THE re-publication of the cartoons that depict Prophet Muhammad in an offensive manner this week by several European newspapers, out of so-called solidarity with the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten which had printed them originally four months ago, was a stupid and equally offensive move.
Of course, this was all done in the name of freedom of expression, which is always a convenient excuse to shield oneself from criticism for having offending views. I have now seen the cartoons myself, and they are crass, stupid and offensive. So why publish them in the first place? Just to prove that Islam can be lampooned just as much as Christianity and Judaism have been? I find that hard to believe in this era of great tension between the West and the Muslim world.
Most British newspapers led with this controversy on their front pages on Friday, with The Times dubbing it the "Cartoon wars and the clash of civilizations." I wouldn't go so far as that, but it certainly does not help relations between the West and the Islamic world in this post-9/11 era.
While millions of Muslims have been rightly angered by the continued re-publication of the cartoons across Europe, their threats against Danish interests and Danes, and other Europeans in the Middle East is something unacceptable that no Arab government should allow to go unchecked. There were reports that two employees of a Danish dairy company in Saudi Arabia had been attacked by angry customers. They were not badly hurt, but that is beside the point. Muslims reacting violently to every perceived slightagainst Islam is not the appropriate way of responding.
The best response would have been to just ignore the crappy cartoons and no one would have even noticed them. But I also do understand the need to respond when one feels so greatly insulted. In fiercely secularized Europe there is such a disconnect between faith and the right to freedom of expression that attacks on religious figures are regarded by many as a right that cannot be criticized.
This leads to fascism of another kind: That of the rabid supporters of secularism that believe they are always right and everyone else be damned.
Well I have a revelation for those people: Muslims have not reached that level of disconnect yet, nor I suspect would they hope to.
The region-wide boycott of Danish products is a legitimate response to the slander of the prophet, and should be as far as protests go. The loss of business in such a large market as Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries should send the Danes a clear message that Muslims don't take lightly to being maligned.* * *BY coincidence I was visiting The Guardian's head office in London on Tuesday and had the chance to sit in on their morning editorial conference where the story-lineup for the next day's issue was being discussed. A Canadian journalist who works for the paper brought up the cartoons at the meeting, and suggested quite strongly that The Guardian reprint the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish paper and to support freedom of expression.I'm happy to report that she received looks of shock and dismay from most at the meeting, who I think rightly believed that reprinting the cartoons would have only added fuel to the fire and unnecessarily offended Muslims for no obvious gain.
* * *THE day before that, I and 10 other Chevening Fellows spent the day at the House of Lords as guests of two law lords, Lord Hope and Lord Brown. Law lords are judges who sit in what is effectively the highest court of the land.As part of the ongoing reforms of the British government started by Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party, a Supreme Court will be established in two years time separate from the House of Lords. This is a bold step for a country that still does not have a written constitution per se, and which only passed the Human Rights Act several years ago guaranteeing certain rights and freedoms.We were allowed to sit on a session of one of the Privy Council's judicial panels that was hearing a criminal case from Trinidad and Tobago. The Council is the highest court of appeals for cases from certain Commonwealth countries.We also sat in on a controversial divorce case called Miller v Miller, which was heard by a panel of law lords which included the sole female among them, Baroness Hale.Finally, we watched the actual House of Lords in session, which was debating a newly proposed ID card scheme that is proving controversial. Until today, Britons are not required to carry a national ID card with them at all times. Labour wants sophisticated ID cards introduced that would have the bearer's fingerprints and eye scans included in them on a microchip. Of course civil libertarians are vehemently against this perceived Big Brother intrusion on their lives, and the huge costs involved (around 250 pounds per cardaccording to Lord Hope) have ensured that the bill has not been passed yet.* * *
Munich is Zionist Propaganda
I watched Steven Spielberg's latest film Munich last Sunday and must say that I regretted doing so. Although I knew full well that it was the story of the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics after they were taken hostage by Palestinian commandos, and the alleged subsequent hunting down of them by the Israeli secret service Mossad, I still wanted to see the movie.
So many of the reviews had stressed how Spielberg had tried to be even-handed with the Palestinians, and had allegedly tried to show their human side.
What bullocks! None of the Palestinians killed in the film are even remotely humanized by the director. If allowing one of them to make an impassioned plea about returning to seized homes in Palestine for a mere two minutes in a movie that just keeps going on and on is considered even-handed, then I don't know what planet Spielberg is on.
Eric Bana as the leader of the Mossad hit-team is far too young to be believable in such a weighty role. Undoubtedly he was cast as the lead because of his hunky good looks that the producers probably thought would bring in the women viewers.
Not only is he too young, but his emotional range of acting is also quite limited. Throughout the movie he seems to be cracking up and the scene near the end of the film where he worriedly asks his handler, played by Geoffrey Rush, whether the Mossad was sure that the seven Palestinians he has helped kill were really involved in the planning of attacks on Israelis, one just wants to crack-up in disbelief at such a late attack of conscience. Shouldn't Bana have asked those questions before blindly accepting IsraeliPrime Minister Golda Meier's request to lead the mission?
At least 30 minutes could be comfortably shaved off Munich without affecting the storyline. Horrible choppy editing takes the viewer from one assassination to another. The final straw for me was when one of the members of the Mossad hit team says that Jewish blood is sacred and that it is justified to spill non-Jewish blood in order to protect Jews. What nonsense, but then what should I have expected from a director who said he made the film for Israel and the Jews? Zionist propaganda indeed.