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I'm trying hard not to fall for the current meme and write about the infamous 12 cartoons of prophet Mohammed.
scroll down for the cartoons themselves and some discussion on what they mean, and btw they're not all bad.
instead I'd like to share with you what my friends Tomas Krag said about the whole fiasco in a couple of emails.
At Africa Source II Tomas used to joke about Danish society his pitch was that Denmark is a fairy tale land with no real industry and their only important export was the song Barby Girl, this lead to him writing the international smash hit Access Girl, while reading about the boycott movement the only thing I could think of was WOW we found products to boycott??
it seems our little fairy tale nation has finally managed to get some real enemies ;-)
Yesterday i was sitting with some friends here in denmark, and we were laughing out loud, at what, from our perspective seems like the childish arguments of 6 year old children. The absurdity is on all sides.
The danish press for apparently thinking that freedom of speech means "duty to speak". The duty to say everything that can be said. The complete lack of respect for other people, in the name of "freedom of speech" is childish at best.
The danish prime minister, for first refusing to apologize, claiming that an apology on behalf of the danish people would be the same as admitting that freedom of speech is wrong. Never before have i heard a worse explanation. I mean isn't it OK to be sorry for hurting someones feelings, without admitting that what you said was illegal, or somehow unright?
The danish people for thinking the world should immediately rise to the "outrage". The loss of a few hundred danish jobs due to lost feta-cheese exports, the "poor" danish factory workers losing their jobs because the muslim world is boycotting danish products. Not 10 years ago the entire nation was boycotting feench wines as a protest to the french nuclear testing, and everyone said that the lost jobs amongst french wine-farmers was regrettable but necessary. But now, that this hits the luxury of fairy-tale denmark, we are all up in arms.
Every muslim who boycot's danish produce, not wanting to understand that we do have freedom of press here, but that doesn't mean that what a newspaper writes is the opinion of the people. In fact, most danes have spoken out against these pathetically trite and boring pictures. I wish some middle eastern newspapers would just get on with showing the former danish prime minister (during world war 2) in a nazi uniform, or a typical danish viking raping and pillaging the villagers, or jesus with the sword of a crusader killing inncoent people, and then we could all laugh at the sadness of it all.
I also hope the particular danish newspaper that printed this crap never sells another paper, but that is unlikely to happen....
But most of all, i hope this goes away quietly, that no violence is caused by it, and that it doesn't make travelling too much more difficult for me as a dane :-)
>the first one is just a drawing. doesn't fit with what mohammed should >look like IMO but nothing wrong with it.
sure, it's a simple, fairly well drawn picture of a non-descript person of middle eastern descent.
>second one I'm not sure about, >is it a hallo that turned into horns? or is it the islamic crescent used >as a hallo?
I'm guessing it's a crescent turned into a halo. And the guy has a certain "who, me?" look in his eyes. There's a danish idiom which is "to polish ones halo" which basically means trying to make yourself seem holy (as in morally clean) and innocent when describing your own actions. There'ّs hardly anything insulting in it, it's just a bit boring and trite.
>third one is just abstract drawing,pretty meaningless, interesting >though to see that islam == ottoman for the artist, the crescent and >star is a turkish ottoman emblem these symbols came into use hundreds >of years after the death of the prophet but what do danes know.
sure, but then everyone in the world depicts danes as vikings with horns in their helmets, although not a single viking is likely to have ever worn horns in their helmets. In a way the art of abstract charicature is defined by stereotypes, and while this is hardly intelligent, it is a natural, and something that our society teaches us to use in many circumstances. The entire works of disney are based on prejudices and preconceptions, as is most modern comedy and art. So in some sense to criticize a cartoonist for using popular stereotypes in what is essentially a humourous artform, would be to criticise him for trying to be humourous. I think a number of these cartooniusts were trying not to be political about their depictions, but to make them "funny" or at least interesting to danisg readers. 12 historically correct depictions of mohammed wouldn't really be interesting.
In other words, what i am trying to say is that there must be 2 levels in this:
- Primarily one must decide whether even depicting mohammed is ok, when so large a group of muslims consider this blasphemous. I basically think doing so is fine, if it is done in a reasonably sane way. Even trying to be funny about it is ok, if consideration is made towards those who might not find it funny. After all the newspapers readership is the danish population, and they never expected this to reach the world as it did.
- secondarily, depicting a religious symbol in obviously degrading circumstances is,as you say, vile, and shouldn't be done under any normal circumstances.
>the fourth is just plain vile, what's with the big eyebrows thing? I >thought this kind of cartoon stereotype thing was so last millennium, >and the women did not cover up this way back then, they may or may not >have covered the same amount but the dresses looked very different from >what they see today (which is mainly influenced by pakistan and afghan >dress code).
This one is unfortunate, especially because it probably depicts many danes idea of what the middle east looks like. Dark-skinned, bearded men with crescent-shaped knifes and women dressed head-to-toe in black. But perhaps it was actually meant as a sarcastic comment on the whole idea of depicting mohammed? An extreme stereotype as a way to illustrate the stupidity of the typical stereotype? One can always hope. Basically it is important to undewrstand that much of danish humour is based on depicting extremely exaggerated stereotypes. Of unemployed drunken danes, of the royal family, of rich people in their villas along the coast north of copenhagen, of farmers, and city-boys, and also of immigrants and foreigners. Sarcasm and exagerated stereotypes are all anyone ever laughs at here.
