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Denmark’s racist cartoons

Published Feb 16, 2006 1:24 AM

Outrage continues throughout the world in response to the offensive, hate-mongering caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammad that were published first in the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten and later in newspapers around the world. Just between Feb. 9 and Feb. 14, protests were reported in Bangladesh, Canada, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan and Russia. A demonstration is scheduled for New York City on Feb. 17.

Throughout history, cartoons and illustrations have been used to demonize oppressed groups of people, from Jews in Nazi Germany to people of color—Native, Black, [email protected] and Asian—in the United States. Such depictions have simultaneously been a reflection of, and an attempt to justify, governmental policies of discrimination, exploitation and repression toward those people. And often the capitalist media joyfully assists.

In true form, reactionary government officials in imperialist countries have responded to the outcry surrounding the recent caricatures by whipping up even more animosity and hatred. Italy’s Reform Minister Roberto Calderoli has produced t-shirts of the drawings; Reuters reports that leaders of his organization, the anti-immigrant Northern League party, “say the cartoon violence shows the danger of allowing Muslim immigrants to settle in Italy.” In another article, Reuters paraphrased U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Dan Fried, who said in Brussels on Feb. 14 “that the United States and Europe should respond to the row ... by intensifying efforts to nurture Middle East reform”—a euphemism for regime change.

Fried also told the press: “Govern ments don’t tell or shouldn’t tell newspapers what to publish. In free societies newspapers work this out for themselves.” He seems to have so quickly forgotten the case of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was spoon-fed fabrications to justify the war in Iraq by none other than Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political strategist.

Hand-in-hand with their governments, media outlets such as the Western Standard in Canada’s conservative Alberta province, where Big Oil rules, continue to unapologetically publish these images under the banner of “free speech”—that is, freedom for the wealthy who control the capitalist media to put out whatever biased, racist, pro-imperialist propaganda suits their agenda. An example of this can be shown in a “correction” printed in the Feb. 10 New York Times: “A Critic’s Notebook article ... referred incorrectly to the reaction in Auckland, New Zealand. While there were protests after the cartoons were published, imams there have not demanded executions or amputations for the cartoonists and their publishers.”

The continuing protest over this injustice by Muslim followers and anti-racists is not just a response to the current images—it’s a response to the collusion of imperialist governments with the media, time and time again, in seeking to legitimize oppression over resistance. What’s clear is that more and more of the world isn’t buying it.