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World of pain

The space between free speech and respect in the ultimate culture war
By EDITORIAL  |  February 10, 2006

There are three reasons not to publish the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed with his turban styled as a bomb (to view the cartoons, click here) and the other images that have sparked violent protests and deaths throughout Europe, the Middle East, West Asia, and Indonesia:

1) Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. This is, frankly, our primary reason for not publishing any of the images in question. Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.

2) Out of respect for the millions of faithful and peace-abiding believers throughout the world who are deeply disturbed by the violation of their religion’s proscription against the pictorial representation of their prophet.

3) And in the hope that restraint shown by those who believe deeply in the sanctity of free speech will be able to stand side by side with those who believe with equal fervor in the dignity of religious expression to oppose the forces of darkness and evil in the Islamic world.

That is why there is no image in the space above this editorial.

Make no mistake: the events of the past two weeks are the clash of civilizations writ large, a bloody conflict that makes the intense culture wars that grip this nation seem polite by comparison.

Here, in the United States, we can be proud that the large and diverse Arab-Islamic communities that surround Detroit are peaceful. Greater Dearborn is as intensely American and it is Islamic. For more than 100 years these sons and daughters of immigrants, along with their cousins who are more recent arrivals, go to work daily, raise their children, go about their lives, and practice their religion. They are deeply saddened and pained by this controversy and equally disapproving of their co-religionists’ violence.

Perhaps the most eloquent condemnation of the Islamofascists — for that is what they are — came from Iraq’s leading Shiite Ayatollah, Ali Al-Sistani. “Horrific action,” is how he described the publication of the cartoons. But the protesters spread a “distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love, and brotherhood.” They have, he said, “exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds.”

Hate is central to all of this: hatred of the West, of democracy, of tolerance, of freedom, and of modern conceptions of the dignity and diversity of human life and belief.

As the Wall Street Journal has reported, when Denmark’s largest daily, the conservative Jyllands-Posten, months ago called for satirists to submit work lampooning Mohammed, its editors didn’t know what they were getting into. The editors were ignorant of the cultural prohibition against religious images in general and the particularly sacrilegious nature of depicting the Prophet Mohammed. They were also ignorant of the fact that they chose to publish the results on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy season.

As the Journal pointed out, what began as a local Danish dispute was elevated into an international controversy thanks to the intervention of the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian governments. From there it was not long before the most radical and vile elements of the Islamic world were able to harness the issue to their own purposes.

In doing so, the Islamists proved the essential point suggested by the cartoon of a be-bombed, turbaned Mohammed: that Islam harbors a virulent strain of belief that is not only violent in nature but terrorist by design. That peaceful Muslims were offended by the image is understandable, but the fact remains that for the vast majority of the world’s peace-loving citizens of all persuasions, it was an apt analogy.

That, we suspect, is the underlying reason why so many papers in Europe — and at least three in the United States — saw fit to reprint the cartoons. In doing so, they were not only endorsing the Western ideal that freedom of speech should be sacrosanct and that the cartoons to non-Muslims were clearly within the Western tradition of political comment. At least two, the now-infamous turban-bomb one and another lampooning suicide bombers who acted on the promise of heavenly satisfaction from hundreds of virgins, hit uncomfortably close to the bone.

So commonplace are outrageous graphic libels and slanders published in the Islamist press, that when Iran’s leading newspaper announced a contest for the funniest depiction of the Holocaust, it was met with the equivalent of an international shrug. “There they go again,” those hate-filled Islamic radicals.

