Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cartoon Rage and Hate Crime

The strange furor over the Danish editorial cartoons I mentioned last Friday continues. Indeed, it has taken on a strange cast in Canada.

Ezra Levant, publisher of the Calgary-based magazine, says he expects that some outlets will decide against selling the issue, which was published Monday but will not be readily across the country for up to 10 days.

"With something this spicy, it may be that some newsstands decline to take it for their own reasons," said Levant, noting that half of the magazine's 40,000 circulation goes directly to subscribers.

Levant says Canada's mainstream newspapers and civil liberties organizations are hypocritical by self-censoring the cartoons, which he describes as innocuous.

"We think these cartoons are the central artifacts of the largest news story of the month," said Levant, whose magazine is published 24 times a year.

"The question is not why would a news magazine run a newsworthy picture, but rather why would 100 other news magazines and newspapers not?"

But stranger still - Canadian Muslims are calling this a hate crime.
Mohamed Elmasry, national leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, says he would like the Western Standard charged with distributing hate literature.

"They already know this is hurtful to Muslims," said Elmasry. "For Western Standard to go out of their way and re-publish them, the only explanation is provocation."

Elmasry says there is a limit to free speech. If no charges are laid against Levant, the Islamic group plans to lobby federal politicians to toughen up the hate laws.
But don't question their patriotism...

Mr. Levant goes on to raise an excellent point:

Levant dismisses suggestions from some editors that they don't like to offend religious groups. He points to the current cover of Rolling Stone, with rapper Kanye West portrayed as Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns.

"The difference is when they offend Christianity, Christians write a letter to the editor or maybe invite them out for lunch and try to appeal to them," said Levant, who is Jewish. "What the Muslim world has demonstrated over the last month is that they will get violent."

Again, I'm not saying that newspapers deliberately going out and stirring contoversy is a good thing. But they do have the right to provoke, and the right to offend. Such is the freedom of the press. I may not agree with it or how responsibly they use it, but the press does have that right.

I also think that the press has been very selctive in exercising religious discretion. The Rolling Stone cover Mr. Levant mentions is hardly difficult to find.

I can appreciate where Muslims can be offended - I would be offended by similar depictions of the founder of my church, or of Jesus Christ. But looking at the cartoons actually published by the Danish newspaper, they are pretty mild compared to some depictions of Christ and Christianity that were committed in the to name of art, and on the taxpayer dime (through an NEA grant to the sick individual responsible) to boot.

What this furor has exposed is there is something wrong with a significant portion of those who call themselves Muslims. That so many could be whipped into such a frenzy bodes ill for us all. If anyone proves more successful in placing himself at the forefront of popular Islam, and succeeds in mobilizing that support, will make the Crusades look like child's play.

[An aside: Cases like that above are what make me nervous about "hate crime" laws. There's been a big hullabaloo here in Utah for years over this. But we are charging a person for their thoughts - not their actions. And that makes me nervous. Criminalize acts - cross-burning, vandalism, cold-blooded murder - not thoughts. Just my two cents.]

UPDATE: Andrew Stuttaford has more on Denmark and their abandonment in today's NRO.

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