The Mid-Atlantic Blog

February 12, 2006

Danish Cartoon Demonstrations

The events of the last few weeks seem to have brought matters that have been bubbling under the public dialogue for some time to a head. Three articles from the Sunday Times...
  1. Public reaction to the events. Basically, we think that this reaction is ridiculous, that publication of the cartoons was the right thing to do, and that a culture of political correctness has affected the policing of radical islamists in the UK
  2. A long piece looking at what the government knew, and the forces that were working on it over the last few years
  3. A very blunt leader.

I must admit to having been chilled yesterday by an interview with one of the spokesmen of the demonstration in central London. Let's be clear - he was a moderate, and is regularly described as such by the media. He was pressed harder than he would have been a month ago (and it's interesting to note that the media have now begun to push harder on these questions than before) as to his goals. Multiple times in the interview he used the phrase "blood and fire" to describe what would happen if the cartoons were not apologised for by both governments and publications - while denying that this was a threat, of course. And towards the end of the interview he began to be clearer that he did, indeed, believe that publication of these cartoons should be illegal.

Now, I don't believe that he supports terrorism, and he does distance himself both in words and in practice from the extremists. And I'm very glad to see that the basic distinctions within the Moslem community are becoming clearer, and that the more moderate groups are beginning to deal with the fringe by demonstrating that they are a small, and dangerous, minority viewpoint.

But what chilled me was that, all that being said, I believe that the type of Britain described by these phrases is one quite some distance from the one that I want to live in. I believe in freedom of speech. I don't like veiled threats. And even though I'm quite serious about my Christian faith (although a blooming awful Christian most of the time), I'm glad I live in a country where there is freedom to criticise all religions. From what he was saying, I'm not sure that he really shares these views.

If this is correct, and these aren't views shared by moderate Moslems then the public debate in this country could get much more difficult over the next few years.


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