Wednesday, February 1

Norwegian Wouldn't

The estimable Brussels Journal reports that Norway's new "Workers' Party" government has officially apologized for the reprint in one of the country's newspapers of the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed. The sniveling mea culpa reads:

I am sorry that the publication of a few cartoons in the Norwegian paper Magazinet has caused unrest among Muslims. I fully understand that these drawings are seen to give offence by Muslims worldwide. Islam is a spiritual reference point for a large part of the world. Your faith has the right to be respected by us.

The cartoons in the Christian paper Magazinet are not constructive in building the bridges which are necessary between people with different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Instead they contribute to suspicion and unnecessary conflict.

Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin. Norway has always supported the fight of the UN against religious intolerance and racism, and believes that this fight is important in order to avoid suspicion and conflict. Tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue are the basis values of Norwegian society and of our foreign policy.

Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of Norwegian society. This includes tolerance for opinions that not everyone shares. At the same time our laws and our international obligations enforce restrictions for incitement to hatred or hateful expressions.

When people in the United States (mostly at law schools, in my experience) wonder why their government resists subordinating U.S. law to the vagaries of international "law" (as, for example, the U.K. did when it foolishly adopted the the European Convention on Human Rights), I wish that they would consider that last sentence.

I'm no First Amendment absolutist, but that is pathetic.

The row is now more than an international "incident." Danish citizens are no longer safe in Muslim countries, some in the Arab block are boycotting Denmark, and some Muslim countries have recalled their Danish ambassadors. To its great credit, Denmark has stood firm, and two European newspapers--France Soir and Germany's Die Welt--have bravely reprinted the cartoons.

Worst of all, most of the cartoons aren't even funny. Heck, they aren't even what we would consider cartoons in the North America (that is, they make no attempt at humor) let alone disrespectful of Mohammed. But, apparently, the mere depiction of the prophet is enough for Muslims to take to the streets and burn Danish flags.*

*In a strange quirk, apparently burning the U.S. flag, but not the Danish flag, is illegal in Denmark, though I can't verify the reliability of this account (I usually try to link to reliable sources, and don't know anything about this one).