Nato fears over Dutch Islam film


Nato’s secretary general says he fears the airing of a Dutch film criticising Islam will have repercussions for troops in Afghanistan. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s comments came after Afghans protested on Sunday against the film being made by far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

The Dutch government has warned Mr Wilders that the film will damage Dutch political and economic interests.

Mr Wilders says the film is about the Koran but has given few details.

In the past, he has called for the Koran to be banned and likened it to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The project has already been condemned by several Muslim countries, including Iran and Pakistan.

Nato’s secretary general said he was concerned about his troops after the protests against the film in Afghanistan.

“If the [troops] find themselves in the line of fire because of the film, then I am worried about it and I am expressing that concern,” he said in a television interview.

‘Kick out forces’

On Sunday, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to protest against the film.

Demonstrators burned Dutch flags, and called for the withdrawal of Dutch troops from the Nato force.

The demonstrators say they will step up their protests unless the Afghan government expels the troops.

The protesters also criticised the recent republication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in several Danish newspapers, and called for the withdrawal of Danish troops.

“We don’t want our government to have any diplomatic relations with these two countries,” Maulawi Abdul Hadi, one of the protesters, told the Associated Press news agency.

“We don’t want Danish and Dutch troops in Afghanistan. They should be kicked out of the Nato forces here.”

Mr Wilders has said he expects his 15-minute work will be shown in the Netherlands in March and released on the internet.

Dutch authorities have told him he may have to leave the country for his own safety amid reports of death threats.

Submission

Mr Wilders’ film is called Fitna, an Arabic word used to describe strife or discord.

He has said his film will show how the Koran is “an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror”.

Mr Wilders leads the Freedom Party, which has nine seats in the Dutch parliament.

He has had police protection since Dutch director Theo Van Gogh was killed by a radical Islamist in 2004.

Van Gogh’s film Submission included verses from the Koran shown against a naked female body.

“Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair”

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was the villain behind a hate campaign against Islam and Muslims which culminated in the Danish Cartoon affair. At least that is what some Danish imams maintain. On 30 September 2005 the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. According to the imams it was the Queen who instigated this when in April 2005 she urged the Danish people to resist Islam.

This allegation was made to Arab newspapers, officials and politicians by Danish imams, touring the Middle East nine months ago in order to stir up hatred and violence against Denmark. The imams claimed Margrethe had urged the Danes to fight the Muslim minority in the country.

This information was revealed last Summer by the Danish Foreign Ministry, which had been informed by Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute. The imams also claimed that the Danish government and the Danish people were behind the hate campaign. Hanna Ziadeh, the media researcher for the Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, said the imams’ aim was to make the entire Danish people responsible for the Muhammad cartoons.

The imams also told the Islamic world that their voice was excluded from the Danish media and that more “horrible reviles” against Islam were being planned in Denmark, including blasphemous films and threats to burn down mosques. Ziadeh said the information he gathered was only from about ten interviews given by the imams to as many large Middle Eastern newspapers. However, the imams talked to many more Arab media, including several TV stations. Only a small part of the false information which the imams spread in the Middle East is actually known in the West. Continue reading ““Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair””

How $30 Billion US Aid package to Israel impacting Gaza Siege, and Southland Muslims.

Press Release – Believers Vs. Unbelievers: The Manipulated Clash

  For Immediate Release
Press contact :
<!– var prefix = ‘ma’ + ‘il’ + ‘to’; var path = ‘hr’ + ‘ef’ + ‘=’; var addy18252 = ‘info’ + ‘@’; addy18252 = addy18252 + ‘MuslimBridges’ + ‘.’ + ‘org’; document.write( ‘‘ ); document.write( addy18252 ); document.write( ” ); //–>\n
info@MuslimBridges.org <!– document.write( ‘‘ ); //–> This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it <!– document.write( ” ); //–>

 

