It has been close to three years since the publication of controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Regardless, the flames from that fire have not even begun to die.
Jyllands-Posten published a series of caricatures in September 2005 that depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a less-than-playful light. The one most people are familiar with depicts the Prophet Muhammad wearing a lit bomb in his turban. In response, several protests against Denmark raged throughout the Muslim world in 2005.
Yeah, I’ll admit I can see such cartoons as offensive. And I have no religion.
Unfortunately, even now, it’s not over. A Feb. 13 Agence France-Presse article reported that Denmark reprinted the controversial cartoons following an incident which involved two Tunisians and a Moroccan Dane who plotted to assassinate one of the newspaper’s cartoonists. In response to the re-publication of the cartoons, protesters from the Middle East to Indonesia took to the streets again. Better yet, the Associated Press reported that Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, called for a boycott of Denmark to a crowd of thousands chanting, “Down, down, Denmark.”
Unfortunately for al-Bashir, he does not seem familiar with the oldest rule of controversy: It sells.
In this case, protesting and boycotting Denmark won’t help anything. All it does is increase the celebrity status of the cartoonists and makes the culprits behind the protests look like a bunch of idiots.
One just has to look at a few examples to prove my point, including the infamous “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie. The plot involves Indian expatriates in modern-day England who magically take on the personalities of an archangel and a devil.
I read it and hated it. It had a stupid premise and an even more ridiculous chain of events. However, the controversy lies in two segments. The first is a re-narration of an incident where Muhammad was tricked by Satan into proclaiming revelations that favored polytheistic deities – the Prophet later retracted these statements. The second and most offensive controversy happens when the reader is introduced to a brothel where all the prostitutes happen to have the names of all of Muhammad’s wives.
Offensive and repulsive, you bet.
It was these two passages that brought protests throughout the Muslim world similar to those we see today. However, nothing really hit the fan until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came on the scene in 1989. He put a bounty on Rushdie’s head, offering a reward to both Muslims and non-Muslims to assassinate Rushdie. Thus, Khomeini sealed Rushdie’s fate as one of the greatest authors of our time because of some lame excuse for a novel.
Now, I know what some might be thinking. How will ignoring such obscenities be effective?
I have an answer. Just look at the online Jesus-Christ-action-figure commercial by Kontraband. In this video, intended to be a comical farce, the viewer sees a depiction of young kids playing with the Christ figure. They go so far as to recreate the crucifixion. Finally, it all ends with the narrator saying, “Go ahead. Throw the first stone.”
Blasphemous. I know.
However, why was this never a controversy here in the United States, especially among the religious right, which has never been known to turn down protesting Hollywood depictions of Jesus in a revolutionary light? Simple, they knew nothing about it. Nobody did. And there was no bloodshed.
Bottom line: Sudan’s Denmark boycott is another example of how to marginalize peoples’ names in history books forever. No doubt, the cartoons were offensive and blasphemous. However, by gaining more and more attention over the fact, Sudan is only marginalizing a Danish newspaper over cartoons.
Good grief. Charles Shultz is probably rolling over in his grave over this.
Grady Bolding is a junior in theater. Please send comments to