Opinion and Editorial

Threats won’t work

Filed on February 2, 2006

ITíS funny that instead of apologising to the Muslim world over the disrespect shown to the Prophet, Denmark and some EU officials should talk of WTO action against countries such as Saudi Arabia over the boycott of Danish brands and products.

Apparently, despite the worldwide protests, the Scandinavian country and EU mandarins have failed to fathom the depth and intensity of rage over the cartoons in the Muslim world. Or they may have chosen to ignore it.

Whatever the explanation, it is absurd to talk of WTO action against the Muslim countries just because Danish brands and products are facing a boycott there. This is not something orchestrated or enforced by governments in Muslim countries. The boycott is a spontaneous and popular response to the sickening outrage that has emanated from Denmark.

Supermarkets and malls across the Middle East and elsewhere in the Muslim world have taken Danish products and brands off their shelves in view of peopleís sentiments and religious sensitivities. Any way, they had no option but to take them off the shelves when there is no one willing to buy them. Even Carrefour, the French multinational that runs a big chain of supermarkets all over the Middle East, has banished all products by Danish companies of its own accord. Itís therefore patently unfair and irrational to accuse Muslim states of initiating this ban. Governments cannot force supermarkets and malls to sell things that they do not want to or force people into buying things that they donít want to. This is not exactly a celebration of laissez faire, the cornerstone of the European Union.

Just as Denmark claims it cannot interfere with the so-called freedom of expression of Jyllands-Posten , the incredibly insensitive newspaper, Muslim governments cannot be expected to force supermarkets and consumers to buy certain products. After all, consumers have a right to choose, havenít they? Threats and bullying are hardly the most persuasive means to win back consumersí confidence. Denmark will have to do better than this to address the raging anger in the Muslim world.

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