Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Visions of the Prophet...

The Religious Policeman has, of course, been following the story of the Danish cartoons which were deemed offensive by some pretty hard-core Muslims (Update: Thanks to Eric Muller's unfortunate habit of reading and linking to a certain right-wing blogstar, I have found the cartoons.). He's posted an interesting roundup of other images of the Prophet, from South Park to Dante. He also, in that post, subtly answered my question, posted earlier in his comments
This is an interesting story. I'm trying to figure out exactly what's going on.

Do the Saudi newspapers (or authorities) not recognize the futility of indirect political/economic pressure on a free press? (They know about direct pressure, thanks to Rupert Murdoch's accomdating networks).

Are the Saudi authorities trying to avoid attention to something else, and if so, what? Hamas' victory? (and how IS that being reported? I'd like to know) Iraqi ... sucesses? Internal politics? Saudi concessions to EU or US interests?

How can this be resolved? Will it just die out, to be cited again whenever journalists go looking for "context" to later spats? Will it escalate to violence? Affect diplomatic relations?

It's clearly an overreaction, but the question is... why?
The answer, according to Alhamedi, is "to divert public attention from the regrettable demise of a small number of pilgrims in Makkah during the last Hajj." If he's right, it's working.

The Saudi-led "boycott" of Danish goods (their biggest export is probably Legos, actually, not beer or cheese, but don't quote me on that) has led to a "Buy Danish" campaign spreading rapidly through mostly right-wing sites (look it up yourself; I'm not going to link to them today).

Sepoy notes a serious disjunction between the cartoons and the "apology" (which Alhamedi notes is a typical "we're sorry you're offended" non-apology), but I think his second point that "this iconophobia needs to chill" is more to the point.

Manan Ahmed at Cliopatria has a very solid, evenhanded discussion of the historical and theological and political issues. That's what I was looking for.

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