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American Newspapers, Will You Please Stand Up?
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***scroll for updates***

Kudos to the Philadelphia Inquirer for braving the forces of political correctness, foreign and domestic, and publishing one of the forbidden Muhammad cartoons. The point that needs to be hammered again and again is that the newspaper did not publish the cartoon to deliberately offend Muslims or to make an anti-Islamist statement, but to inform. Which is what newspapers, may I remind them, are supposed to do:

The Philadelphia Inquirer became the first major American newspaper to publish any of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on Saturday, prompting a small protest outside the newspaper’s offices yesterday morning.

About two dozen demonstrators, holding signs reading “No to Hate” and “Peaceful Protest for Religious Tolerance,” dispersed after about an hour. The organizers said they would be back on Friday unless they received an apology…

…When it became clear that the caricatures were becoming “more, not less, newsworthy,” Ms. Bennett said, the editors decided to publish the cartoon on Saturday so that readers would be better informed about the controversy.

“There’s been a whole history of newspapers publishing things that people would find controversial and offensive,” Ms. Bennett said. “My view is that we need to publish it for a good news reason, we need to publish in context and we need to explain to readers why we did it.”

The New York Sun, as I noted last week, was the first American newspaper to publish any of the cartoons. The paper published two. Here’s the scan:


The Riverside Press-Enterprise, which runs my syndicated column, also ran one of the columns. Thanks to Ben Boychuk, editorial writer at the Press-Enterprise for sending along a scan:

pe-editorial2-1 (2).jpg

The Los Angeles Times, which had reportedly planned to run the cartoons, chose not to do so. The Christian Science Monitor rounds up the excuses from American editors who oppose fully informing their readers about the controversy in the name of “sensitivity” here.

Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News also ran one of the cartoons–but, like CNN, pixelated the image (as if it were porn) to protect readers’ delicate eyes. Funny, I can’t recall any newspapers that pixelated the Abu Ghraib photos. Can you?

Meanwhile, over at the Dallas Morning News blog, Rod Dreher has a number of thoughtful posts on the subject here.

As far as I know, there is still no mainstream American newspaper that has run all 12 forbidden pieces of artwork to give readers a comprehensive look at what the Cartoon Jihad is all about. (Just a reminder that conservative newspaper Human Events online did. Gallery is up here.)

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, that is a pathetic record.

Thank goodness for the Internet.


The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby writes “We are all Danes now” (except for American newspaper editors):

The current uproar over cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper illustrates yet again the fascist intolerance that is at the heart of radical Islam. Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s largest daily, commissioned the cartoons to make a point about freedom of speech. It was protesting the climate of intimidation that had made it impossible for a Danish author to find an illustrator for his children’s book about Mohammed. Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet as sacrilegious, and no artist would agree to illustrate the book for fear of being harmed by Muslim extremists. Appalled by this self-censorship, Jyllands-Posten invited Danish artists to submit drawings of Mohammed, and published the 12 it received.

Most of the pictures are tame to the point of dullness, especially compared to the biting editorial cartoons that routinely appear in US and European newspapers. A few of them link Mohammed to Islamist terrorism — one depicts him with a bomb in his turban, while a second shows him in Heaven, pleading with newly arrived suicide terrorists: ”Stop, stop! We have run out of virgins!” Others focus on the threat to free speech: In one, a sweating artist sits at his drawing board, nervously sketching Mohammed, while glancing over his shoulder to make sure he’s not being watched. Some make no point at all — one simply portrays a man walking with his donkey in the desert.

That anything so mild could trigger a reaction so crazed — riots, death threats, kidnappings, flag-burnings — speaks volumes about the chasm that separates the values of the civilized world from those in too much of the Islamic world. Freedom of the press, the marketplace of ideas, the right to skewer sacred cows, the ability to disagree with what you say while firmly defending your right to say it: Militant Islam knows none of this. And if the jihadis get their way, it will be swept aside everywhere by the censorship and intolerance of sharia.

…Make no mistake: This story is not going away, and neither is the Islamofascist threat. The freedom of speech we take for granted is under attack, and it will vanish if it is not bravely defended. Today the censors may be coming for some unfunny Mohammed cartoons, but tomorrow it is your words and ideas they will silence. Like it or not, we are all Danes now.

Sharon Lapkin at Front Page Magazine:

Freedom of speech is a jewel in the crown of democracy. If the Western world is afraid to speak, write or to draw, it may as well succumb to the oppression and fear that characterizes the Islamic world. Tolerating the intolerable enables the aggressive culture to dominate and it nurtures its agenda of inequity.

Recently, a young Muslim immigrant in the UK was granted a subsidy from the Ministry for Culture to publish a poster advertising his play. He chose to depict a bare-breasted Virgin Mary holding a howling baby and a bowl of blood. And he announced, “I think one should be able to laugh at anything, even at anti-Semitism.”

When the Muslim World League lobbied the UN over a drawing of Mohamed with a burning fuse in his turban while simultaneously demanding respect for the Muslim religion, it appears it was ignoring its own hypocrisy.

In South Africa, newspapers have been barred from publishing Muhammad cartoons:

A South African newspaper is set to challenge a court interdict barring the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, initially printed in Denmark, that have caused angry protests in countries around the world.

On Friday a Muslim group obtained an interim interdict barring Sunday newspapers from reprinting the cartoons. South Africa’s largest newspaper, the Sunday Times, said in a statement that the interdict “pre-empted a decision the newspaper had not yet made”.


