South Asia: Reacting to the Danish Cartoons Controversy

The recent controversy over the cartoons perceived to be ridiculing Islam have stirred a whole volley of posts in India. Pickled Politics makes some important points and rounds up reactions from various other blogs. The Predicate has an excellent roundup of the entire situation and says

The Islamic radical extremists have escalated this issue, literally begging for a backlash and public outcry. Had they just politely asked for an apology, they would have probably gotten it and the issue would have ended there. With bomb threats and boycotting Danish goods and fatwas and other potentially violent means, they have pushed people to respond. Now, many more images of Mohammed will show up, public will be more defiant (as people just love to demolish sacred cows).

Mumbai Girl explores some conflicts surrounding taking a stand in the issue.

The conflict between the right to freedom of speech and the harm that it may cause will always exist as it always has. But the contradictions between the two need to be resolved through dialogue about what it means to have a right, to exercise it and to be offended by it, not by adopting defiant postures as several European newspapers have done, or violence and intolerance as some Muslims have done.

Atanu Dey at Deesha outlines the choice of one makes of being offended

My advice to anyone who is offended by the lawful expression of free speech is simple: don’t watch, hear, or read whatever it is you find offensive. Nobody is forcing you to read or watch you find offensive. Reach for the remote and switch the channel. If you cannot find the channel you want, start your own channel. Or newspaper. Or whatever. But for the sake of sanity, keep your sensibilities to yourself if you find free expression offensive. says

Why is Al-Jazeera allowed to broadcast beheadings and a European newspaper being slammed around the globe for showing soom sense of humor? I don't see any Muslims protesting against Al-Jazeera by showing all those bloody tapes and tarnishing the image of their religion? Is it because they want their religion to be feared, just like they've been raised to fear God Almighty…

More reactions at Hardly Innovative. Sadiq reiterates that Islam's take on prophets of any religion would mean that a prophet cannot be the object of ridicule. Mezba says

I believe this is a fantastic opportunity for the Arab world. Cancel the boycott. Announce that any European visiting an Arab country will get a free tourist visa, and can live with an Arab family. Start with the Danes. The Arabs are famous for their hospitality, and many locals will line up to have an European family stay with them.


  • john kactuz

    You want ‘offended’?
    I am offended by the lack of respect that Muslim have for others
    I am offended by the hate and anger in the Quran against non-Muslims
    I am offended by the respect attributed to Mohammed, a man that according to Islam’s own writings (hadiths) was a murderer, torturer, slaver, rapist and wife beater. These things are written by his own followers and admirers. Yes, these are all there – Do your research!
    I am offended that, for Muslims to feel good about their religion, they must restrict my freedom of speech and thought.
    I am offended by the oppression and persecution of other religions in every country where Muslims dominate. I am offended by the severe restrictions against Non-Muslim religious activities in Muslim countries (Are they afraid?)
    I am offended by the hate preached in the mosques and written in Islamic books and pamphlets throughout the Islamic world.
    I am offended by the naked malice in the media of Islamic nations, and their constant portrayal of non-Muslims as demons, including with images far worse then the Danish cartoons.
    I am offended by the treatment of women in Islam and in the Muslim world. I am offended by the fact the so many Muslims consider women and girls second class citizens, denying them educational, political, professional and social rights. I am offended by honor killings, forced marriages, female genital mutilation – all common practices in Islamic societies.
    I am offended by the violence that follows Islam like flies after excrement. I am offended by countless videos of Muslims shouting “Allahu Akbar ” as they behead hostages, shoot innocents and bomb civilians. I am offended by the astronomically high crime rates of Muslims immigrants and their propensity to rape and kill.
    I am offended by the lack of morals within the Muslim community, which will protest, threaten and even kill over silly cartoons about a man their own scriptures say was a murderer, torturer, slaver and wife-beater, and not show any indignation relative to the multitudes of evils in Islamic societies.
    I am offended by the fact that Muslim must blame all their problems on others.
    I am offended by the constant lies and distortions that Muslims tell about their religion and societies. I am offended by the constant excuses Muslims make (out of context, bad translations, you don’t understand, etc.) to hide the vile nature of the Quran.
    I am offended by the constant affirmations that the behavior of some Muslims, who quote from the Quran and practice acts commanded in the Quran, is “un-Islamic”.
    I am offended by the constant denials that terrorism has anything to do with Islam when it enjoys broad support in the Muslim world.
    I am offended when Muslim try to portray Islam as a ‘religion of peace’ when it is by far the bloodiest, most oppressive and repulsive religion on the planet.
    I am offended by the little value given to human life in Islamic countries, where people are killed and beaten and there is no pity or recompense.
    I am offended by Muslims’ need to impose their morality, or better, lack of morality, on others.
    I am offended by the lack of freedom, equality and opportunity in all Islamic societies.
    And so on….

