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This week the US military in Europe has advised its members of possible violent demonstrations. Troops are urged to "remain vigilant to their surroundings and to move away from anything that looks like a protest or civil disobedience."
Such warnings are all too common here - similar cautions were issued during the French riots last Fall. This latest admonition is based on anticipation of possible response by Muslim communities throughout Europe to rumors that Danish right wing groups may stage a Koran burning in Copenhagen.
This is the latest turn of events initiated with the publication of cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. For background Die Welt has a chronological (English-language) compilation of reports from the European media.
If your first reaction is to declare the while thing absurd, congratulations - you are sane. And condolences - you live in psychotic times.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Gaza and the West Bank in some of the biggest Palestinian demonstrations in a decade. In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, anger boiled over as up to 300 hardline Islamist activists went on the rampage in the lobby of a Jakarta building housing the Danish embassy.But there are also voices of reason:
In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf condemned the cartoons. "I have been hurt, grieved and I am angry," he said, describing European papers reprinting the cartoons as "vicious, outrageous and provocative". He said the cartoons would escalate the "clash of civilisations" between the West and the Islamic world, and that the newspapers that printed them were "oblivious of what is happening in the world".
In Gaza, Danish flags were burned after 10,000 protesters marched along the main Omar al-Muktar Street to a rally organised by the Islamic group Hamas, which won last week's Palestinian elections. And while some imams urged restraint in their Friday prayers, others were outspoken. At the Omari mosque in Gaza City, 9,000 worshippers were told those behind the cartoons should have their heads cut off. In the West Bank city of Nablus, Imam Hassan Sharif said: "If they want a war of religion, we are ready."
The clashes in Indonesia underlined Denmark's unwanted role as a focal point for Muslim anger at perceived Western blasphemy. Demonstrators outside the embassy in Jakarta pelted the Danish coat of arms with eggs, tore down the flag and set it on fire.
They pushed their way past security guards into the building housing the embassy, but were stopped by their leaders before they could reach the offices on the 25th floor.
In Bangladesh, some 4,000 people demonstrated against the cartoons in the capital, Dhaka, chanting: "Apologise to Muslims." Many joined the protest after Friday prayers at the city's main mosque.
"Put a brake on your so-called unlimited freedom of expression, otherwise you will not be spared," Moulana Kazi Morshed al-Haq, leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic organisation, said at the otherwise peaceful rally.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said: "As much as we condemn this, we must have, as Muslims, the courage to forgive and to not make an issue of dispute between religions or cultures."Given the current noise level, that may be hard to hear.
Meanwhile, the European/World Left sees opportunity, and fans the flames:
The decision of the right-wing Danish government to defend the newspaper that initially published the cartoons, and of newspapers in Norway, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland and Hungary, both conservative and liberal, to reprint them has nothing to do with freedom of the press or the defense of secularism. Such claims make a mockery of these democratic principles.They are correct that it's not really about cartoons - and their support of repression over freedom is genuine. But they see themselves as the ultimate victor in a clash between two other factions, and therein lies their motivation. They might be surprised to discover most in the Islamic World consider them not at all, while others may find them little more than useful idiots - temporary allies at best. This blind spot can be attributed to the fact that this is exactly how the Left views view the Muslim population. Both ideologies are based on a presumption of ultimate world domination - one faction convinced the sweep of history is on their side, the other supported by the will of Allah.
The promulgation of such bigoted filth is, rather, bound up with a shift by the European ruling elites to line up more squarely behind the neo-colonial interventions of US imperialism in the Middle East and Central Asia. It is no accident that it occurs in the midst of the ongoing slaughter in Iraq, new threats against the Palestinian masses, and the preparations to launch sanctions, and eventual military aggression, against Iran.
It is, moreover, a continuation and escalation of a deliberate policy in Europe, spearheaded by the political right and aided and abetted by the nominal “left” parties, to demonize the growing Muslim population, isolate it, and use it as a scapegoat for the growing social misery affecting broad layers of the working class.
Bear in mind the above reactions are to cartoons - any ill-advised Koran burning will be followed by escalation well beyond that. And US troops aren't the only ones who've been advised about it:
Yesterday one of the leading Christian Palestinian clerics in Gaza, Father Manuel Mussallam, said that "Mohamed is a high Arab personality".Note that Fatah and Islamic Jihad are cited as sources of the Koran burning story. The warning issued to US military personnel in Europe does not specify what press reports were used as basis for concern, but notes (rightly - given last year's Koran flushing stories) that mere allegations of such an event could spark violence.