January 25, 2008 Temecula, California.  While our country is completely preoccupied with the election and the looming recession of our economy, Israel — our American government’s close ally who just received our generous $30 billion aid package — is engaging in what has been called a war crime and genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Human Rights organizations of all religious persuasions have been speaking out against the Gaza siege, joined by an expanding outcry from non-governmental and governmental organizations throughout the world.    While leaders of the Muslim community in the US are calling for a special prayer during the Muslim Friday Prayers today, MuslimBridges.org is calling on all Churches and Synagogues to join with Muslims in prayers, and denounce the Israeli siege during the Jewish services on Friday night and Saturday, and the Christian services on Sunday.

Israel has imposed a complete lock-down of Gaza, this most densely populated place on earth. That means not only sealed borders and no access to food or medicine, but gas and electricity are also shut down. It is more than a miserable existence; it is a slow death.   Many are now calling it a war crime.  This siege intensified immediately after the $30 billion generous aid package was handed to Israel during the recent President Bush visit to Israel.

“Israel thinks it can get away with it because we are too busy with our problems, but this time it is different. Now people are fed up and recognize that Israel is often the aggressor behind our mess.  What really concerns us now is that other crises may surface, such as a war with Iran, or another scandal bigger than the Mohammed cartoon, just to shift the attention away from the Gaza Siege,” said R. Shahman, an activist with MuslimBridges.org.

In anticipation of a potential scandal, MuslimBridges.org is looking to the Interfaith community to publicly denounce hate and slander against Muslims, and communicate to all people of faith that slander is not a result of “clash of religions,” Rather it is a clash of “Believers Vs. Unbelievers,” often manipulated for political reasons to avert attention from the real challenges facing all of us.

MuslimBridges.org applauds the support of all believers from Churches and faith-based organizations such as the Rabbis of NETUREI KARTA in Monsey N.Y., who make a clear distinction that Judaism absolutely rejects Zionism and speak out against the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel.   This is in complete contrast to the so called “Top Rabbis of Israel” who are advocating genocide and carpet bombing against all Christians and Muslims in Gaza, “ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings” said Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu — one of the most senior theocrats in the Jewish State (The Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2007).

“We hope and expect our friends in Churches and Synagogues will denounce the Israeli siege, and any possible slander, just as every Islamic Center and Muslim organization in the US is providing a clear position standing against terrorism, putting it in writing and signing the Fatwa against terrorism,” stated Mrs. Shahman

Leaders of Churches and Synagogues are encouraged to participate in the following actions:

  1. Power of prayer:  To Join with Muslims in prayers for Peace and Justice in Palestine, the occupied Land.   May God ease the suffering and bring about a peaceful solution.
  2. To denounce the use by Israel of American taxpayers’ money to starve Gaza into a slow genocide and to demand a freeze on all aid given to Israel paid for by our tax money. The following Links are offered on MuslimBridges.org so that every member of a church or synagogue can simply send a clear message to our elected officials demanding immediate intervention.
    Contact White HouseContact your SenatorContact your Representative
  3. To educate congregations that slander, hate and siege and slow death of a rival group has no place in faith.  Educational tools, articles and books are available through MuslimBridges.org.

###

MuslimBridges.org is a non-profit faith-based California Corporation founded in December 2006, and run one-hundred percent by volunteers.  It was founded with the mission to help spread peace, and to build bridges between people of all faiths-Jews, Christians and Muslims.  The website, launched on Jan 22, 2007, is non-commercial, not-for-profit and does not accept donations.  For additional details on the organization and the programs please visit:  http://www.muslimbridges.org/.

Dutch Muslims urge calm over Quran film

Freedom of expression is Secularists screaming & shouting criticisms of Islam & Muslims, making insulting movies, music, plays, etc. & its against Freedom of Expression when Muslims protest the injustice being done & standing up for their RIGHTS.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch Muslim group appealed Thursday for calm at home and abroad in reaction to an anti-Quran film a right-wing politician says he is making.

Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, says his film will portray the Quran as a “fascist book” that incites violence and intolerance of women and homosexuals.

The Dutch director of a previous film critical of Islam was murdered by a Muslim radical on an Amsterdam street in 2004, prompting a backlash that included the torching of several mosques.

The moderate National Moroccan Council said Thursday it will try to “neutralize the threat” posed by the upcoming film, which Wilders says is still under production.

“At the moment, practically all Muslim groups … are working to ensure a peaceful and responsible reaction” to the film, said the group’s chairman, Mohamed Rabbae, at a news conference in The Hague.

“We will have succeeded if, after the film, Mr. Wilders is frustrated,” Rabbae said. “If he sees there are no riots and Muslims are cleverer and more democratic than he thinks.”

Wilders has yet to find a broadcaster prepared to air the film once it is finished. But he has said that if he cannot find one, he will post it on the Internet.

Even though it is uncertain the film will ever be broadcast, the government has put cities on alert for possible violence. It has also warned its overseas embassies about a possible reaction similar to the one that erupted across the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

“That a 10-minute film that’s never been shown may lead to riots, boycotts and other bad things, says everything about the nature of Islam,” said Wilders in an open letter Thursday. “Nothing about me.”

Wilders’ party holds nine of the Dutch parliament’s 150 seats.

In the past, he has said that half the Quran should be torn up and has compared it with Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.” He has claimed the Netherlands is being swamped by a “tsunami” of Islamic immigrants.

Wilders said his film will not closely resemble “Submission,” the short film written by right-leaning former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

“Submission” criticized the treatment of women under Islam, citing Quranic verses that appeared to justify abuse.

The film’s director, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered in 2004. A Muslim extremist shot him numerous times, slit his throat and used a knife to pin a letter to his chest threatening the life of Hirsi Ali. She now lives in the United States under 24-hour guard.

Rabbae said his group represents the majority of the more than 850,000 Muslims living in this nation of 16.3 million.

The group also will call on Dutch Muslims who feel victimized or insulted by the film to file criminal complaints against Wilders for racial or religious vilification.

© 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Muslims in Bangladesh demonstrate against the vilification of the Prophet (saws)

Photo: Muslims in Bangladesh demonstrate against the vilification of the Prophet (saws)

uploaded 15 Feb 2006


Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh organized a demonstration outside the national mosque after Jummah prayers today (03 February 2006) to protest against the printing of cartoons by the European press insulting the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Chief Coordinator and Spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh, Mohiuddin Ahmed strongly condemned the attack on the Prophet (SAW) and said the terrorist West is conducting a crusade against Islam in the name of free speech and war on terror. He said that free speech was nothing more than another weapon of the West to fight its crusade against Islam and Muslims. The disbelievers around the world are joining their ranks to attack Islam, abuse theQuran, insult the Prophet (SAW), kill and torture Muslims and loot the resources of the Muslim Ummah. Mohiuddin Ahmed added that the agent and corrupt rulers have failed to protect the Muslims and their aqeedah. Furthermore, they continue to bow down in prostration to their European and American masters. The Muslims must reject the servants of the West – Awami League and BNP, establish the Khilafah government and join their ranks under the banner of the Khilafah to protect their belief and honour.

Mohiuddin Ahmed called upon the government to immediately issue a clear and unequivocal public statement condemning the attack on the Prophet (SAW) and made the following demands:

  1. The government must recall its ambassador’s from Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway and Holland;
  2. The embassies of these European countries must be closed down and their ambassador’s must be expelled.

Deputy spokesperson Kazi Murshedul Haque and Dr Syed as well as other central leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh were also present at the demonstration.

