Thursday, March 09, 2006

Realpolitik on the 'Arab Street'

After a bit of a break, Random Platitudes is back with part five of his dissection of the Muhammad cartoon controversy, providing an interesting and valuable look at events from a Danish historian and lecturer.

In part five, the crisis is just erupting across the world and Danish embassies in Muslim countries are coming under attack.
It may be a coincidence that the first two locations where the demonstrations turned from protest to violent attack on embassies were in Syria and Lebanon. It may likewise be coincidental that insufficient local police were present to deter the demonstrators from the attacks.
I think RP is being too kind by half, but it's fair to assume that he doesn't believe in coincidences in this particular case. What RP adds to the debate here is a solid reason for why Syria, Lebanon and, later, Iran, would have some of the most conspicuous riots.
That the first attacks on embassies take place in Syria (and its dependent neighbour, Lebanon) and Iran coincides remarkably with the interests of precisely the two countries with most to gain from pressuring the weakest member of the UNSC.
The UNSC issue is covered in more detail in part three.

RP is also one of the few commentators to note that the cartoons were a popular cause not only for Islamic fundamentalists, but for anti-Islamic bigots as well, who embraced the "inevitable need for a major war between Islam and the West (as if either of these two concepts were monolithic entities)."

Part five also contains an interesting anecdote about a squabble within Jyllands-Posten between Flemming Rose, the man behind the initial publishing of the cartoons, and editor-in-chief Carsten Juste. When Iran decided to test free speech in the West by holding a contest for the "best" Holocaust cartoons, Rose, "in interviews with CNN and the Danish TV2 on February 8 2006, had declared that Jyllands-Posten was ready to publish the results of the contest in its pages." Unfortunately for Rose, he made this commitment without the knowledge of Juste, who promptly disavowed his comments. Rose was, as RP puts it, "sent off 'on vacation.'"

RP wonders whether this decision shows that Jyllands-Posten has limits to what they will print and if it exposes an anti-Islam bias on the part of the paper. He also entertains the possibility that the decision not to print the Holocaust cartoons could "reasonably be viewed as an attempt to put an end to the crisis by avoiding further provocations of any kind—a sensible act on the part of the beleaguered newspaper editor."

As usual, RP is provocative and fair-minded. This series is well worth a look.
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