He said that the Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar had met him and Christian nuns on Thursday within an hour of complaints about a statement issued by Fatah and Islamic Jihad armed militants. These warned that churches in Gaza, along with the EU office, would be "bombarded" if plans for a Koran-burning protest in Denmark went ahead.
DAMASCUS - Angry crowds stormed the buildings housing the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus on Saturday, setting fire to both in protest over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, an AFP correspondent said.It should be noted that response from the European Muslim community has been relatively quiet thus far.
Telephone text messages had been circulating in Damascus claiming that Danes were going to be gathering in one of Copenhagen's main squares on Saturday to burn copies of the Koran. People were urged to gather at the embassy to protest.
These were similar to messages being sent in Egypt earlier this week.
"Denmark wants to burn the sacred Koran on Saturday in Copenhagen in response to the Muslim boycott (of Danish products)," the message in Egypt said, calling on Muslims to curse the Danish.
"Send (this message on) and you will be rewarded," the text said.
Let's ignore for the moment the miscalculating (and marginally significant) Left - the Islamic world sees them as part of the decadent West anyway - and encapsulate this "clash of civilizations" as it stands today. One group has a large percentage of members quite willing to die in large numbers to defend their faith. Their perceived opponents are perfectly capable of making this happen, but thus far reluctant to oblige. The tipping point comes when actions reduce that reluctance sufficiently to allow reaction. (Think 9/11 - and the results of that represent a very small percentage of the destructive ability of a modern superpower - because destruction was not the goal).
Thus far in this case the element of absurdity (westerners aren't going to war over cartoons) is prohibitive. No doubt most are hoping that as with the Newsweek-engineered "Koran flushing" outrage last year this tempest will ultimately recede, cool heads prevail, and an uneasy calm will be restored. This will most likely be the case (I certainly hope so) but while such a result may keep the peace for some undetermined period of time there is an element of civilized self deception involved. While those in the West may like to perceive such events as discrete flare ups, those on the "other side" most disposed to achieving that goal of dying for the cause view this very much as an ongoing conflict - and the next chapter will most likely not involve cartoons.
Until then, here's a second, and equally accurate description of the current state of affairs: They are perfectly willing to use cartoons to justify killing us, and we are incapable of believing it.
Update: More on the origin of the "cartoon wars" here -don't miss it.
Or this must-read from Jeff Goldstein.
The cartoons are months old.
Tehran gets referred to the security council, now there are a bunch of loons protesting in the streets about cartoons.
I'll put on my tin foil hat, and speculate this is a "shot across the bow", instigated by that nutter in Tehran.Posted by Soldier's Dad at February 4, 2006 09:13 PM
Will the West get it? Bush White House not a good sign. If they couldn't side with loyal, little Denmark against the raving barbarians, why didn't they at least shut up instead of supporting the fanatics? Still, in new post, there is at least some sign of a REVOLT OF THE INFIDELS.Posted by gringoman at February 5, 2006 01:58 AM
"Until then, here's a second, and equally accurate description of the current state of affairs: They are perfectly willing to use cartoons to justify killing us, and we are incapable of believing it."
Now will someone believe me when I say this is the most important conflict since WWII? We aren't even going to defend ourselves until it is too late. Either they get back in their box, or we will have to kill them to survive, AND all those who harbor them.
"In Germany they first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me --- and by that time no one was left to speak up."
---- Pastor Martin Niemoller
This is not a game. People will die in very large numbers unless we act early and stop this removal of our freedoms by political correctness. We have a right to say and think what ever we wish. And No One, especially a Mohammedan, has the right to take that away.
When they kill me, who will be left to defend you?
It is a shame that civilizations have been decimated since the dark ages. The Muslims come in and tear down the churches. Then the Christians come in and tear down the mosques. This is the history of Europe and the Middle East. Isn’t it wonderful that so much “religion” is practiced by those that read the Koran and Christian teachings? It has been one huge religious war with a few centuries of peace here and there. At least in the past it was Crusaders and Muslims with swords on horseback. Now, let’s imagine Iran with nuclear weapons!Posted by Very Concerned about the Future at February 6, 2006 01:44 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(4) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)