I’ll see your Muhammad and raise you a Holocaust victim. With the world
an increasingly small place thanks to the internet disseminating
information at warp speed, newspapers are engaging in an escalating
game of tit-for-tat over the publication of those cartoons.

And in the process, they’re not exactly helping to defuse the explosive feelings that have already resulted in the death of five people and rioting.

Intent on fanning the flames, Iran’s biggest-selling newspaper is launching a competition to find the 12 “best” cartoons about the Holocaust.

It’s a test of Europeans’ commitment to free speech, says Farid
Mortazavi, graphics editor for Tehran’s Hamshahri. “The Western papers
printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of
expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print
these Holocaust cartoons,” he said.

The Jerusalem Post has also waded in with its own agenda, publishing the
12 cartoons of Muhammad which originally appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten because it says “Arab cartoonists routinely demonise Jews as
global conspirators, corrupters of society and blood-suckers,” reports The Guardian.

Adding further intrigue to the whole freedom of speech angle is this report that three years ago, Danish paper Jyllands-Posten itself turned
down satirical cartoons of Christ, deeming them
offensive to readers, as well as unfunny. Illustrator Christoffer
Zieler submitted the drawings but was told by the paper’s Sunday
editor, Jens
Kaiser, that “I think that they will provoke an
outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”

Meanwhile, if he had his time over, the editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten says he wouldn’t run the controversial cartoons which have provoked such calamity.

“If we had known that it would end with death
threats and that the lives of Danish people could be put at risk, we
would have naturally not have published the drawings,” says a recent Leader titled “What if?” (translated in The Guardian). But this is not an apology. “The point is that no-one could
have known the full consequences. Therefore, this question is
meaningless.”

And the sign off is pointed: “Jyllands-Posten has nothing to apologise towards those
fundamentalist powers who have abused the whole situation to further
their own agendas … fundamentalist powers have won over
the freedom of speech [and]
Danish media will now be careful to express attitudes that
fundamentalists can misuse to create hate and bitterness.”

Peter Fray

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