    John Kactuz

    PS: Did you see the 3 extra cartoons that the Imams in Denmark added to the 12 published by the newspaper, and then blamed then on the danes? They were much more vile than any of the original ones. They were added solely to promote hate and anger. Are the Muslims going to protest these? Of course not! Infidels publishing drawings of the prophet bad, Muslims doing the same but worse, good! Pathetic


  • You have the freedom but you should know how to respect others, it is the one the muslims respected, and he did nothing bad to you, why do you wanna blaspheme him. If one culture always wanna pose an patronizing gesture over others, how can the conversation come?

  • Al Jazeera has never broadcast a beheading – is simply repeating a myth and GV shouldn’t just qoute it (and thereby perpetuating the myth)

  • I simply cannot resist this:

    What Would Jesus Do?

    Has the Muslim world ever done anything similar?

    Now that the attention is there… listen. Freedom Of Speech is not a right without responsibility. Abusive relationships shouldn’t be supported, whether the relationship is between two people or two cultures.

    I’m actually sort of surprised that the responses from people have been so benign. I got pretty upset when the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhist statues (I bet someone may popularize that now…), but then I realized that the statues themselves are just things. However, making fun of someone’s religious beliefs demonstrates prejudice, and prejudice is reliant on Freedom of Speech.

    That this has not created more outcry says more to me about global society than it does about the author of the cartoons. This is a very small planet with some very small, shallow-minded people on it.

    An outcry against someone offending someone else is also covered under a Freedom of Speech. It is not censorship. So I think people can stick the ‘defend freedom of speech’ bit back in the same orifice that it came out of. Sure, you don’t have to like it, but it’s YOUR right to express yourself if you are offended.

    Personally, I think the whole thing is detestable, inflammatory, and counterproductive to any global goals – and anyone who effectively states that it is ‘no big deal’ or that it’s right and the other side has no right to express their views – well, that’s exactly the stuff that terrorism is made of. The inability to communicate one’s anger in any other form is repressive, and does not demonstrate a society of ‘Freedom of Speech’.

    And John Kactuz – if you replace ‘Muslim’ with ‘Christianity’, you might get a world view of some non-Christians. Me? I think most people demonstrate how little they know about their own religions by attacking others. But what do I know? :-)

  • […] I’m not surprised that (most of the) bloggers I read in the Middle East are looking for solutions, not screaming in anger. Many people blogging the Middle East are explicitly trying to build bridges with the rest of the world and increase understanding around cultural, religious and language gaps – this situation is one to be overcome for these bridge bloggers. Neha Viswanathan offers a set of reactions on Global Voices from South Asia – Haitham Sabbah, our Middle East editor, is soliciting suggestions on what would bring this situation to a peaceful conclusion from his readers. Let’s hope the sanity of the bloggers can help – even a little bit – to counteract the tendency by commercial media to amplify conflict in situations like this. […]

  • Taran and Ethan, thank you for two sensible posts. I do find the media’s antics distasteful: first they publish without regard to sensibilities; and then they report on the most extreme examples while conveniently ignoring the moderate voices. The two camps seem to be reflected in the comments here: those who think all Muslims are evil, and those who think there are as many idiots in Islam as there are in every other belief system on the planet. Bravo to the bloggers for more accurately reflecting what is going on in our global society.

  • Guddu Kiz

    I am all for freedom of speech and freedom of press. But with freedom comes responsibility. For example, in a number of European countries it is against the law to dispute the Holocaust. Is that law against freedom of speech and press? In Germany, one can get arrested for wearing Nazi insignia in public. In USA and Europe, one can expect official as well as public retribution for publicly expressing anti-semitic views. I wonder if all the so-called affecciandos of free speech and press are familiar with these restrictive laws and official and social taboos in the western world.

  • Guddu… you rocked me back on my heels with that post. That’s a very valid and contextual point… I don’t know more than that. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • I respect Muslims, rather the ones that are not planning to kill me. But I respect free speech also, and not letting free speech be controlled by terror. I believe the Danish people should be proud to freely speak their minds, and I hope they do not let the terrorists take that right from them. Nobody is above any other person, and that includes Muslims, so they need to accept the world will insult them just as freely as they will respect them. I made a game out of the Danish cartoon in response to this. Although the game starts with the introduction from their Prophet, it continues on into a shooting gallery for the ones who gave their Prophet a bad image, such as Osama Bin Laden. Enjoy the game, it is free for any to play, you can find it at my website,

  • ananya

    the extreme reactions seem to arise from a deeper underlying cause of the islamic nation’s failure to prosper inspite of muslims being one of the most disciplined communities.. at the same time it is also surprising that what USA did in iraq did not cause half as many protests as the danish cartoons.. its time people realise what is worth fighting for..

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