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Muhammad Caricatures: We, Europeans, are all Danes!

Michel van Kriete

EDITO – It’s as simple as that: we, Europeans, are all Danes!
It is not by chance indeed if within the EU mostly the media showed the strongest solidarity with their Danish colleagues.
It is not by chance if a large majority of Europeans feel that freedom of expression is an essential right which includes the right to criticize or make fun of religious icons as soon as these icons are themselves used to legitimate this or that public standing[1].

It is not by chance if within the so-called ‘West’, the US media did not show any significant solidarity with their Danish colleagues[2] … and quite the contrary tried to put themselves ‘off the hook’ of the supposed ‘Muslim rage’.
It is not by chance if both the US State Department and the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, condemned the caricatures’ publication by the Danish newspaper, thus making many Danes wonder what exactly is Denmark doing in Iraq within the ‘coalition of the willing’, supporting two governments which obviously do not share their own vision of freedom of expression, human rights and relation between religion and politics.
It is not by chance if those governments, US and UK, which having been bombing and/or torturing Arabs and Muslims every single day for the last 3 years, try to make the Europeans look like the ‘bad guys’ because of ‘cartoons’. These two governments are also enemies of freedom of expression, and they are led by two individuals, Bush and Blair, whose religious bigotry made them closer to Islamic extremists than to European journalists.
It is not by chance also if Muslims within Europe demonstrated only peacefully and on a very small scale against these caricatures. The vast majority of Muslims in Europe feel European and as such feel entitled to express themselves, as any other European, in the framework of the state of law.
On the contrary it is not by chance if the international media – i.e. essentially those belonging to the ‘Anglosphere’ – flooded us with images of violent Muslim protests in dominantly Muslim countries, trying to fool us in believing that the “Muslim world” was enraged.
It is not by chance if the supposed to be ‘anti-European’ backlash, as conveyed on the same kind of media, appeared to be at its peak in countries currently involved in a showdown with the USA: Syria, Iran, Palestine, … because when there is rage and anger expressed today in the Muslim world it is definitely not ‘anti-European’ but absolutely ‘anti-West’ … which today means ‘anti-US’, knowing that the ‘West’ is now a concept that remains valid solely in US or UK leadership rhetoric.

However, if we, Europeans, are all Danes, it is pretty obvious that all our governments are not Danes. The Danish government is right when it criticizes the very weak EU support to its position, which can be summarized in the following way: ‘In Europe, the media are free to express their opinion; if something breaks the law, justice is there to take action’. And it is exactly what those European Muslims who feel offended by the cartoons are doing[3]; and in Denmark for instance the justice court already said, months ago, that the cartoons were absolutely lawful[4].
But what can you expect from European governments which have hardly any support left from their own people, whose elites are more concerned to be popular in Davos than among their own people, who are closer to the company managers taking Danish products away from their shelves than from the journalists trying to express their candid opinions?

So we, Europeans, are all Danes, but not our governments, and definitely not their Iraq invasion coalition’s partners.

Let’s hope now that, with this crisis, the Danes will also come to the conclusion that all Danes are Europeans?

Danes could well start to understand that the 21st century world is not a safe place for lonely and small countries pretending to protect their ‘way of life’ all by themselves, and refusing to embark into the common political endeavours aimed at building the new pillars of tomorrow’s global democracy.
It might be time for many Danes to discover that they share a lot more than they think with the other Europeans, a lot more for sure than with the Americans, and a lot more than their own government with the other EU governments.

Maybe once they have gone through that intellectual process they will become Danish Newropeans[5]? Caring for what the other Europeans think more than for what their own government and other governments may think; caring to join forces aimed at shaping up a European-wide continental democracy; aware that this is the only serious way to oppose those forces which fight freedom of expression and despise the state of law – two pillars of a democracy.

There are constructive ways to resist the attempts made to ‘terrorize’ us. Elaborating a European-wide democracy is one of them. With 500 millions citizens, Europe can build things that cannot be dreamt of by 6 million-inhabitant Denmark!

Michel van Kriete
Newropeans supporter
Brussels (Belgique)


[1] Contrary to what was written for instance in an article on EUObserver on February 10th. Entitled ‘European citizens turn against media in cartoon row’, the article in fact explains that it only refers to two polls conducted in France and Norway (so much for Europe) and, in France, conducted by a catholic newspaper (so much for the majority of French people).
[2] The « Philadelphia Inquirer » is one of the very few US media which did so.  (http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-02-11-philly-protests_x.htm )
[3] And they are only a minority.
[4] As all courts of justice within Europe will most probably conclude, just as they did when Christian or Jewish groups tried similar actions in the past.
[5][5] It is worth reading the very good article of Franck Biancheri , President of Newropeans, published in Newropeans-Magazine on February 3rd entitled : ‘Mohammad Caricatures: Islam in Europe has to learn freedom of expression’. Though it is still available in French only, it is important to notice that within the French-speaking Internet community (including Arab countries) it has generated an amazing positive reaction, generating hundreds of comments on various news websites.