Tuesday, March 04, 2008
cartoonish rage is sweeping the Muslim world, again. Two years ago, the perpetually offended fundamentalist community had their rage stoked by a conniving imam based in Denmark, who travelled across the Arab lands carrying copies of the twelve Jyllands-Posten cartoons -- plus a few extra-degrading "drawings of Mohammed" he'd sourced on his own (which had not been published as part of the artistic freedom exercise, and actually had nothing to do with Mohammed). And thus, five months after the Danish newspaper published the results of its challenge to artists, a crisis was born. Muslim fundamentalists rioted and burned and killed, leaving at least one hundred dead bodies behind them.
Kurt Westergaard is the author of the most famous and iconic of the twelve images, and he's the Salman Rushdie of our current times. Last month, the Danish police intelligence service (PET) broke up a plot to kill him. This was not exactly unforeseen. A number of death fatwas had been issued by extremist imams, including generous rewards for his killing. The PET had been following this plot for some months, and the 73 year old artist and his wife had been living under their protection since last November.
When the police finally pounced last month, arresting two Tunisians and a Danish citizen of Moroccan origin, many Danish and other European publishers reprinted Westergaard's drawing out of solidarity with him. This was just what the community of perpetual outrage was waiting for. An easy excuse to gin up more protests, feign some more anguish, and demand that secular societies must abide by sharia prohibitions against the depiction of a certain historical figure. Don't tell them that Muslim artists have depicted Mohammed many times throughout history, they won't hear you.
And so Kurt Westergaard and his wife continue to live an unsettled life in a manner reminiscent of Burma's freedom dissidents, a hidden life shifting between safe houses (although in this case, helped by their own government rather than hunted by it). They've been expelled from one hotel in their home city of Aarhus, and his poor wife has been fired from her job as a kindergarten teacher, after a 25 year career.
But this elderly Dane is unrepentant and unafraid. He's no xenophobic provocateur or religious chauvinist -- quite the contrary. He's a man of the left who had even offended some Christians with his drawing talents, as you'll see in the videos below. (Wai AllahPundit at Hot Air)
He was interviewed on the "Danmark Radio TV" program "In All Honesty" in early February, before the arrests were made in the murder plot. Unfortunately, the interviewer is a wooden and highly repetitive character who constantly tries to shift the blame onto Westergaard himself. "How does it feel, as a human being, that your drawing caused all these deaths?" It's worthwhile to hear Kurt's responses to such hand-wringing; or rather, to hear the stoic Danish delivery while reading the subtitle translations.
In a few places the last word of a subtitle is lost behind the YouTube logo, but usually it can be made out. A full transcription can also be found here, along with some very interesting commentary (in English) from a Dane who knows the background of this particular broadcast outlet. Despite the difficulties he had in getting past the agenda of this interviewing technique, he had a message and succeeded in getting it through... barely before he was abruptly cut off by the end of the program. If you're pressed for time then, take part three. But the whole thing is worth viewing.
Several possible fates for his famous drawing are discussed in this news story.