Media

The Cartoons Conspiracy

by

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 Company v. 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 newspaper
Al 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.