August 4, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia discusses the recent – or rather the still ongoing – scandal related to the publication of the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

This issue of Diplomaatia discusses the recent – or rather the still ongoing – scandal related to the publication of the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia discusses the recent – or rather the still ongoing – scandal related to the publication of the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
Eerik-Niiles Kross dissects the anatomy of the scandal and concludes that the real course of affairs was somewhat different from the way this incident is most often interpreted – as a spontaneous Moslem protest against offending pictures. As Kross shows, the protests have not been very spontaneous or substantial – rather, they have been secretly and skilfully inspired by Middle Eastern governments who have found anger against Denmark to be a convenient tool for diverting people’s attention away from the often dissatisfying state of affairs at home. “It is important to notice that most demonstrations took place in states where they diverted attention away from other problems: like Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine,” Kross stresses.
But according to Kross, it is Egypt that has to bear the main burden of the blame for inflaming the tensions. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was responsible for giving the unsuccessful caricatures much greater publicity in the Islamic world than they otherwise would have received – he was the one who wrote letters to the UN, OSCE and many Heads of State, he also introduced the caricatures to the agenda of the Organisation of the Islamic Conferences.
Kross concludes that these steps were taken, first and foremost, with the domestic agenda in mind: the opposition Muslim Brotherhood is being politically harassed in Egypt, which has caused considerable dissatisfaction among the population, so the governing classes sensed that the Danish caricatures offered a convenient opportunity to prove themselves to be good defenders of Islam. “Denmark is a harmless country and far from the Islamic world, but it represents NATO, the EU and the Iraq coalition, in other words, everything that the Islamic world sees as its antipode. That made Demark an ideal object of attack for all Islamic countries burdened by domestic or image problems.”
“The escalation of the crises reminds one of the script of the film “Wag the dog;”” concludes Kross, admitting, however, that Denmark has not handled the whole affair well enough, a profound underestimation of the consequences being its basic miscalculation.
Sven Mikser explains why the Islamic world felt so offended by the pictures. He concludes that the Western world does not understand the thinking of Moslems well enough to be able to adequately predict the reactions to its actions. But every action is nevertheless likely to have consequences: “Even though, being at home, we have the lawful right to behave according to our customs and traditions, we still are not immune from the consequences of our actions. If the prospective damage from the latter is likely to be significant, it might be in our interests to avoid testing the limits of using some of our rights.”
And possibly the most important conclusion from the regretful cartoon conflict should be an understanding that even though the democratisation of the Islamic world is in our interest, attempts to achieve this goal by using too robust methods may result in dangerous backlashes.
Erkki Bahovski describes in his article how the Western world has achieved its current economic and political might by accepting the principles that the cartoon conflict has brought into focus – such as freedom of the press, separation of the church from the state, and others. Eduard Tinn’s arguments are built up along the same lines; he finishes by inviting the Moslems to follow the Western world’s example in its philosophical and institutional development.
Diplomaatia also publishes an essay by Francis Fukuyama, titled “After neo-conservatism,” which critically scrutinises the results of the US invasion of Iraq as well as the neo-conservative thinking that has been arguing in favour of that policy.
A book review by Jaak Lensment, discusses George Weigel’s “The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God.”

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