The Sunday Times had “opposed the urgent interdict on the grounds that it would not be held to ransom by pressure groups. We are aware of the sensitivities regarding the cartoons, and the editorial team was discussing whether these sensitivities should be given more weight than the right of non-Muslim readers to see the depictions that had caused huge offence in other parts of the world”, the paper said.

“But before we came to a conclusion, we were threatened with the interdict by the Jamiatul Ulama of Transvaal [a council of Muslim theologians]. We declined to give an undertaking not to publish the cartoons, not because we were intent on publishing them, but because we strongly oppose the attempt by any group to edit or censor the newspaper,” the Sunday Times explained.

Had it given an undertaking not to publish, the paper noted, “we would invite similar demands and threats from anyone who felt offended by the stories we publish”. It said no “credible newspaper can be held to ransom by the beliefs of a section of the population”, as a free press was “obliged to reflect the world that we live in – not just part of it”.

The right to publish without fear or favour was enshrined in South Africa’s constitution and fundamental to robust democracy, the paper pointed out.

However, the Johannesburg High Court granted the Jamiatul Ulama an interim court order interdicting the Sunday Times and other newspapers from publishing the offending cartoons, ruling that the right to dignity outweighed the right to freedom of expression in this case.

The Sunday Times said it had “every intention of challenging the ruling when the matter returns to court” later this month.

Another South African paper, the Mail and Guardian, ran the cartoons. Before you dismiss the editor as an anti-Muslim bigot, you should know that she is a Muslim herself: (Hat tip: Marc Landers)

Ferial Haffajee, editor of the Mail and Guardian said she had received abusive letters and text messages. On Friday, South African Muslim activists won an interdict barring another paper, the Sunday Times, from printing the cartoons. The Mail and Guardian published one of the cartoons on its international news page on Friday, to illustrate a story about last week’s protests.

“People have been phoning my mother and exercising pressure through her,” Ms Haffajee told the BBC News website. She said some groups had threatened to march on the newspaper’s offices in Johannesburg.

“It displays a lack of tolerance that is nerve-wracking,” she said. Ms Haffajee said she felt she was being targeted personally because she is herself a Muslim. “There are people out there who feel it is their duty to remind me that there is a hereafter and I will be punished.”

Paul Belien of the indispensable Brussels Journal: Live free or die.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly Die Zeit, has a good piece in the Washington Post–which won’t run the cartoons. Kleine-Brockhoff:

It seems odd that most U.S. papers patronize their readers by withholding cartoons that the whole world talks about. To publish does not mean to endorse. Context matters.

It’s worth remembering that the controversy started out as a well-meaning attempt to write a children’s book about the life of the prophet Muhammad. The book was designed to promote religious tolerance. But the author encountered the consequences of religious hatred when he looked for an illustrator. He could not find one. Denmark’s artists seemed to fear for their lives. In turning down the job they mentioned the fate of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist for harshly criticizing fundamentalism.

When this episode percolated to the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, the paper’s cultural editor commissioned the caricatures. He wanted to see whether cartoonists would self-censor their work for fear of violence from Muslim radicals. Still, the European media ignored this story in a small Scandinavian country. It took months, a boycott of Danish products in the Arab world and the intervention of such champions of religious freedom as the governments of Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya (all of which withdrew their ambassadors from Copenhagen) for some European papers to reconsider their stance on the cartoons. By last week it was not an obscure topic anymore but front-page news. And it wasn’t about religious sensibilities as much as about free speech. That’s when the cartoons started to show up in papers all over Europe.

Much of the U.S. reporting about the fracas made it appear as if Europeans just don’t get it — again. They struggle with immigration. They struggle with religion. They struggle with respect for minorities. And in the end they find their cities burning, as evidenced in Paris. Bill Clinton even detected an “anti-Islamic prejudice” and equated it with a previous “anti-Semitic prejudice.”

The former president has turned the argument upside down. In this jihad over humor, tolerance is disdained by people who demand it of others. The authoritarian governments that claim to speak on behalf of Europe’s supposedly oppressed Muslim minorities practice systematic repression against their own religious minorities. They have radicalized what was at first a difficult question. Now they are asking not for respect but for submission. They want non-Muslims in Europe to live by Muslim rules. Does Bill Clinton want to counsel tolerance toward intolerance?

On Friday the State Department found it appropriate to intervene. It blasted the publication of the cartoons as unacceptable incitement to religious hatred. It is a peculiar moment when the government of the United States, which likes to see itself as the home of free speech, suggests to European journalists what not to print.


Finally, Daniel Pipes in today’s NYSun:

The key issue at stake in the battle over the 12 Danish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad is this: Will the West stand up for its customs and mores, including freedom of speech, or will Muslims impose their way of life on the West? Ultimately, there is no compromise: Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult and blaspheme, or not.

More specifically, will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy immunity from insults? Muslims routinely publish cartoons far more offensive than the Danish ones. Are they entitled to dish it out while being insulated from similar indignities?


Germany’s Die Welt newspaper hinted at this issue in an editorial: “The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical. When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime-time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were quiet.” Nor, by the way, have imams protested the stomping on the Christian cross embedded in the Danish flag.

The deeper issue here, however, is not Muslim hypocrisy but Islamic supremacism. The Danish editor who published the cartoons, Flemming Rose, explained that if Muslims insist “that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos…they’re asking for my submission.”

I will not submit.


The Rocky Mountain News also published one of the cartoons in its print edition. Here’s the paper’s editorial.


All previous posts:

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)