From Al-Ahram Weekly comes this direct, level-headed explanation of why the Danish cartoon incident has gone supernova, calling for everyone to cool off and back down.
Denmark has single-handedly blown up bridges of dialogue and understanding between Islam and the West. The offending drawings that have appeared in a Danish newspaper unknown to readers in our region are part of a pattern that has been evolving for sometime, a pattern of religious and ethnic incitement against Muslim immigrant communities in Europe. First it was girls wearing headscarves to schools in France; then a Dutch director was murdered over an insult to Islam. Dozens of clashes and skirmishes have been erupting here and there since the 9/11 attacks. The hate wave escalated following the London and Madrid bombings, and the revolt of the underclass in Parisian suburbs made things worse. The tension is easy to explain. Europe has failed to integrate its ethnic minorities in a meaningful manner.
The crisis could have been averted had Muslim governments acted promptly; that is, before EU countries took sides with Denmark and before dozens of European papers republished the offending cartoons. By that time, the message to Arab and Muslim governments and nations was clear: expect no apology!
Civil and Islamic rights groups in Denmark should have acted differently. The right thing to do was to file a lawsuit against the newspaper in the implementation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is enshrined in European laws. Had they done that, these groups would have had a chance to bring the newspaper to account, punish its editor-in-chief, and embarrass the Danish government and any other European government that gets so selective about freedom of expression. Only anti- Semitism is frowned upon in Europe at the time being. Slurs against Islam are not repressed with the same firmness — an obvious a case of double-dealing.
The crisis of the offending cartoons proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the so- called dialogue of civilisations is just an empty shell. Underneath it are layers of cynicism, mistrust and lies. The volatility of the situation is such that everyone should refrain from pouring fuel on the flames. As far as damage control is concerned, Al-Azhar should desist from fomenting feelings and the EU must condemn racist slurs in unequivocal terms.