Posted on January 12, 2006

The Economist’s Surrender

Robert Spencer,, January 12, 2006

Several weeks ago I wrote about how some cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper became an international incident. At stake is much more than some cartoons; this matter has become a test case for the continued viability of freedom of speech in Western countries. And now The Economist has written about the story in a way that reveals the biases and false assumptions so prevalent in the public discourse today.

As Islamic terrorism and jihad violence spread all over the globe, The Economist has doggedly maintained its tone of blame-the-West-first dhimmitude. Instead of seeing the cartoon controversy as another threat to freedom of speech in the West, it places the onus all on Danish racism and xenophobia. The spin starts in the lead sentence: “For much of last year, various squabbles have simmered over several prominent Danes’ rude comments about Islam.”

Imagine you are a writer for The Economist, sitting down to write your story about the cartoon controversy. What is this story about? You could start it with a reference to the Van Gogh murder and the chill on free speech about Islam in Europe. Or you could refer to one of the many anti-Christian broadsides lauded in European art museums and on its airwaves, and the stout defenses of freedom of speech that the likes of The Economist published in the face of any Christian protest. You could refer to the menacing rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and to increasing intimidation by Islamic thugs.

Or you could cast the whole thing all as being about “rude comments about Islam.” Yes, of course! That’s it! How could non-Western non-Christians, largely non-white, be anything but victims!

And so The Economist story got its proper lead. Then it follows with this: “Now a schoolboy prank . . . ” Oh, so that’s what it was. Not a trial balloon to see if free speech still existed in Europe. Not an attempt to defend it against attack. Just a schoolboy prank. Those idiotic schoolboys at Jyllands-Posten! Don’t they realize they’re playing with fire? “Now a schoolboy prank by a newspaper has landed the prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in the biggest diplomatic dispute of his tenure in office.”


The Economist makes sure you know that Denmark is not right-thinking: “In a country where a member of parliament can liken Muslims to “cancer tumours” and still not lose her seat, unfettered public debate is seen as normal.” Ah, see, Denmark is just sort of unhinged, you see. They have mad members of Parliament and schoolboy pranksters running newspapers. Really, they need to rein themselves in a little. “Danes, like most people, cherish their freedom of speech. But their secular society may have blinded them to some people’s religious sensitivities. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, a former foreign minister, laments his country’s lack of manners.” Is that what it was—lack of manners? Well, no one wants to be unmannerly. Danish secularism has gotten out of hand, you see, that’s all. The Danes just have to recover their manners. Did The Economist pontificate about manners and religious sensitivities during the Piss Christ controversy? Somehow I rather think it didn’t.


CAIRO—Norwegian Muslims on Wednesday, January 11, blasted an obscure magazine for echoing a Danish daily and publishing a set of caricatures offending Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

“The Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) condemns in the strongest possible terms the publishing of such offensive cartoons by Magazinet,” SIC Head Mohammad Hamdan told over the phone from Oslo.

The Christian magazine on Tuesday, January 10, published the same cartoons that caused uproar in the Muslim world after first emerged in Denmark’s mass circulation Jyllands-Posten last September.

It printed the blasphemous cartoons in the name of “freedom of expression.”

“What on earth does freedom of expression mean?” A furious Hamadan wondered.

“What is the real motive behind this act? Is it out of free speech or to insult Muslims who make up the largest minority in Norway?”

Hamdan said it is crystal-clear that the publishers want to trigger a sectarian sedition inside peaceful Norway.

“These caricatures do no good for Muslims, Christians or even atheists, but will only shake the national unity to its foundations,” he said.

He went on: “The prophet himself will not be affected by such provocative drawings, which are aimed at today’s Muslims.”

Twelve cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad in different settings appeared in Jyllands-Posten on September 30.

In one of the drawings, an image assumed to be that of the Prophet appeared with a turban shaped like a bomb strapped to his head.

The blasphemous images have drawn rebuke from the Muslim minority and triggered a diplomatic crisis between Denmark and Arab and Muslim countries.


Hamadan said these cartoons must have been published by a bunch of “extremists” in the Christian magazine.

“We never heard of this magazine and had it not been for news agencies, we wouldn’t have known about the publishing,” Hamadan said.

He noted that this magazine did in no way speak for the Christian community in Norway.

“Some Christian organizations have already denounced in statements the magazine’s act and distanced themselves from it,” the Muslim leader said.

“Editors should not take free speech as an excuse to insult a certain religion; otherwise they risk an extremist response from the offended, which carries grave consequences.”

On politicians’ stance on the offensive cartoons, Hamadan said Muslims await a strong and clear condemnation.

“I’m confident that the ministers here will give heartfelt condemnation unlike their peers in Denmark,” he said in reference to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller.

Hamadan said the Danish premier’s stance on the cartoons was not “positive”

“He only moved after mounting pressures from the Muslim world and to protect Danish investments in Arab and Muslim countries,” he said.

“Rasmussen himself had refused to receive a delegation of Muslim ambassadors over the issue,” he recalled.

Rasmussen urged the Danish people in a New Year address to practice their right to freedom of speech without inciting hatred against Muslims or other minorities.

Hamdan further said that a lawyer currently studies the possibility of suing the magazine under relevant Norwegian laws.

Danish Muslims are planning to take their legal battle against the Jyllands-Posten daily to the country’s federal attorney general and the EU human rights commission after loosing a local case.

Al-Azhar, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, has vowed to raise the issue of the provocative caricatures with the UN and international human rights organizations.

(The offending cartoons are below.)