules that applies in the muslim world should apply in a small nordic country. While it is forbidden for muslims to eat pork - should that rule apply to non-muslims as well? - as a result the newspaper asked 12 cartoonists to make drawings of how they saw Islam in their everyday life. One of them drew an image of Muhammed with a bomb in his hat - because that was what he saw on the TV all the time. People threating people with death in the name of the prophet. You need to understand that this has nothing to do with hos the prophet is - but how the prophet is comming across to the rest of the world due to extremists filling so much of the media picture.

The point is that those drawings were never meant to be offensive to muslims - but to show how muslims themselves are comming through in the western world because of their actions on tv. You have probably seen as much as this as I have.

3) the delegation of danish muslims that travelled around in the muslim countries to gain support for putting pressure on the danish government actually brought along 2-3 drawings and pictures that had nothing to do with what was in the JP. One of these was an image of the prophet with a pigs nose. These pictures was included by this delegation for reasons unknown to me and my fellow citizens. We have no idea where they came from - but it would seem that they were included to cause anger with muslim leaders. The leaders of the different muslim communities in denmark are currently in a state of war with eachother of who should be "Mr. Islam". The promotions of these drawing were initially a part of that struggle that got out of hand.

4) While you write that the JP is a right wing newspaper and that it once supported nazists etc - that needs to be seen in a context. First of all the right-wings here in denmark would be considered left-wing in most other countries. As to the second thing about the nazi-past of the newspaper - then that needs to be seen in a historic context as well - and not to be seen as having an impact on the newspaper as it is today. While the JP certainly has been one of the most critical of extremist islamic views here in denmark, it has also been one of the foremost in the debate of how good integration of muslims happens in denmark.

5) It seems that the concept of idependant media does not seem to be very well understood in the muslim countries. If our prime-minister EVER would try to interfere in what a newspaper did he would be out of a job the next day. He neither can or want to interfere. As to muslims being offended by what the newspaper wrote - they could simply go to court against the newspaper. Something that they have not done.

6) As a matter of fact the danish public prosecution looked into the matter a short time following the publication of the drawings but found that they in this case could not interfere. That would however not stop the danish muslims from going to court against the JP. As a matter of fact we have certain racism paragraphs here in denmark that means people can end up in jail for raising hate against any group because of the racial, national or religious behaviour. The danish muslims decided not to go to court - but instead to try to raise a storm of protests from the muslim world. The only reason I can see for that is because of the formerly mentioned struggle to become "Mr. Islam".

Anyways .. just thought I'd drop a line to bring up a couple of points ;)

- Martin Jensen
Mr. Jensen's message makes it clear how great is the misunderstanding between Muslims and the West in general. Umm... I gonna make that clear but I should first answer some of Mr. Jensen's points. The situation should not be described as your neighbour offending me and how you should act because the JP is Danish and very popular, therefore, it somehow represents a bit of a larger number of Danish citizens and points of view. Thus it is different from "your neighbour" because it is a part of you. However, I still agree with you that the stupid actions of the newspaper brought about problems to all Danish citizens, the same way it brought great offenses to all Muslims all over the world. I am sure that not all the Danish agree or even respect what the paper published.

Actually there is a question that is popping up in my mind now: did the JP write, in the very first time it published the cartoons, that these cartoons are not an offense on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but they just reflect how his image comes to the Western world? If they did not, then this simply justifies the way Muslims understood these cartoons as a direct offense to their Prophet and their religion. Moreover, the problem is even there in the pictorial depiction of the Prophet (pbuh) as in Islam pictorial depictions of any prophet is prohibited. So can you imagine how it just offends a Muslim to find a popular newspaper publishing pictorial depictions of Prophet Muhammad, and these depictions even go to the worst as they show him as a terrorist which is something very untrue and very stereotypical?

One thing I stated before, Mr. Jensen: you cannot apply the rules of the western societies over the eastern ones. Therefore, I say the JP committed a great mistake by trying to "test the Muslim boundaries" that way. I say testing comes through polls, interviews, reports and readings into the Muslim culture. You can't just hit a man with your car to see if he is going to get hurt or not. And I think some Danish Muslims took the matter to court but the plea was rejected, although the cartoons not just spread stereotypical false ideas about Islam, but they even cause hatred towards those who belong to a religion whose prophet is a terrorist, you get my point?

