Seven people — four men and three women — have been arrested in Ireland on suspicion of plotting to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. An Islamic group offered €70,000 for his murder, with a 50% bonus if his killers slaughtered him like a lamb by cutting his throat.
They were angry with him because he drew a sketch portraying a bearded man with the body of a dog, wearing a turban. The sketch was published in July 2007 by a small Swedish newspaper, Nerikes Allehanda, and somehow came to the attention of a bunch of people who decided Vilks must die. How exactly an obscure Swedish newspaper came to be read by people in Iraq and Pakistan was never explained adequately, but even stranger, the sketches had already been published in large-circulation Swedish papers.
Vilks now lives in police protection.
It’s forbidden to make images of the prophet and they have a fairly simple way of expressing their displeasure: they kill you. Oddly enough, depictions of Muhammmad are common in books written by Muslims, but for some people, there’s no thinking involved. In many ways, this makes it a lot like Catholicism, but for all his faults, at least old Ratzo doesn’t send out assassination squads every time I take the piss out of him.
This is lucky for me or I’d be dead a dozen times over by now.
I remember a few years back, discussing Rushdie’s Satanic Verses with a devout Libyan Muslim. It was in a late-night bar in Limerick, and Tariq, the devout Muslim slugging on a beer, was explaining that it was essential to kill Rushdie for mocking the Prophet.
I asked him what he knew about the book, and he told me he’d read it. Rushdie had to be killed. As it turned out, I’d read it myself, so I asked him what he thought of the ending, and it was then he explained that he’d only read some photocopied pages containing the offending passages. And then he explained that they weren’t actually pages from the book, but some quotes put together by a cleric and handed out in the mosque.
So you haven’t actually read the book, just some photocopied pages, but you still want to kill him?
Yes. Any good Muslim would kill him.
As I recall, Tariq had some strange ideas on the place of women in society as well, but that didn’t stop him going to night-clubs, getting drunk and trying to get laid. I haven’t seen him around in a while.
Two years before the Lars Vilks incident, the Jyllands-Posten debacle was probably the most outstanding example of hair-trigger Islam, and yet its origins became completely lost in the furore that erupted after publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet.
It all came about innocently when Kåre Bluitgen, a Danish writer, said he couldn’t find an artist to illustrate his book about the Prophet and in typical Danish style, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper called on artists to submit illustrations and published twelve of them. Again, magically, the cartoons of this obscure Scandinavian newspaper somehow appeared all over the Muslim world, with Danish Imams touring the Middle East to stir up protest.
Riots broke out with Danish embassies being torched in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, and there was a strong suspicion that the whole thing was orchestrated, since nothing happens in Iran or Syria without government approval and absolutely nothing spontaneous is ever permitted.
It’s ironic that the seven suspects were arrested in Ireland. Our government recently passed a law concerning blasphemy that would delight the hearts of demented, homicidal Imams the world over. This law makes it a crime to offend the beliefs of any religion, or to put it another way, if enough crazies decide to be pissed off over something you wrote or drew, you’re a criminal. If Jyllands-Posten had been published in Ireland, its editor would probably have been convicted of blasphemous libel. I’m not aware of any other law in the Western world making it a crime to poke fun at somebody’s unproven suppositions, but this is Ireland after all, a fantasy world where almost everything is unproven supposition.
Leaving all that aside, however, isn’t it about time that normal, sensible Muslims got on top of this problem and started disowning the extreme attitudes of Koran-belt Islam?
Not too long ago we witnessed the insane spectacle of a British teacher receiving a jail sentence in Sudan for calling a teddy-bear Muhammad. The fact that the bear was named after a pupil in the school made no difference. Gillian Gibbbons had insulted the Prophet.
More recently in Sudan, we had the absurd Lubna Hussein case, where a woman was sentenced to be flogged for wearing trousers.
These are not the actions of rational adults. These are things you’d expect from a petulant adolescent and it’s about time the middle ground of Islam started to condemn such bullshit, just as moderate Christian opinion distances itself from the crazy Sarah Palin fundamentalist strand of religion.
On a more sinister level, we recently witnessed two young lads in Iran publicly murdered by the government for being gay. We see women rape victims stoned to death or flogged. We see Hamas imposing their benighted, tunnel-visioned ignorance on the suffering people of Gaza.
It’s time for the Muslim adults to speak out but meanwhile, we have to put up with adolescent Islam.
Message to the adolescents: it isn’t always about you.
Previously on Bock