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2006-03-02

Rushdie's new manifesto is already receiving a lot of criticism. But these detractors seems to overlook an important point: It doesn't matter what Rushdie said - what matters is that it was said by Rushdie.

The same self-appointed pundits who were eager to defend Rushdie against the Iranian fatwa, has been reluctant to defend the twelve cartoons. As recently as February 15. 2006, Mette Winge, Danish author and member of Danish PEN said on television (Danish text, my translation):

Satire is good, of course, but then you shouldn't use satire, when you know you are going to offend somebody [. . .] The Satanic Verses was a great, wonderful work of a poet. It was great literature. It has an altogether different status than these drawings, which are initiated by Flemming Rose [. . .] The quality is the difference.«

Rushdie by Varvel
This is the "support" given by the left wing to the twelve cartoonists, who currently are living underground: "You can have free speech - as long as you don't use it", "You can't use satire lest people start claiming they are offended" and "Free speech only applies to high brow art".

Danish PEN couldn't agree among themselves on giving Jyllands-Posten this year's Freedom of Speech Award. Instead they gave Jyllands-Posten a "favorable declaration", but this "favorable declaration" was so full of ifs and buts and general criticism that it was more insulting than pleasing to Jyllands-Posten.

One member wouldn't even sign this wishy-washy declaration but posted his own personal dissension. Mette Winge (quoted above) resigned from PEN.

It's all well to defend famous authors whom nobody really reads - but when it comes to defending twelve cartoons, which everybody can instantly understand - then it's suddenly a very different ballgame.

When Rushdie writes, "The recent events, which occurred after the publication of drawings of Muhammed in European newspapers, have revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values" - then he clearly sides with the cartoonists. This hasn't stopped the self-styled intellectuals from insisting that "the Rushdie case was different". But it does expose their hypocrisy.

Let me point out another recent manifesto, written by 11 Canadian Muslim academics and activists - and published in The Toronto Star. Let me just quote two chapters:

The Muslim extremists seized the opportunity and added fuel to fire. The calculated role played by the two Danish Muslim extremists, backed by Islamic fundamentalist regimes, is a case in point. They not only aggravated an already inflammatory situation, but added their own infuriating images, never published in the West, as they took their case to clerics in the Middle East.

Both, Imam Abu Laban and Ahmad Akkari have escaped the attention and scrutiny their acts deserved. These two men, who now sit in the comfort of their homes in Denmark, should be held accountable for their criminal actions.



Added: So far 13 members have left Danish PEN because of disagreement on the Mohammed cartoons. On the other hand, International PEN doesn't have a problem with backing up the cartoons. Cathy McCann states: "This is clearly a case for PEN. We shall fight for their case, monitor, and control that they get the necessary protection..." (to Jyllands-Posten, March 1st 2006)

The reason for Winge's derisive remarks may not be arrogance as much as extraordinary ignorance. She admitted February 15th that she didn't know that culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, had received death threats.

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