The Cartoons Conspiracy

The story behind the story of the furor over the Muhammad cartoons

The spreading violence—including deaths—ignited by cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten has created, as Danish foreign minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says, "a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments."

In this country, there is an intense debate among newspapers and their readers about whether these cartoons should be printed here, further offending Muslims. The New York Times and others have decided not to run them, choosing instead to describe them in words. That decision has also been made by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune.

By contrast, The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a cartoon showing Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb, and has linked to all 12 of the cartoons on its website, philly.com. Its editor, Amanda Bennett, insists it's necessary to provide essential context for this obviously important news story.

Two of the cartoons were in the February 2 New York Sun. But the editor of the New York Press, Harry Siegel, and three colleagues resigned when the owner killed the illustrated piece.

To get the whole story, it's also necessary to explain why the first huge wave of multi-country violence began in early February—even though the inflammatory cartoons ran in the Danish newspaper back in September!

First, as to whether to print the cartoons in the U.S., this is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment becomes involved only when the government tries to prevent publication. There is no state action when the editor of any newspaper decides whether or not to publish anything. In a crucial case, Miami Publishing Companyv. Tornillo (1974), Chief Justice Warren Burger, hardly a notable admirer of the press, wrote for the Supreme Court:

"The choice of material to go into a newspaper, and the decisions made as to . . . content . . . constitutes the exercise of editorial control and judgment."

The resignation on personal principle of the four journalists on the New York Press was a rare and admirable act of conscience. However, as The New Yorker 's press critic A.J. Liebling famously explained, the only persons who can exercise absolute freedom of the press are "those who own one."

If I were an editor of a newspaper, I would publish the cartoons—within the context of the entire story.

To begin, the three cartoons that have most enraged Muslims around the world were not among the original 12 in the Danish newspaper. Imams in Denmark toured the Middle East with these additional cartoons—Muhammad as a demonic pedophile; Muhammad with a pig snout; a Muslim at prayer raped by a dog—to show, they said, the degree of hatred in Denmark of Muslims. (They also brought the original 12.)

As Irshad Manji, a Muslim and author of The Trouble with Islam Today (St. Martin's Press), explained, "They tried to stir up unrest in Muslim countries."

But these imam agitators didn't create all this boiling turmoil by themselves. The front-page New York Times story behind the story on February 9—"At Mecca Meeting Cartoon Outrage Crystallized"—didn't get to the core of how these tumultuous demonstrations were set up by an organization of Muslim countries to increase the power of the jihadists who have hijacked much of the Muslim religion.

The day before the February 9 New York Times story about cartoons published in Denmark in September suddenly leading to headlines of rage and destruction around the world months later, I heard from John Eibner, director of the Zurich-based Christian Solidarity International. It was Eibner and CSI who, for years, were the primary source throughout the world of information about slavery in the south of Sudan, as I often wrote in the Voice.

Eibner and his colleagues also redeemed thousands of slaves who had been taken by the genocidal National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.

What John Eibner told me is also partly in a letter from him to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, which I have not yet seen reported in the press:

"The role of the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), representing 57 Muslim states, in creating a climate for violent confrontation over the cartoons [was shown when] the OIC set the stage for anti–free speech demonstrations at its extraordinary summit in Mecca in December 2005. The Muslim states resolved, through these many demonstrations, to pressure through a program of joint Islamic action, international institutions, including the U.N., to criminalize insults of Islam and its prophet. [Emphasis added.]

"In its final resolution, in Mecca, the OIC focused on the satirical caricatures of Muhammad (published in Denmark in September), which are now being used as a pretext for acts of violence.

"On the 4th of February—?the day the mob violence commenced—the Organization of Islamic Conference described publication of the caricatures as acts of ‘blasphemy.' Blasphemy is punishable by death, according to Shariah law."

With the game plan set at the Mecca summit, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, and Qatar (and its Al Jazeera network) went on to feed the flames. There was indeed outrage, but there had been no such outbursts in those countries when the Egyptian newspaperAl Fager published the cartoons on its October 17 front page!

The Organization of Islamic Conference's goal is to inhibit criticism of Islamic jihadism by threats of violence. It's beginning to work. On February 9, the European Union called for a voluntary code of conduct to avoid offending Muslims. On the same day, Kofi Annan agreed with an OIC proposal mandating that a revised U.N. Human Rights Council "prevent instances of intolerance discrimination, incitement of hatred and violence . . . against religions, prophets, and beliefs." The language is intentionally very broad.

This would enforce censorship by U.N. members and NGOs (nongovernmental organizations there) against purported defamation of Muslims in print and other forms of speech.

Before these yieldings to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Eric Fettman, on the editorial board of the New York Post, predicted: "Showing sudden sensitivity in the face of the murderous mobs . . . is to effectively endorse violent intimidation of the press." To some extent, this has already begun.

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