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World of pain
Well put.
By yo momma on 02/10/2006 at 9:02:02
World of pain
I disagree with your stance not to run these pictures. Why not put it out in the open so that there can be dialogue about what Muslims do or don't find acceptable.
By Veector on 02/10/2006 at 9:02:45
World of pain
I also disagree with your decision, which I suspect is more out of fear than respect.  You see, a lot of our ancestors struggled, died and worked hard to get freedom of speech.  Guess you like the old days before it existed better.
By pussnboots on 02/10/2006 at 9:03:46
World of pain
At least you are being honest about your fears of retribution against your employees. Indeed it is that this may be the 'darkest moment in [your] 40-year publishing history', but for different reasons than you state. Your paper has just capitulated to intimidation. Gosh, maybe you should re-think your stance on 'abortion clinic bombers' or the Aryan Nation. I am sure that during your '40-year publishing history' you bravely held murdered Denver talk-radio icon Alan Berg as the freedom-loving, hard-hitting person that he truly was. Is there a jourlanist left in your sorry publication? Where is any defiance you might muster against people who would kill you and your family and broadcast your screaming convulsions in the name of their religion? And then you figure, well, in this case, we just don't want to make these people mad? They are mad. It is not our fault. Can you admit it is not our fault? Naaa...must be our fault. Always is. When our children are as old as we are will they view what we did today? --sitswithdogs
By sitswithdogs on 02/10/2006 at 9:52:25
World of pain
Normally I pay little attention to pop-culture, but i was waiting for some friends and your publication was on the bar so I read your editorial on being intimidated by muslim fanatics. Very weak argument.Not that pop culture news organizations have much ingterity to begin with, but you've clearly show you have no integrity at all. If you cared so much about your employees, you may want to consider the example you set by whimping out and taking politically correctness to the ultimate extreme. Pathetic.
By providence on 02/11/2006 at 3:14:36
World of pain
The Jyllands-Posten editors didn't know about about the prohibition against pictures of the prophet? Please. I'm sure they didn't expect the response to be as insane as it has, but don't just parrot the WSJ on this, think about it. They solicited these cartoons with the intention of insulting Muslims. If you solicited "satiric" cartoons of Moses or Jesus, you wouldn't be surprised if someone got pissed. The violent reaction is completely wrong, but don't portray the instigators as wide-eyed innocents.
By jose.hipants on 02/11/2006 at 2:13:09
World of pain
I cannot believe some of the drivel that is being posted here.. First of all.. since when have Muslims have the 'right' not to be offended? Where were you 'sensitive' people when Mary was portrayed in dung, and Jesus as 'piss Christ'? did you see Christians burning and rioting?..Do NOT equate insult with the right to burn and riot.. Cartoons don't equal burning embassies in the Real World.. I am totally Ashamed of the Phoenix for bowing down to the terrorists and that is Exactly what they did. Read history you cowards that is how the Muslims almost took over the world the first time.. If you do not have the guts to do more than go after Presidents et al, who cannot fight back you do not DESERVE to have a paper!
By chronos222 on 02/11/2006 at 8:26:02
World of pain
What ever happened to "speaking truth to power"? Obviously, the power Islamofascists wield - that of fear - is real. If pussilanimity is ascendant even here, what is the value of a free people to the world? And yet you continue to decry a loss of freedom to our government: I decry the loss of courage in your hearts. Your 'About Us' page states that you "work together to reach people who share a similar lifestyle". It appears that lifestyle is now provably, soft, self-centered, and ultimately decadent. Good job.
By A.Nonymoose on 02/12/2006 at 3:32:39
World of pain
Like any other newspaper the Phoenix is a business. If the Phoenix printed the cartoons they would likely be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for increased physical security. Also consider the litigous nature of the USA; if a newpaper published these cartoons now after all the violence which has occured in majority Islamist countries, and the paper's office suffered a homicidal terrorist attack, it is very likely that paper would be sued by victims or their survivors, especially ones who weren't employees.
By SayNoToIslam on 02/12/2006 at 7:55:34
World of pain