The freedom that hurts us


 Printing cartoons of Muhammad creates fear and insecurity in Muslims across Europe
Sarah Joseph
Friday February 3, 2006
The Guardian

The battle is set, of religious extremism versus freedom of speech. These are the lines drawn, or so we are told, in the escalating tensions worldwide surrounding the printing of images of Muhammad in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe.Although the media is only now picking up on this story, my inbox has been receiving messages about these cartoons for weeks. The messages range from high-pitched to very thoughtful, but not one of them says, “Yeah, whatever … ”

There’s no apathy surrounding this issue. This is because of the love felt for the prophet and religious norms in Islam. But also because it feeds into profound feelings of disempowerment, fear and insecurity among Muslims that Europe would do well to understand. In Britain, we should realise that Muslims here will be angry if the pictures are gratuitously published in British papers – not just because of the insults to Muhammad, but because it makes them feel disempowered. Protesting is the only way to regain some self-respect.

First, the easy part. Any depiction of Muhammad, however temperate, is not allowed. There are but a few images of him in Muslim history, and even these are shown with his face veiled. This applies not only to images of Muhammad: no prophet is to be depicted. There are no images of God in Islam either.

So there is hurt and anger, and the messages I receive reflect that. In response, they suggest different approaches. One is through lobbying: distributing the phone numbers of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the Danish ambassador, Denmark’s parliament and everything else Danish, and urging Muslims to make their feelings known. We also have the boycott approach – “the only language the west understands” – listing every Danish product that one can buy. I also get messages from the great optimists, suggesting we use the controversy to explain the real nature of Muhammad, who returned insults with kindness. Indeed, Muslims would do well to remember that.

I have also been receiving other messages. These are the most worrying, and the ones of which Europe must take note. These are the messages of resignation. The messages that discuss exit strategies. The messages that question the very future of Muslims in Europe.

Why such hand-wringing over a few cartoons? The key is in the images themselves: Muhammad with turbaned bomb, Muhammad declaring that paradise had run out of virgins for suicide bombers, Muhammad with sword and veiled women. Muhammad in every Orientalist caricature. Muhammad as a symbol for Islam and Muslims. These are the stereotypes that, as Muslims, we face daily. The looks on the tube, the suspicion, the eyes on the bags we carry. There is no denying the feeling of being pushed against a wall, of drowning in the stereotypes that abound. This is no way to live, and it is certainly no springboard for making a major contribution to the society you live in.

The messages to my inbox of resignation, of fear, come with good reason. Some countries that have reprinted the images – Spain, France, Italy and Germany – have a nasty history of fascism. Just last week we had Holocaust memorial day. The Holocaust did not occur overnight. It took time to establish a people as subhuman, and cartoons played their part. Does Europe not remember its past and the Nazi propaganda of Der Stürmer?

Now the great shape-shifter of fascism seems to have taken on the clothes of “freedom of speech”. If these cartoons were designed to provoke Muslim fundamentalists, maybe they have done more to reveal the prejudices of Europe. Europe has a history of turning on its minorities. Will that be its future too?

· Sarah Joseph is editor of emel magazine info@emelmagazine.com

Cartoon row draws from well of discontent

Simon Tisdall
Tuesday February 21, 2006
The Guardian

Palestinian students burn a Danish flag
Palestinian students burn a Danish flag. Photograph: Hazem Bader/Getty
 

The Danish cartoons row refuses to go away, reverberating with sound and fury at different levels across the Islamic world. That primarily reflects the deep affront felt by many Muslims. But it is clear that the uproar has deeper causes which westerners, struggling to fathom the rage sparked by Jyllands-Posten’s crude caricatures, and Muslims, fearing a growing clash of cultures, ignore at their peril.Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, an influential spiritual leader and scholar, was not alone in characterising the controversy as integral to an ongoing, unifying pan-Islamic revolt against oppression. “The nation must rage in anger,” he told Qatar television. “Whoever was angered and did not rage is a jackass. We are not a nation of jackasses for riding, but lions that roar.”

From a less impassioned, secular standpoint, aspects of the row recalled Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. “It is scandalous – an horrific carnival of stupidity, hypocrisy and manipulated outrage celebrated with equal enthusiasm in the Muslim world and in ‘liberal’ Europe,” said journalist and author Neal Ascherson.