Yet, again, I say I agree with you in the main points of your message, which I think it came in time to help the debate and understanding between the Danish and Muslims. I believe the Danish Muslims bear great responsibility for these cartoons because they live in a nutshell in Denmark not trying to mingle with their society and show the reality of their religion. Moreover I agree with you it is now turning to be offensive on both sides, as those who run to burn the Danish embassy in Syria and the protestor who ask for the heads of those responsible for the cartoons take the matter to a dangerous extreme, that is so stupid and unacceptable. I think this message tells a very important point as well, Muslims should change the way the world sees them, and surly debates, discussions and positive participation of Muslim in their western societies are just the first step. Violence and fury are never the right answers.

Finally, I think Mr. Martin Jensen's message makes some important points clear and I hope it helps in the understanding and debate between the Danish and Muslims. I have to thank you, Mr. Jensen for dropping by and I hope you keep on the participation.

Hi again Jimmy,

Thank you for your comments - I find is most enlightening reading your reactions. I once again feel the need to comment a bit ;)

First of all I agree on your point that my argument with the neighbours is not entirely up to par - but it does illustrate my point to a high-degree. As to whether it represents the opinion of the danish people I can once again simply point out that there is a very big difference between the medias in the muslim countries and the western countries. I have a hard time understanding how the muslim medias work (apparently there is a great deal of government control in some countries?). You will find that most danes often do not agree with the medias - and that the medias often find it their job to start debates.

As to whether they offended muslims or not - I can only point out that the drawings were done in an entirely another context. I can guarantee you that NOBODY here in denmark had any idea how muslims react to these drawing. We have a very long tradition of "putting down" authorities - whether its politicians, religious authorities, the royal family, media personalies or anyone else. It is simply a part of our culture of understanding ourselves in relation to the world. I am not sure I can make you understand this - there might be a too big cultural difference here.

You write:

"One thing I stated before, Mr. Jensen: you cannot apply the rules of the western societies over the eastern ones. Therefore, I say the JP committed a great mistake by trying to "test the Muslim boundaries" that way."

First of all please do call me Martin ;) -- I would have to agree to some of your argument - that they commited a great mistake. But look at it this way:

1) freedom of speech and idenpendence of media is to alot of europeans a central cornerstone in our society. The second world war was in part fought to protect the rights of individuals and the right to say what you want. There are alot of members of my family that I never got to meet because they fought and died in that war. The suggestion by some muslim countries that our government should interfere with the medias are in alot of ways as offensive to us as these drawings are to muslims.

2) Alot of muslim protesters that reacted violently burned the danish flag. Alot of christians are gravely offended because of the burnings of these flags. Not because they are danish flags - but because of the cross on these flags - a cross that is a central christian symbol. Personally I do not care about this - but its another example of how double standards and lack of mutual understanding seems to be central in this whole mess.

3) A third example that I would like to point out. When the Taliban in afghanistan destroyed hundreds years old statues of Buddah in the name of Allah - did the muslim countries protest? - today they are saying that offending people's religious feelings is the worst they one can do.

As you correctly point out I neither can or should try to force my belives or standards upon you - but you should neither do the same to me.

For example: The suggestions that muslim women should be veiled in public is offensive to my perception womens role in society. However danish muslims are allowed to dress as they want. They are allowed to worship whatever god they desire and they are allowed to do it in whichever way they want. The government is protecting that right.

This is is not the case in for example Saudi Arabia to my knowledge. (christian prosecutions?). With the case of a country like Saudi Arabia - who are they to preach religious tolerance to my and my countrymen? - I find the notion that they are telling us how to behave offensive. I hope you understand my point on this.

As to the drawings themselves and how they show a picture of Muhammed as a terrorist. You will find it hard to find anyone in Denmark who belives this to be true. The majority of our population is thankfully well enough educated to recognise that 99% of all muslims - as well as 99% of all christians - are a bunch of people that just want to live their lives, marry, have children and generally have a good time.

However - like I tried to point out - the drawing was not meant as an offense - but as an illustration of the "image" that keeps comming through via international medias (people killing hostages in the name of Allah, people doing suicide bombings in the name of Allah etc. etc.). The best example I can come up with is one of the drawings that shows a line of suicide bombers comming into heaven with Allah telling them that they "ran out of virgins". This drawing was not meant as an offense to muslims as a general group - but as making fun of the extremists who belive that blowing themselves up and killing innocent people is the will of god. Like most other people here in denmark (christians and muslims alike) - we CANNOT understand why anyone would want to do that no matter how deperate they are. The drawing is like a "method" to understand what is going on - but again - I belive the cultural divide between the cultures is too great for you to understand that is was not meant as an offense.

