Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Cartoon Controversy

Writing in National Review's generally sensible The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford draws attention to the incitement by UP minister Muhammad Yaqoob Qureshi. Mr. Stuttaford issues the following call to action:

Reactions, and indictments, please, from Denmark -- and India. Incitement is incitement is incitement. No buts.

This blog agrees with Mr. Stuttaford on the nature of Mr. Qureshi's offence -- we have, in fact, ourselves called for the minister to be tried for incitement.

But, we also want to make clear our disdain for the arrogance of the likes of Mr. Stuttaford. His suggestion that Denmark indict an Indian minister is ludicrous. Only India has the power to act here, as it should, not because we care much for the feelings of the bigoted Danish cartoonist or of his irresponsible supporters in the West, but because in India we do not threaten with murder even those for whom we reserve our maximum contempt. This is about Indian values -- Denmark is irrelevant to this.

Those meriting our contempt include not only the Danish cartoonist who started this bigotry train but also the Danish Government that declined to even give audience to its Muslim citizens and all such media and bloggers who have chosen to publish the bigoted filth that these cartoons represent. Freedom of expression comes with an expectation of responsibility -- the callous abdication of this by some in the West is a discredit to their otherwise great civilization.

We are neither Muslim nor have sympathy for jihadists, Islamists, and even the so-called "moderate Muslims" who are too scared to practice their moderation. But, equally, we Indians are not of the West and do not subscribe to the latter's constant tendency to diminish and ridicule non-Western cultures -- Indians know this Western trait well from our history.

This is why, while harshly rejecting the Islamist incitement and violence that has followed, we decline to endorse the contemptible Danish, European, and Western arrogance on this issue.

Our position in itself is worth little except that we are among the small number of Indians who've aggressively supported the West in its war on terror, war in Iraq, and in face of withering criticism, strategic Indo-US engagement. That we are upset should mean at least something to even the most myopic of Western commentators such as Mr. Stuttaford. Of course, given the nature of their blinding arrogance, it likely won't.


Jaffna said...

I have not read the link yet. This said, I think that the Government of Denmark has a legitimate reason to be concerned. An Indian minister has called for the murder of a citizen of Denmark.

Will the Government of India indict this minister? If not, there might be others who take up this minister's offer to murder the Danish national in order to receive the hefty reward.

There is valid reason for Denmark to be concerned. The issue of incitement by an Indian minister is is now about international relations, not about European arrogance.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

Banning the Quran?

Rezwan said...

We Indians are not of the West and do not subscribe to the latter's constant tendency to diminish and ridicule non-Western cultures -- Indians know this Western trait well from our history.

This is why, while harshly rejecting the Islamist incitement and violence that has followed, we decline to endorse the contemptible Danish, European, and Western arrogance on this issue.

Well said PR. While civilizations like Indus Valley and Vedic grew parallel with the Romans and Greeks; because of wide domination and looting by the Western civilizations , they could accumulate wealth and are able to boast their recent economic conditions. But that does not mean that they are superior and they should anyway undermine the cultures and values of non-Western cultures specially that of the Indian sub-continent. In many ways these are ahead of western civilizations. E.g. here people still have the values to treat their parents and relatives/neighbors well till their death; not just sending a card on specific dates.

Martin Jacques wrote in the Guardian:

This attitude of disdain, of assumed superiority, will be increasingly difficult to sustain. We are moving into a world in which the west will no longer be able to call the tune as it once did. China and India will become major global players alongside the US, the EU and Japan. For the first time in modern history the west will no longer be overwhelmingly dominant. By the end of this century Europe is likely to pale into insignificance alongside China and India. In such a world, Europe will be forced to observe and respect the sensibilities of others.

I hope they read the fine prints before they succumb to the fate.

Primary Red said...


As we said, the minister should be tried by India.

As for Denmark, what it does or does not do has no bearing on India. It has no authority over an Indian citizen residing in India. Accordingly, any indctment it issues should be treated with the same contempt that we reserve for its government.

Best regards.

Jaffna said...

Primary Red,

Prabhakaran is a Sri Lankan national. India accuses him for the death of Rajiv Gandhi and would like him extradited to India. Milosevich is being tried at the Hague. International boundaries are irrelevant when it comes to criminal prosecution. This is what "interpol" is all about.

This said, the Indian minister did not murder. But he has incited others to attempt murder in Denmark. There are consequences to his stupidity. If India does not act, it becomes a matter for Denmark.

I hope the Center acts, if not for anyting else, only to sideline Mulayam even further. But this it might do for fear of jeopardizing the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh which it is trying so hard to woo away from Mulayam.

Best regards

Primary Red said...

With all due respect, there is a gulf of difference between the two situations.