In some ways for this picture I could find an explanation for what the artist was thinking, and why he came up with the design he did that isn't evil or vile. If he was drawing something, and wanted to illustrate how silly prejudice and stereotypes can be, perhaps that is exactly the drawing he would draw. And the same artist might draw a danish tourist as a bumbling viking heading to ibiza to rape and pillage, or even draw jesus as a crusader. I am not sure that this is actually what the artist was thinking, but one of my favourite quotes, is also one of my basic rules of life:
"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity." - Nick Diamos
>fifth, hahaha is that typical of danish humor? and what with the soltan >look, he was a freaking poor desert dweller, they did not become an >empire until the guy died, imagine wearing that stuff when you live in >a tent in the arabian desert.
Maybe, after 1500 years in heaven he has replaced his clothes :-) I think this look comes from the cartoon Iznogoud by Goscinny about the Grand Vizier who wants to be Caliph.
>six is translated, apparently the artis is called mohammed and is of >iranian origin, very smart, a great hack IMO. pitty it was lost on all >the angry muslims.
Yes, the guy in the drawing is supposed to be Mohammed from the 7th grade in a school in copenhagen (Valbyskole) known for having a high percentage of immigrant kids. It is quite funny actually, and a clever hack.
>seven I don't get.
The way i see it, this is a self-portrait of the artist drawing mohammed, and trying to cover up the drawing with his left hand,. while he is sweating (obviously from fear). In retrospect this is actually probably one of the cleverest drawings. It is a comment on the fact that there are things you cannot write or draw without risking severe consequences in the world today, and as such is one of the only drawings that is actgually a comment on the importance of free speech. In other words he is illustrating his awareness of the "dangers" involved in drawing mohammed. In retrospect, given the reaction, quite clever.
>eight can you translate that stuff?
It's quite hard to make out in the version you have, but basically this is a police line-up of people, including some very well-known danish politicians (nr. 2 is the head of the danish right-wing party, Poeples Party), and number 6 is supposed to be the stereotypical bearded, black-haired muslim again.
The guy in front is looking at the police lineup and saying "Hmm, I can't really recognize him" It must be some comment on the constant danish misconception that immigrants are the cause of all the crime in danish society, but io don't quite get it.
WikiPedia says: Not all people in the line-up are immediately identifiable. They are: 1) Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen 2) Politician Pia Kjوrsgaard 3) Possible Jesus 4) Possible female Buddha 5) Possible Muhammad 6) Imam Fatih Alev 7) Journalist Kهre Bluitgen, carrying a sign saying: "Kهres PR, ring og fه et tilbud" ("Kهre's public relations, call and get an offer")
>9 needs translation also, and did he get paid to draw that?
The text on this one is a small poem, it's not easy to translate, but here's an attempt:
not quite sane
who keeps women
WikiPedia says: The poem goes in the lines of: "Prophet! daft and dumb, keeping woman under thumb"
>10 haha again, and castle, elaborate dresses, why is it difficult to >understand the concept of 1500 years of history? I mean you want to >believe mohammed sucks or is evil fine with me, but you want to believe >he looks like an ottoman soltan fantasy that byron or hollywood sold to >you then you're just plain stupid.
Sure, but as I mentioend earlier, stereotypes are just a form of humour, and I wouldn't take it too seriously. I don't even think the drawing is supposed to be of mohammed, it's just some random sheik character saying to his soldiers not to worry about the drawing of mohammed he is holding in his hand, because it was just drawn by some crazy-ass danish farmer in fairy-tale country.
WikiPedia says: ...while Muhammad addresses them with: "Rolig, venner, nهr alt kommer til alt er det jo bare en tegning lavet af en vantro sّnderjyde" ("Calm, friends, all being said it is just a drawing made by an infidel Southjute"). Southjute being a person from South Jutland and a common Danish expression to describe a person from nowhere, e.g. the provincial part of Denmark.
>11 vile vile vile, what with the eyebrows? and no research again, >turban, wrong looks (mohammed had long smooth hair).
This is the one all the debate in denmark is about. It's inexcusable, completely vile, and lower than the lowerst place i can imagine going. It is equivalent of a drawing of a jew being gassed with stacks of money coming out his pockets, or a stalinist draweing of a typical greedy capitalist stealing from children before being crushed by the hones and truthful communist hero.
No excuse can save that from being despicable, and in my opinion this is the only one of the drawings that is really bad, whereas many of the others are just stupid or misunderstood, this one is pure evil, bigoted racism.
>12 I don't get it, who is thi guy with the PR-Stunt turban?
It's eaither a self-portrait of the artist, or it's the editor of the Jyllands Posten newspaper, i am unsure.
WikiPedia says: Another shows Kهre Bluitgen (the guy who wrote the book, failed to find an illustrator, cried to the newspaper and started the whole ordeal) , wearing a turban with the proverbial orange dropping, with the inscription "pr stunt". An "orange in the turban" is a Danish proverb meaning "a stroke of luck." In his hand is a stick drawing of Muhammad.
off course Tomas is right, I got very angry at the drawings being historically incorrect loosing track of myself, check these images of the prophet (some of them beautiful) mostly from Persian and Turkish culture), he is obviously drawn looking Persian and wearing Persian cloths or Turkish and wearing Turkish cloths. Everytime I travel to Africa I see images of Jesus and the virgin marry as black Africans, I know this is different from the cartoons but the point is it was silly to except and demand accurate portrayals.