How the Controversy Began
In 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons by various artists lampooning Islam and the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, the mere depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous. Imagine the anger cartoonish depictions would provoke. Demonstrations, protests, boycotts, flag- and effigy burning followed, as did the murder of scores of people in protest's name, mostly in Islamic (or, to be more accurate, Islamist, countries, Islam being the irreproachable religion, Islamism being its fanatical and violent perversions).
The cartoonists have gone into hiding. Plots to kill them have been foiled. Ins solidarity with the cartoonists and in defense of free expression, many of Denmark newspapers on Feb. 13 reprinted one of the cartoons by Kurt Westergaard, after police said he was the target of an Islamist murder plot.
Al-Qaeda Threatens Reprisals
Demonstrators have taken to the streets again. Islamists, with Al-Qaeda pronouncements leading the way, continue to threaten their lives and promise further reprisals Somehow, according to Osama bin Laden (or a radio message ascribed to him), the publication of the cartoons is an insult more grave than the killing of Muslims. So it goes with Islamism's calculus of infinite insanity: human lives count for far less than the merely unflattering and imaginary depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.
Insignificant indeed is the distance from there to the cult of death that gives us suicide bombers who think nothing of innocent lives they're murdering by the dozens and hundreds, let alone their own.
Al-Jazeera Shows Both Sides--Then Apologizes
Al-Jazeera invited a panel of authorities from various sides of the issue to debate it all on anchorman Faisal Al-Qassem's "The Opposite Direction," a rather courageous crossfire-like show that takes on most controversies as no other Arab media outlet would do. One of his guest was the flame-throwing Wafa Sultan, who became famous during the first round of cartoon controversies when, appearing on that very show, she lambasted Islam for being backward, violent, murderous and so on. It was entertaining. And disturbing: Sultan knows few bounds, and nuance isn't in her vocabulary. But there she was again last Tuesday, saying, among other things:
All the religions and faiths have been subject throughout history to criticism and insults, and this helped to develop and amend them over time. The only faith which beheads those who oppose it – is destined to turn into terror and tyranny. This is the situation of Islam from its beginning to this day. It has sentenced its critics to prison terms, and those who escaped custody were killed. The Danish cartoons have managed to drop the first brick in the wall and open a window, through which the sun rays will be able to enter after a long period of darkness.Again, while not absolutely off the mark if it's today's Islamism she is talking about, Sultan's indictment was so general, so all-encompassing, so total, as to render it meaningless. Nothing new there: television talking heads say silly, outrageous and indefensible things all the time. Ann Coulter hasn't cornered the market on televised idiocy.
But Al Jazeera followed silliness with silliness of its own. It apologized to viewers for Sultan's remarks, effectively rendering its "Opposite Direction" show into yet another victim of Islamists' ire.