Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Letter and the Law

More sanity and even-handedness from Random Platitudes on the Danish cartoon controversy today. In part six, our Danish insider takes us through the some of the diplomatic wrangling surrounding the post-cartoon crisis and takes a look at the inner workings of the Danish parliament as well.

RP directs his attention to Muslim calls for blasphemy laws amidst the unrest following the publishing and subsequent republishing of the caricatures of Muhammad.
Demonstrating a lack of understanding of basic principles of civil liberties, the Muslim countries began to put pressure on the UN and the EU to adopt resolutions intended to prevent or prohibit the defamation of religions—in effect, to make the UN and EU adopt laws against blasphemy, superseding freedom of the press.
I would agree that such pressure from Muslim groups constitutes a lack of understanding of the basic principles of civil liberties, but, for those of you still insisting that this is a "clash of civilizations", it bears pointing out that such a move hardly constitutes a lack of understanding of European culture. Europe is absolutely rife with anti-blasphemy laws, even if many of them are rarely invoked.

Denmark, for example, has a law against anyone who "publicly offends or insults a religion that is recognized in the country," punishable with fines and up to four months in jail. Norway mandates six months in jail for blasphemers. Britain just tried (and failed, thank God—so to speak) to enact a law against inciting religious hatred. Germany's anti-blasphemy law was invoked as recently as 1994 "to ban a musical comedy that ridiculed the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception by portraying crucified pigs." Italy has a law against "outrage to a religion," which was successfully used to prosecute the journalist Oriana Fallaci over her anti-Islam comments. The oh-so-tolerant Netherlands bans "scornful blasphemy," you can get six months for ridiculing a religion in Austria, and "publicly offending a person's religious feelings" could land you in the slammer for two years in Poland.

The crux of part six is a diplomatic letter written by Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt that was sent to various international organizations and made clear that Egypt was not "asking for judicial retribution to be visited on Jyllands-Posten or the caricaturists." RP's suggestion is that the Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, may have withheld this information from the Danish parliament in an attempt to "score points in domestic politics, by appealing to the xenophobic trends among the voters." Not only was this move "amazingly short-sighted", it may have actually been illegal.

For details on that, read RP's post.
Listed on BlogShares