But it was also “a storm signal of worse to come”, he warned on the openDemocracy website. Europeans had been left wondering whether compromise was possible with a minority’s religious dogmatism while “millions of peaceful Muslims … are now inclined to listen more respectfully to those who tell them that the west and its leaders intend to exterminate Islam by slander and humiliation as preludes to war”.

As the row has spread, more recent protests, sometimes turning into riots, have broadened the sense of confrontation while blurring its original focus. A protest in northern Nigeria morphed into lethal assaults on Christians. Militant Afghans tried to turn protests yesterday into an al-Qaida recruitment drive. In Pakistan, the evolving target of rallies is not Denmark (or the cartoonists on whose heads a $1m bounty has been placed) but the unelected president, Pervez Musharraf, and his US alliance.

In Beirut, the destruction of the Danish embassy was widely blamed on Syrian agents more interested in destabilising Lebanon than punishing blasphemy. Predictably, hardliners in Iran and the US have used the fracas to justify their mutual antipathy. Even remote Fiji has not escaped. This month a Sunday paper republished all 12 cartoons – not in the cause of free expression but reportedly in support of Methodist fundamentalists unsympathetic to Muslim Indo-Fijians.

And intimidation is taking a toll. A world away from Suva, a public debate organised by the International Affairs Society at the University of Bristol proceeded only in circumscribed format last week after the authorities got cold feet over security. Retaliatory threats against newspapers that published the cartoons have proliferated. On all sides, motives often appeared questionable.

Parallel controversies have kept the issue hot, ranging from the latest allegations of Iraqi prisoner abuse by British and US troops to attempted international ostracism of Hamas, Palestine’s new rulers. The attendant clamour has tended to drown out “mainstream” western Muslims, such as those who marched in London on February 11, and moderate Islamist voices. One such leader, Nasharudin Mat Isa of the Islamic party of Malaysia, condemned the caricatures – but confined criticism to “provocateurs” in “certain sections of the western world”, rather than the west as a whole. By belatedly calling for calm yesterday, Iran reflected concern that lawless streets may threaten “lawful” authority.

Analysts such as Amr Hamzawy of the Carnegie Endowment thinktank have suggested western opinion is failing to grasp the ramifications of a developing, pan-Islamic political intifada.

Rooted in poverty, poor education and lack of democracy, it is driven by Palestine, Iraq, oil politics, and the thoughtless demonisation of all Muslims in the post-9/11 “war on terror”. It increasingly challenges established regimes. It has growing access to uncontrolled media – media that also publicised last year’s Qur’an desecration scandal. The revolt’s unifying banner is Islam. And more than ever before, Islam can freely talk to itself.

Among other things, that meant the west must learn to engage with opposition forces and end support for authoritarian governments, said David Mepham of the Institute for Public Policy Research in a new report, Changing States. “There is a critical need … to draw attention to the very real diversity and popularity of Islamist groups [which] constitute the main bulk of the opposition to existing regimes.

“Those groups that renounce violence and commit to democratic politics should be potential recipients of practical support,” he said. But engagement could not stop there. Formal talks between the US and Europe and the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah might be required – and unavoidable – if the extremists’ grip was to be loosened and mutual repulsion rechannelled into collaborative reform.

Does the right to freedom of speech justify printing the Danish cartoons? Yes or No!

When one person’s liberty collides with another’s values, there is no clear occupant of the moral high ground

Philip Hensher and Gary Younge
Saturday February 4, 2006
The Guardian

Philip Hensher: Yes The first thing to say about the contested cartoons published by a Danish paper last September is that some are, indeed, offensive. Jyllands-Posten took up the case of a Danish author who could find no one to illustrate a book about the prophet Muhammad. The paper, presenting this as a case of self-censorship, asked 12 illustrators for depictions of the prophet, and the one that has caused immense offence shows the prophet wearing a turban that conceals a fizzing bomb.

