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Endless provocation

Filed on February 14, 2008

THE only possible reason for Danish newspapers’ decision to republish controversial caricatures that ignited worldwide violent protests two years ago can be deliberate provocation. Publishers’ claim that a number of Danish papers’ decision to reprint cartoons insulting the Prophet of Islam was a combined show of their commitment to freedom of speech is ridiculous.

The Danish publishers have sought to justify their action as a protest against the alleged murder plot against one of the cartoonists. We find it hard to believe this nonsense. Even if there is some truth in the alleged plot against the cartoonist, this action by the Danish newspapers is totally indefensible and deserves to be condemned in strongest terms. News reports indicate that just as the cartoons were hitting stalls across Denmark, their security and intelligence service was conducting raids against would-be killers.

Considering this account is an accurate depiction of events, how the decision to further hurt and anger Muslim sentiment will improve the antagonists’ position is difficult to understand. It is clear that in face of certain extremist tendencies that made themselves apparent in and around 9/11, much of the freedom and democracy loving West has overreacted and adopted more extreme positions than those they are supposedly confronting.

Now, if there is a fresh wave of protests, will they counter by printing more obscene and unacceptable material and continue an exercise that breeds only hatred and violence instead of tolerance and understanding? It is clear that editors behind this move have displayed a despicable level of ignorance as their actions stand to sour the atmosphere in an environment just returning to normal.

Muslims, for their part, must exercise restraint and not take the bait of provocation that is, in all likelihood, meant only to lure them into further violence and subsequent disrepute. These are already testing times with much at stake. Indulging in a fool’s action-reaction game is a path that seriously needs avoiding. But should swift and severe condemnation not come from influential circles in the West itself, the so-called divide between the West and Muslim world will further deepen with disastrous consequences for both sides.


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