On another note: I saw a post on a german blog that showed the drawings in JP besides the drawings in some eastern newspaper making fun christian and jewish religious symbols and leaders. While I do not find these drawings offensive personally - because I understand their purpose in making sense of situations that are beyond our control and understanding - I find it insulting that the same newspaper goes beserk over drawings in a danish newspaper. Double standards anyone?

This is not the only example - there are alot of things that divides people in the different parts of the world. I do know that alot my examples in the above might seem a bit like im on an offensive here - but I simply want to illustrate how difficult it is for us to understand what is going on here (even the muslims I know are in shock over the reactions in the middle east).

In my opinion my standards should apply in my country and your standards should apply in your country - though I do belive that mutual respect is nessesary. The cultural editor of the newspaper was asked if he would have published the drawings if he had known what kind of trouble it would cause. He replies that the question was equal to ask a young girl that had been raped if she regretted she did not dress more decently before going out that night. Apparently they are in shock over the reaction -- they were simply doing something that newspapers have always been doing here in denmark. On another note you can for example see this comic strip in another danish newspaper:

http://images.bt2.metropol.dk/318/318152/318152_large.gif

The small guy is a drawing of our prime-minister while the other one is some christian religious leader (a bishop I belive). The bishop is telling the primeminister that politics and religion should stay seperate because the kingdom of god is not a part of this world. In the last drawing god is discussing with an angel whether the primeminister should be allowed to be relected or whether it is time for another party to take over). This drawing is making fun of one of the dogmas of the christian church here in denmark. This drawing is a contribution to the debate that arose because christian leaders have started breaking with that dogma the recent years.

I do belive that most danes are very sorry that this has causes so much distress for muslims - but most danes are getting increasingly mad because muslim leaders are calling for our prime-minister to apologise on behalf of the newspaper. You know -- he might actually do that at some point -- eventhough he cannot do it (as it would be very offensive) - simply to satisfy the feelings of muslims in the middle-east.

At this point most of the people I know feels like the victims of a rape - we did not dress decently before going out and had no way of predicting the consequences of this.

Regards and best wishes

/Martin

Hey Martin :), thanks a lot for you kind comments. I hope the next time you leave me something to keep in touch with you, even a link to your blog or something so that we can exchange thoughts abit.

As for your points, i think i have a few words on some of them.

As for freedom of expression, I truly agree with you that freedom of expression is a cornerstone in any free society. But the point is in our easter societies freedom should never come on the expense of offending or criticizing religion (which i know is very different from the way things are in Denmark as freedom of expression is even more sacred.. am i right?)

As for the violent reactions of Muslims, I agree with you that they are very offensive and even more stupid than the cartoons themselves. If you read my last post I was very angry to see the pictures of those who go torch the Danish embassy in Lebanon. I agree with you that misunderstanding is the main problem. And I believe debate is the right solution not violence.

As for Taliban (first of all i say dont look at them as muslims because they are far from Islam the same way it is too far the distance between Egypt and Denmark), I want to note that ALL religious authorities in Egypt and in Saudi Arabia condemned and attacked the destruction of the Buddha statues.

Again I agree with you that some laws in some Arab countries should be changed like asking Christians to be veiled in Saudi Arabia, but keep in mind that it is only Saudi Arabia (to my knowledge) that applies this law.

Again I agree with you that the culture differences between Middle Eastern and Western cultures are sooo great. But they fall in no one's favour afterall, you get my point?

As for caricatures or drawings insulting Christianity or Judaism I have never seen one in any of the newspapers in Middle East, if you really saw one please send it to me. I agree with it would be double-standards if they insult others and cry when they get insulted. But till now I tell you great number of christians live here and they would never let go any caricatures insulting their religion.

Finally, i wanna tell you that in a popular egyptian talk show that is almost watched in every egyptian home, the Danish embassador tried to make the point clear to everyone about the caricatures. He said that caricatures are part of the Danish culture and they criticize everything.

May it was ur nation's destiny to suffer the mistake of a small group there the same way the Muslims suffer from the mistakes of a group of terrorists led by Bin Laden.

Do not forget to leave me a link the next time you leave a comment. :)

Best regards and wishes
Jimmy

Thank you!
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