The cartoonist can’t be accused of ignorance or lack of research – he has scrupulously transcribed a verse from the Qur’an on the turban – and there’s no doubt that this is seriously offensive, and not just to Muslims but anyone who values truthful debate. It just isn’t true to say that, from its founding, Islam would inevitably lead to suicide bombing, or even that its founder’s teachings bear responsibility for this particular brand of atrocity.

That accusation, if made of any religion or secular school of thought that has spawned violent followers – a comparable image of Marx, say, or, quite plausibly, Darwin – would in most cases be just as offensive and wrong. In this case there is a special, deliberate offence to Muslims because the religion has an edict against such depictions.

Whether action should be taken, in a western democracy, against an argument that is just wrong, or against deliberate offence caused, however great, is another question. It’s difficult to see that personal offence should be the basis of legal action in a state professing commitment to freedom of speech. The state takes a view on when personal offence is reasonable and when it threatens to infringe someone else’s liberty, largely based on whether offence is caused generally, or just to a section of the community. Do the Danish cartoons cause offence only to isolated individuals? Or do they so attack anyone professing to be a Muslim that they would be caught by the UK’s religious hatred law?

The cartoons almost certainly look very different to a Muslim living in a western democracy and to someone in the Muslim world. It’s easy to sympathise with a Muslim living in Denmark, who would feel directly persecuted by these images. The Copenhagen Muslim interviewed in yesterday’s Guardian certainly had a point when he compared them to the comments of a Danish MP who apparently called Muslims “a cancer in Denmark”. Many people in his situation live difficult lives, and such images won’t improve matters much.

But along with the sympathy one has to feel for people in that beleaguered situation, the uses that the Danish cartoons have been put to in the Muslim world must be challenged. Around the world, the anti-Danish campaign is being used by Islamist political groups to rally support for extreme causes. The aim of many such groups is, through pressure, to limit free speech on religious matters in the west, and entirely suppress it at home.

It is often forgotten to what degree law-making in the west is still seen across the globe as a model of good practice; and for that single reason our freedom of speech, even if exercised for the purposes of causing offence, even if simply wrong in practice, can’t be eroded. To take an example: in Bangladesh in 1994, an attempt was made to introduce a law limiting what could be said on religious subjects. It failed because, it was argued, its terms could not be paralleled in the laws of any democracy. Britain’s new law on religious hatred, even in its limited form, removes that defence from liberal voices outside Europe.

Debate on a great many subjects is already severely limited in the Muslim world. Reading Robert Irwin’s brilliant new book, For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies, it is a shock to learn that serious scholarly work by historians on the first years of Islam has to be expressed in code, lest it cause offence to the faithful by contradicting the received account. It is unlikely that a newspaper in a Muslim country will ever want to commission a cartoon along the Danish lines. But we are really talking about groups, even in relatively liberal Muslim countries, that want to draw the lines of permitted debate much tighter than they are at present.

In practice, our freedom of speech is not seriously threatened. Cartoonists will probably be careful about exercising good taste in such an area, as they already do on parallel subjects – for instance, in drawing an Israeli or Jewish politician, a cartoonist will probably avoid the hateful conventions of anti-semitic caricature. After the boycotts and a few noble-sounding words, we will probably go on much as before.

And that’s probably the best thing to do. If anti-democratic forces in the Muslim world can make such effective use of a cartoon in a small European country, they would be much more encouraged by any signs of restriction on our part. Anyone in the Muslim world arguing for freedom of speech, on religious or other matters, has only one place to look to – the west. We ought to take into account the sorts of factions in the Muslim world who would regard legal restrictions on our side as part of a wider victory.