The Boston Phoenix can hang its head in shame again. I remember the editorial where your paper "had the courage" to post the video of Daniel Pearl's murder and then justify that on the editorial page too: // This newspaper has gone beyond hypocracy.
By Rorschach on 02/13/2006 at 2:53:27
World of pain
Tea party? You are spineless weasels to not shove it in the face of a most dangerous and rancid cult masquerading as a religion. WWIV is here; most media be it mainstream or backstreet hasn't a clue.
By Gryphon on 02/13/2006 at 5:43:32
World of pain
We knew without your saying it that you gave in from fear. I am ashamed to be an American watching the cowardly response of the US media. And these are such mild cartoons! You are just asking for more. The more you appease the more is asked of you. You are setting a horrible precedent. You also have no credibility when it comes to any reporting you do on the ME, Islam, or Islamic terrorism. We know that what will be most important to you is making sure no one gets mad, not reporting the truth. Non-Muslims have no obligation to Islamic law! Shame on you!!!
By pat on 02/14/2006 at 10:09:09
World of pain
Phoenix Pholds.... WOW! What a disapointment to see and read your..tiny....headline and cowardly, sentimental article in last weeks paper! Are you going to cut back on your brutal depictions of this country's current leaders and religious organizations via articles and cartoons? Maybe your tabloid should get out of the political relm all together, because you folded under the umbrella of free speech that I thought you live by...or now...die by. Your editors curled up in the fetal position and started sucking their thumbs like Loyd (played by Jim Carey) in Dumb and Dumber while SeaBass (Cam Neeley) stood over him in the toilet stall ready to fuck him in the ass or mouth or both! In these trying times we need courage. We are taking our lumps from the Radical Islammofascistwhatevers.. and will continue to do so. Unless we intend to lie down like The Boston Phoenix addmittedly did last week. Signed, A changed forever reader... Josh from Ipswich
By Josh from Ipswich on 02/15/2006 at 10:26:09
World of pain
If you really wanted to make a statement about the censorship you feel is being imposed on you by the threat of violence by Islamic radicals there is another way you could go about it while still demonstrating the power of free speech. Print the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Print cartoons mocking Jesus. Print cartoons mocking Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Whites, Blacks, Orientals, Men, Women, Gays, Straights, Democrats, Republicans, old people, young people, etc. Print them all in one issue and then see who cries the loudest. If you did this you could at least have a claim to fairness and you would also amply demonstrate what real free speech is. Your editorial is good because you frankly spelled out the reasons for not publishing the cartoons - but backing down is not free speech - the absence of freedom that is imposed by threat of violence will only serve to demonstrate to those who try to impose it that they can get away with their threats.
By jdwil44 on 02/19/2006 at 11:59:53
World of pain
Three questions: 1. Did you report the threats to law enforcement? 2. If you didn't, why not...I mean, there were actual serious threats ("we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure"), right...? 3. If so, what was law enforcement's response and did it affect your decision not to publish the cartoons?
By gs on 02/19/2006 at 7:19:19
World of pain
It is good to see that the Phoenix is willing to admit that it is willing to fight for "free speech" as long as it involves no fighting. Enjoy your cowardice and the rights that were granted to you by those willing to defend liberty from earlier despots like Hitler and Stalin and who gave their lives to keep us free. All of you should hang your heads in shame and find work more suitable to your abilities, like making white flags for the French. You are an embarassment to the nation, even if you are honest about your cowardice. Now go back to your puffery about anything, knowing that you have as much credibility as a Madam at a whorehouse preaching about the virtues of chastity.
By Jack Adams on 02/20/2006 at 1:01:04
World of pain
The reason given in the editorial about not wanting to offend Muslims is a bunch of baloney. Devout Muslims have made pictures of Mohammed for centures without any uproar. See // Where was all the indignation at 9/11? Or when the children were murdered in Russia? Why wasn't a $1M bounty put on the head of any terrorist who participated in the attacks? What this is really about is fear. And the Phoenix should be congratulated for calling a spade a spade. What the Communists and the Nazis were never able to do in this country -- silence the free press -- the Muslims have succeeded in doing.
By SFH on 02/20/2006 at 2:23:32

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