Picturing Mohammed

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Feb. 6 2006 7:29 PM

Picturing Mohammed

Bloggers continue to respond to the global riots sparked by European newspapers' decision to republish caricatures of Mohammed. They also analyze the NSA hearing and mark the passing of feminist grande dame Betty Friedan.

Picturing Mohammed:Last week, many Muslims launched protests against Denmark after European newspapers republished 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed (they were originally published in September by Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten). Over the weekend, the fury escalated: Protesters torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria and the Danish embassy in Lebanon. At least five people were killed in Afghanistan, Iran broke off relations with Denmark, and President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the decision to publish them.

Global Voices' roundup and translations of Arab bloggers' reaction reflect the divisions within the Muslim world. Saudi Arabian Raed Al Saeed's excoriates the rioters: "Shame on you. You turned the efforts of millions from a peaceful actions like the boycotting to this barbarism, to turn the Muslims from peaceful protestors to ignorant barbarians who do not know the difference between Denmark, Chile and Sweden." Ahmed, a Syrian hard-liner, blames the Danish and Norwegian governments: "They should understand that the reason is their ignorance, which we do not accept, even if a sword is held on our necks, and even if we have to burn whole of Denmark and Norway."

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Some are scrutinizing the controversy's origins. Informed Comment's Juan Cole, a Middle Eastern studies professor, documents the cartoon's' reception in the Muslim world and calls out the Egyptian foreign minister. Gateway Pundit's conservative Jim Hoft blames a Danish imam who recently traveled to the Middle East for fanning the flames: "[T]he truth is that Imam Ahmad Abu Laban, brought at least 3 additional images, which HAD NEVER been published in any media source. They included a cartoon of Muhammad as a pedophile demon, Muhammed with a pig snout, and a prayingMuslim being raped by a dog." (For more on where these extra images may have come from, read the Daily Telegraph's David Rennie.) And right-leaning Ed Morrissey writes that those organizing the riots in Lebanon "have no real street following; instead, they have to bus their people into the area in order to get any attendace whatsoever, and their swath of destruction got as much planning as a three-star tour of the Holy Land."

Others are discussing the bigger picture. "The cartoons weren't funny and the visual portrayal of Mohammed was done just to 'be an asshole' without any larger point to it. It's like parading around in blackface just for the hell of it," claims liberal stalwart Atrios. In The Brussels Journal, a blog maintained by European journalists, Paul Belien suggests that if Muslims start boycotting European goods, "Everyone will be forced to take sides." And law blogger Eugene Volokh notes  the legal distinction between free speech and hate speech.

Read more about the riots; view some images of Mohammed throughout history; read Slate's roundup of Arab journalists' reactions; read last week's TB about the cartoons.

Bugging Gonzales: At a Senate judiciary committee hearing today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the National Security Agency's right to wiretap suspected terrorists without getting a warrant.

Blogger reaction is falling along ideological lines. "I hope Majority Leader Frist schedules a vote on a 'sense of the Senate' resolution calling for the end of the NSA program," urges  conservative heavyweight Hugh Hewitt. Peace activist Deep Blade exclaims, "Wow. According to Gonzales, the 'battlefield' where 'enemy combatants' fight and the Supreme Court has authorized 'detention' now extends to the phone conversations of citizens on domestic soil."

Along with many senators, some bloggers are asking why the Bush administration bypassed the court warrant process stipulated in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Liberal Melvillian muses, "What I don't get about this whole NSA Wiretap story is that if the POTUS and the AG think it's legal, why do they act so guiltily about it? Like, they have a secret court (FISA) which they could use to make this whole program completely legit and which wouldn't jeopardize the security of it."Conservative Andy McCarthy of the National Review's blog, The Corner, presents  two reasons why the FISA act shouldn't apply. And Café Politico's Stacy B questions why Gonzales wasn't put under oath.

Read more about the hearing. Firedoglake's liberal ReddHedd live-blogged  the proceedings.

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