· Philip Hensher is the author of The Mulberry Empire

Gary Younge: No

In January 2002 the New Statesman published a front page displaying a shimmering golden Star of David impaling a union flag, with the words “A kosher conspiracy?” The cover was widely and rightly condemned as anti-semitic. It’s not difficult to see why. It played into vile stereotypes of money-grabbing Jewish cabals out to undermine the country they live in. Some put it down to a lapse of editorial judgment. But many saw it not as an aberration but part of a trend – one more broadside in an attack on Jews from the liberal left.

A group calling itself Action Against Anti-Semitism marched into the Statesman’s offices, demanding a printed apology. One eventually followed. The then editor, Peter Wilby, later confessed that he had not appreciated “the historic sensitivities” of Britain’s Jews. I do not remember talk of a clash of civilisations in which Jewish values were inconsistent with the western traditions of freedom of speech or democracy. Nor do I recall editors across Europe rushing to reprint the cover in solidarity.

Quite why the Muslim response to 12 cartoons printed by Jyllands-Posten last September should be treated differently is illuminating. There seems to be almost universal agreement that these cartoons are offensive. There should also be universal agreement that the paper has a right to publish them. When it comes to freedom of speech the liberal left should not sacrifice its values one inch to those who seek censorship on religious grounds, whether US evangelists, Irish Catholics or Danish Muslims.

But the right to freedom of speech equates to neither an obligation to offend nor a duty to be insensitive. There is no contradiction between supporting someone’s right to do something and condemning them for doing it. If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in anti-racism should be no less so. These cartoons spoke not to historic sensitivities, but modern ones. Muslims in Europe are now subjected to routine discrimination on suspicion that they are terrorists, and Denmark has some of Europe’s most draconian immigration policies. These cartoons served only to compound such prejudice.

The right to offend must come with at least one consequent right and one subsequent responsibility. If newspapers have the right to offend then surely their targets have the right to be offended. Moreover, if you are bold enough to knowingly offend a community then you should be bold enough to withstand the consequences, so long as that community expresses displeasure within the law.

So far this has been the case. Despite isolated acts of violence that should be condemned, the overwhelming majority of the protests have been peaceful. Several Arab and Muslim nations have withdrawn their ambassadors from Denmark. There have been demonstrations outside embassies. Meanwhile, according to Denmark’s consul in Dubai, a boycott of Danish products in the Gulf has cost the country $27m.

The Jyllands-Posten editor took four months to apologise. That was his decision. If he was not truly sorry then he shouldn’t have done so; if he was then he should have done so sooner. Given that it took yet one more month for the situation to deteriorate to this level, these recent demonstrations can hardly be described as kneejerk.

“This is a far bigger story than just the question of 12 cartoons in a small Danish newspaper,” Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, told the New York Times. Too right, but it is not the story Rose thinks it is. Rose says: “This is about the question of integration and how compatible is the religion of Islam with a modern secular society – how much does an immigrant have to give up and how much does the receiving culture have to compromise.”

Rose displays his ignorance of both modern secular society and the role of religion in it. Freedom of the press has never been sacrosanct in the west. Last year Ireland banned the film Boy Eats Girl because of graphic suicide scenes; Madonna’s book Sex was unbanned there only in 2004. American schoolboards routinely ban the works of Alice Walker, JK Rowling and JD Salinger. Such measures should be opposed, but not in a manner that condemns all Catholics or Protestants for being inherently intolerant or incapable of understanding satire.

Even as this debate rages, David Irving sits in jail in Austria charged with Holocaust denial for a speech he made 17 years ago; the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza is on trial in London for inciting racial hatred; and a retrial has been ordered for the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, on the same charges. The question has never been whether you draw a line under what is and what is not acceptable, but where you draw it. Rose and others clearly believe Muslims, by virtue of their religion, exist on the wrong side of the line.

As a result they are vilified twice: once through the cartoon, and again for exercising their democratic right to protest. The inflammatory response to their protest reminds me of the quote from Steve Biko, the South African black nationalist: “Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked.”

g.younge@guardian.co.uk