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2006-03-03

The French expert on Islam and terror, Gilles Kepel, is interviewed by Jyllands-Posten about the twelve satanic cartoons (my translation):

Cartoons are used in a power struggle

[...]»In the Muslim world people are caught in a logic of outbidding, which is reminiscent of both the Salman Rushdie-affair and the murder of Theo van Gogh. The radical groups do everything to put their governments on the defensive by appearing as the true defenders of Islam, when they see caricature drawings such as yours.« explains Gilles Kepel

»They force the governments to strengthen their Islamic dimension. The same thing happened during the Rushdie-case. At that time everybody tried to outdo each other in hostile statements against Rushdie, until Iran's ayatollah Khomeini seized the issue in order to cultivate his own interests. He pulled the carpet from under everybody else by issuing a fatwa, which sentenced Rushdie to death.
the pencil that drew Mohammed
"It's the one that was used to draw Mohammed!!!"
The drawing gets another dimension when you realize it was made by Rasmus Sand Høyer

Khomeini's coup

Gilles Kepel thinks we have to go back a quarter of a century, in order to understand what is happening in the Middle East. 1989 became the decisive watershed in the relation between Islam and the West - he thinks - because this was the year of Khomeini's death sentence over Rushdie - and later the fall of the Berlin wall.

»Normally a fatwa only applies within the area where an imam has a political role. By issuing a fatwa against a person living outside the Muslim world, Khomeini matter of factly extended the Muslim world to the whole world« says Gilles Kepel.

»The fatwa was issued February 14., the day before the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. At that time Khomeini had lost the fight to become the undisputed leader of radical Islam. He hadn't been able to export the Islamic revolution, and he had to sign an armistice with Saddam Hussein i Iraq.«

Furthermore, the Shiite Muslim and strongly anti-American Khomeini had to live with the fact that it was Sunni Muslim rebels, who with support from USA had beaten the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

»So he used to story about Rushdie's blasphemy to dominate the media image. He wanted to appear as the hero in an Islam under siege. It worked. The fatwa received much more mention than the Soviet withdrawal, even though the retreat in reality paved the way for the fall of Communism and made the Red Army look like a paper tiger« says Kepel.

The only Values

A case like Jyllands-Posten's prophet-drawings can therefore also quickly turn into a question of controlling media.

»Most of those who are protesting have, without a doubt, never seen the drawings, but the affair nourishes a feeling of being under siege. The Muslim world is marked by a bizarre ambivalence. On the one hand, the preachers promise that one day Islam will triumph all over the world, on the other hand, Muslims feel they are being treated badly. In that atmosphere all criticism of Islam is regarded as blasphemy. And the caricatures aren't innocent. They are part of the very strong religious tensions that are predominant in these years.«

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