Flemming Rose in the Washington Post

Why I Published Those Cartoons by Flemming Rose, the Cultural Editor of Jyllands-Posten in Sunday's Washington Post.
I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out. The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter.
Abstractions such as religions, philosophies or ideologies are not, of themselves, dangerous to the physical health of individuals or the societies which we construct. It is only through the actions of the adherents of those abstractions that they are channeled into acts of either benevolence or malevolence.

There is truly much of the former to be witnessed from the adherents of Islam. The idea that Islam is a "religion of peace" is far from entirely unfounded. The problem is that, as we in the US know all too well, (and many here use to discredit the religion of peace nomial) the malevolent acts of muslims in the last several years are unavoidably attributtable to a strict adherence to some of this religion's fundamental tenets; acts which the actors committing them brandish as jihadist Medals of Honor. In fact, their terrorist atrocities in the name of their deity and it's ostensible prophet represent the moral nadir of human activity and must be repudiated and prevented through the best means possible: full and relentless disclosure of their motivation and methodology.

Rose continues on a note which is perhaps the most compelling and rational of any of his justifications for publication of these divisive cartoons.
We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims
This is the strongest and most empirically sound sociological reason he could possibly give. Muslims of middle eastern descent are, like hundreds of thousands of other folk the world over, emigrating to new lands in search of freedom, security and, above all else, opportunities which they apparently found to be lacking for them in their ancestral homelands. Where one goes, one not only takes their own traditions with them. One must learn to adjust to and cooperate with the values of the society into which they move.
Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.
And a secular democracy is precisely the type of society our muslim friends from the middle eastern portion of the planet have chosen to enjoin when they move themselves and their families to Europe or the United States. They are welcome here. They are welcomed and embraced for the beauty and potential they have to offer our dynamic and ever evolving compositions of humanity.

Rose has plenty more to say in defense of his decision. Some of it, to my mind, rings somewhat disingenous. That may just be because I know that his general political stance is somewhat reactionary (to the right of conservative,) so perhaps I've already withdrawn some amount of the benefit of the doubt I would normally afford a person in his position.

Regardless of his politics, and regardless of any disparagement or disrespect which may actually have been intended, despite his protestations, nothing, absolutely nothing that was done in the publication of these pictures warrants the horrific and brutally irresponsible acts of violence with which a large minority of islamic folk have responded.

There is simply no excuse for physical violence, except in immediate defense from the same. No constructive dialogue or resolution is possible until those committing such acts come to terms with this fact of our evolving civilizations.

Addendum: I added a bit which includes the final quoted text from Rose's piece. I just felt it relevant and necessary to my point that this entire bruhaha has far less to do with Tolerance for Islam than it does for Islamic people's tolerance for their neighbors.


Incidental: It's a 2 pager on the Washington Post website and, as a blogger, I'm thinking that organization needs to invest in a bigger pipe to the internet because
man! has it been slow the last two days. It's not my work or home connections either because everything else is running as smoothly as ever. I think it has to do with the Post's wonderful newish feature that shows which blogs are linking to their stories.


  1. I gather your an atheist? Me too and a raving evangelical one. But I believe in dialogue. Check out my site and promote the cause! Dont let the title put you off!

  2. Michael you have to see this. It is crazy. I blogged about us going into business. I hope it is a joke but I don't think it is.


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