Appeasing the radicals does not help. Here is another example. The Danish-Swedish diary giant Arla is the worst hit victim of the Muslim boycott of Danish products. Arab countries constituted Arlas most important export markets. An article in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten today suggest that Arla itself has for many years been boycotting Israel because apparently companies doing business in Muslim countries are obliged to accept a clause that they will not trade with Israel. [PS: Arla immediately denied this in a press statement] Naturally, private companies and individuals are entitled to boycott whomever they want to. The present instance, however, shows that those who try to be a friend of extremists have no guarantee that the extremists will reciprocate the friendship.
The boycotts and violence in Islamic countries because of the Muhammad cartoons will not be in the interests of consumers there. Danish companies have announced that Western companies doing business in the Muslim world will be obliged to take more expensive insurances if they intend to continue doing business there. As a consequence prices in the Middle East are likely to rise. Foreign companies will also think twice before investing in these countries. Perhaps that is one of the goals of the Jihadists inciting the unrest. They regard Western investments as a negative Western influence.
What is the role of Egypt in all this? The West considers Egypt to be one of its most reliable Arab allies. But is it? For four months the Egyptian government has been actively inciting hatred against Denmark. Yesterday the Copenhagen newspaper Politiken published official Egyptian documents which testify to Egypts prominent role in the hate campaign that was organized by Islamist imams after twelve Muhammad cartoons were published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten last September [see for yourself how offensive they are: here, halfway down the page].
According to Politiken the Egyptian Foreign Ministry distributed copies of the cartoons to leading newspapers and religious and political figures as early as last October. Egypt was angry because Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, had refused to meet eleven Muslim ambassadors (including Egypts) who demanded that the Danish government take action against Jyllands-Posten and impose press censorship to ensure the Muslims no longer be offended.
Mr Rasmussen has been criticized by the Danish Socialist opposition for not having received the ambassadors. The Socialists maintain that the present crisis could have been avoided if this meeting had taken place. A new opinion poll, however, indicates that Venstre, the Liberal Party of Mr Rasmussen, and the anti-immigration Danish Peoples Party will benefit substantially from the cartoon affair, while the Social-Democrats will suffer huge losses. In the same poll, 41.5% of the Danes say that Mr Rasmussen handled the affair well, 40.1% give him an average score, and 16.4% say he has handled the affair badly.
As we reported earlier here the cartoon affair has led to a conflict between moderate and extremist Muslims in Denmark. Until recently the Danish imams claimed to be the only representatives of Danish Muslims, but a growing number of moderate Muslims is stepping forward to say that the imams do not represent them. The Danish Church is also trying to ease tensions between Denmark and the Muslim world. This week a delegation of church leaders travelled to the Middle East to meet Muslim religious leaders. The latter, however, continue to insist that the Danish government apologize first before there can be a normalization of relations.
Meanwhile violent demonstrations against Denmark, the West and Christianity continue in various countries. The Danish Foreign Ministry closed its embassy in Pakistan for security reasons, while the Pakistani ambassador to Copenhagen has been called home for consultation. Radical Muslims in Pakistan demand that the government sever its diplomatic relations with Denmark. A Pakistani imam announced on Friday that anyone who assassinates one of the Danish cartoonists will be paid a bounty of one million dollars. Similar bounties had already been offered in Pakistan last year.
Kurt Westergaard, one of the Danish cartoonists whose drawings provoked the outcry, told a British newspaper that he has no regrets. He said his cartoon was inspired by terrorism which gets its spiritual ammunition from Islam. Mr Westergaard has been in hiding since October.
Yesterday eleven churches were torched in Nigeria in retaliation for the blasphemous Muhammad cartoons. Forty people are reported to have died. Crowds of Nigerian Muslims carrying machetes, sticks and iron rods hunted down Christians. One group threw a tyre over a man, poured gas on him and set him on fire. In many Muslim countries protesters have burned crosses. Though Muslims claim that their religion is a religion of peace, that Jesus is also one of their prophets, that it is blasphemy to insult a prophet, and that they would never do such a thing, no clerics (Muslim or Christian) have put bounties on the heads of the blasphemers burning crosses, churches and Christians.
According to Paul Johansen, a Norwegian citizen who is a former Muslim and now heads a Christian mission among Arabs, the West has a naive image of Islam. Mr Johansen defended the Danish cartoonists in an interview with the Norwegian Christian paper Dagen. The artists who drew Muhammad did not get their inspiration from nowhere. Muslims need to think about why Islam is being linked to terrorism, he said. Mr Johansen believes that what is happening today is the encounter with Islam as it really is.
For decades Muslims have argued in the Western media that Islam is a religion of peace which respects other opinions. But we see nothing of this tolerance in the reality today. Muslims burn down embassies and consulates and are prepared to kill people as well.
Mr Johansen, however, stressed that although terrorists and fanatics can be found among Muslims the majority of Muslims are peaceful people. But does that mean we should be silent about Islam or the situation in the Muslim countries? We cannot. After all it is in the interests of the Muslims that the West stands firm on human rights and freedom of expression, because this is what is lacking in the Muslim world, he said.
In an interview with the Norwegian Christian newspaper Korsets Seier the same Paul Johansen said:
Islam is defying the West. Muslims will not be satisfied until they have taken over Europe. The method they use is [ ] to gain power over the media through censorship. Muslims use certain individuals who are very clever in dealing with the media and we will end up being controlled.
He explained how this is done: Muslims control positions such as those of interpreters for the media. Today, he said, Muslims have almost full control over what the Norwegian media report from the Muslim world. Since he speaks Arabic himself Mr Johansen notices every day how news stories are being distorted so that they are more favourable to Muslims. We are being systematically misinformed, he says. Another key area controlled by muslims is that of studies about Islam. At the University of Oslo you can take courses where the Bible is criticized. However, no such courses are availabe on Islam. Those who teach about Islam at the university are not aware of what Islam is really about. They teach about how Islam is interpreted, but they never go directly into its sources. What is being taught at Norwegian universities is a version of Islam that Muslims want the West to see. Since 1994 the number of Muslims in Norway has increased from 35.000 to 100.000.
In an article in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten last Sunday Kåre Valebrokk, editor at the Norwegian TV station TV2, deplored that Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor of the Norwegian Christan newspaper Magazinet which first published the Muhammad cartoons in Norway, had apologized for hurting the feelings of Muslims (Mr Selbekk, however, did not apologize for publishing the cartoons). Many prominent people in Norway welcomed Mr Selbekks apology as an end to the cartoon crisis in Norway, but Mr Valebrokk does not agree. He fears that this kind of appeasement is only the beginning of our submission to Islam. The consequence of all this, he says, is that the umbrella organization of Muslims in Norway, Islamsk Råd (Islamic Council), has been given power over the Norwegian media.
From now on we [Norwegian editors] are not the ones in charge of what we broadcast on our TV stations or publish in our newspapers. We now have Islamsk Råd as a co-editor. If the Muslims do not like what we broadcast or write all they need to do is set one or two embassies on fire to make us surrender. In a dangerous move we have given away the editorship to Muslim fundamentalists. I for my part greatly dislike my new role.
The American author Bruce Bawer has also criticized Mr Velbekk for offering his apologies.