In any event, the bigoted Danish government can try all it wants -- its writ does not run in India, and if its arrogance leads to an indictment, we predict its relationship with India will tumble fast. Who'll come out loser in that?

We are surprised that you'd be defending the rights of this callous and bigoted government.

Best regards.

froginthewell said...

Another development. I don't know what will happen to India's image.

Jaffna said...

Primary Red,

We are talking about two different things. You assert that Danish writ does not run in India. Point well taken.

But I maintain that any action with cross-border ramifications (that is not addressed internally) is ground for international concern. The issue is not about Denmark. It is about the international consequences of the ill-considered statements of an Indian minister. That's all.

The Danes might issue a writ and India is well within its means to ignore that. No Government can force India to extradite anyone. But India needs to act as if it is a responsible international player. It needs to charge Qureshi for criminal incitement.

And yet, this is unlikely for the reasons that I had alluded to in my earlier comment. I can give other examples. Shibu Soren and Narendra Modi continue to hold high office when both should have been charged in court. Those involved in the 1984 riots remained senior Congress officials (Jagdish Tytler et al) without facing trial. These instances represent an indictment on the Indian political system.

If the Supreme Court had summoned Arundhati Roy for much less an offense i.e. contempt of court, the rationale to censure Qureshi in the legal system is much stronger.

Qureshi, despite being a minister in India's largest state, is no different to the London-based Cleric Abu Hamza who incited murder in the United States. And witness the difference in treatment in Britain and India.

To conclude, any action with cross border ramifications is ground for international concern regardless of whether the writ of one country extends to another or not. One can not hide behind the fig leaf of national sovereignty as India's neighbors shamelessly do.

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Primary Red:

Freedom of expression does not come with any expectation of responsibility. The First Amendment is absolute: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press". Even the Nazis in Skokie had the right to march and display the swastika. It would be better if you use the First Amendment as your reason in not publishing the cartoons rather than the alleged "bigotry" of the cartoons. Your blog has the absolute right not to publish the cartoons. If that is your stand I shall respect you for it. But you lose credibility the minute you brandish bigtory. It is not for you to decide whether the cartoons are bigoted or not. Leave that to the readers.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

You mean to say that if a Pakistani jihadi outfit announces a bounty for the head of, say, the editor of Indian Express, the government of India need not be concerned?

froginthewell said...

So much for freedom of speech in Europe.

Harini Calamur said...

Well said secular right.

With the UP elections round the corner, every nutcase with an agenda is crawling out of the woodwork. A swift and sharp application of the law in this case - incitement to murder - would be a good lesson for those in the country who wish to use caste or religion or anything else to rake up sentiments and cause civil disorder.

i am not so worried about India's image abroad, as the impact of such statements have within India. Are we becoming a society that applies cowboy justice - bring me his head dead or alive!

On Denmark calling for indictement of the minister - i can't see it happening. Not unless they reciprocate and let the cartoonist stand trial for blasphemy somewhere in the Islamic world. This kind of 'barter' will open up a can of worms no one really wants.

Anonymous said...

Not unless they reciprocate and let the cartoonist stand trial for blasphemy somewhere in the Islamic world

You are illogical.

Denmark would be well within its rights to ask Indian government to try the UP minister under Indian laws. (A criminal case has just been filed against him in a UP court, and I do see EU's or Denmark's hand behind this.) Note that this is different from Denmark arrogating to itself the right to try and punish him. (The US does the latter too -- which is what "war against terrorism" is all about: bombing Afghanistan to stone age to protect US citizens). A government that can't protect its citizens in the face of open threats to their lives is a government not worth its salt.

And "Islamic world" can ask the Danish Cartoonists to be tried in Saudi Arabia according to Saudi blasphemy laws if "Islamic world" in turn agrees to have its citizens tried in non-Muslim countries according to *their* blasphemy laws (not that many non-Muslim countries have these laws or enforce them if they do have them). That is what reciprocity is about. And I definitely would like to see Saudi religious police tried under Indian laws dealing with deliberate intent to cause religious offence, because these guys routinely destroy bibles or tear up pictures of Hindu gods.

Pankaj said...

Not unless they reciprocate and let the cartoonist stand trial for blasphemy somewhere in the Islamic world

Even though the logic applied here is pretty weird, it does sound like a great idea for the Congress party to use once the opportunity arises. I will explain this further.

As it is, winning UP is about the battle of getting muslim votes. If the Danish govt. asks the Indian govt. to take action against mullah minister, the Indians can always give the above reply. "first you agree for the trial of the cartoonist in Saudi Arabia". This is one sureshot way to not only win UP but also gain widespread muslim support from all over India. A support which the congress lost after the demolition of a defunct mosque in 1992.


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