Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Meeting short take #3: Iran proposes a "Holocaust cartoon contest"

This is just too bizarre for me not to mention it, meeting or no meeting (you didn't think I could ignore this, did you?):
TEHRAN, Iran - A prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Hamshahri, one of Iran's largest papers, made clear the contest is a reaction to European newspapers' publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. Several people have been killed.

Hundreds of Iranians hurled stones, and sometimes gasoline bombs, at the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran in protest against the cartoons Monday. Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.

The newspaper said the contest would be launched Monday and co-sponsored by the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons. The paper and the cartoon center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his opposition to Israel.

Ahmadinejad, who was Tehran's mayor until being elected president in June, provoked outcries last year when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and the Holocaust was a "myth."

Iran said last month it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, an apparent attempt to give voice to Holocaust deniers.

Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter the competition.

"Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote, referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
My first reaction to learning of this news was: How would anyone notice the difference? Iran and many other Muslim nations in the Middle East routinely publish the most vile, anti-Semitic cartoons, as well as a number of cartoons that preach Holocaust denial. What's a few more such cartoons among bigots? (As an aside, I've always stood in awe at the cognitive dissonance that people like this must have to allow them to deny the Holocaust and yet at the same time indiscriminately equate the treatment of the Palestinians by Israelis with the Nazi treatment of Jews. If, as these Holocaust deniers claim, the Holocaust didn't happen, then equating Israel with Nazi Germany is pretty pointless as a means of demonization of Jews. But I digress.)

My second reaction, though, was a bit of amusement. By announcing this contest, the Iranians seem to be implying that the Jews control Denmark, that they must think that it had to be the eeeeviillll Jews that were responsible for the publication of the cartoons. Otherwise, why not a contest for cartoons making fun of Christianity? Or a contest for cartoons making fun of, say, Buddhism or Hinduism (sacred cows, anyone)? Heck, why not a contest making fun of atheists, given how secular Denmark and much of Europe is? But, no. It has to be a contest for cartoons making fun of the Holocaust, a contest to attack Jews. (Of course, anti-Semitic cartoons are not unknown in Europe.) Besides revealing Iranian anti-Semitism, it's a transparent ploy. I can see it now. When the "winning" cartoons are published, Iran will "challenge" European papers to show their support for "freedom of speech" and republish them, as they did the Danish cartoons. When European nations refuse to play their game and republish such garbage, Iran will most likely gloat about a European double standard. Clearly the irony of Iranian media making such a charge against anyone is completely lost on them.

In fact, historian Deborah Lipstadt is preparing to enter the contest, with her collection of anti-Semitic cartoons from Arab and Muslim nations that she's been collecting over the years. She even has an idea for prizes for the winners:
1st Prize: One week in Teheran with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (the Holocaust-denying President of Iran)

2nd Prize: Two weeks in Teheran with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

3rd Prize: 450 days in the former American embassy with those nice hostage takers.
Hmmm. Compared with the prospect of spending "quality" time with a hatemonger like Ahmadinejad, the prospect of 450 days as a hostage doesn't sound quite as horrible as it normally would otherwise. I'm sure Professor Lipstadt must have been joking. Mostly.

One thing's almost certain, though. There won't be any mass rioting, threats of beheading and murder, or bombings by Jews upset over Iran's pointless "retaliation."

8 example(s) of insolence returned:

At 2/08/2006 10:17 AM, Anonymous lambic said...

I think these cartoons should be entered too:

Why should the Flying Spaghetti Monster be left out of all the blasphemy?


At 2/08/2006 10:46 AM, Blogger OutEast said...

I may be wrong, but I don't think the implication is supposed to be that the jews run Denmark (though the assumption may be that they do!). As far as I can see it's that they know that holocaust denial is taboo and incurs anger, whereas anti-Christian cartoons are unlikely to spark much interest (well, maybe in the States).

In one respect (and one respect alone) they have a point - anyone who seriously believes that the J-P was not trying to stir up trouble with those cartoons needs their head examining (especially in the light of the paper's earlier rejection of cartoons of Christ on the grounds of the risk of offending Christians). As pure, obnoxious, eye-for-an-eye revenge, it sort-of makes sense. More sense than killing people and burning down embassies, anyway. It's 'you fucka-me, I fucka-you' on the free speech thing.


At 2/08/2006 11:29 AM, Blogger Bronze Dog said...

If only they responded to literary attack with literary attack during the start of this whole mess, there'd be fewer dead people.


At 2/08/2006 1:53 PM, Anonymous Leigh Jackson said...

Ahmadinejad is the Iranian political equivalent of Bush, but Bush is a billion times more dangerous because he already has nuclear bombs.
The shit that comes out of their mouths is unmediated by reason. It comes from the most narrow blind ignorance and prejudice, loaded with fear, and loathing of the "other".
"Other" in the most general sense - anyone who is not like us.
If the USA can vote twice for a man like Bush,then Iran may as well vote for an Ahmadinejad, and the Palestinaians for Hamas.
Democracy is looking pretty shit these days.


At 2/08/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous ParanoidMarvin said...

Regarding the Hamas, the Iranians are claiming (Hamenai specifically), that we Jews got the paper to print the cartoons in retaliation to the Hamas winning the election. Notice that this implies that we have competent Jewish fortune tellers, since the caricatures were published in September and the elections were two weeks ago.

Fancy that, should see if one of them fortune tellers is in my circle of friends, make me some money on horsies....


At 2/08/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Tim said...

A much more convincing conspiracy theory, and frankly one I can actually consider plausible, is that the Saudis stirred up this crap again to distract attention from yet another Hajj disaster that occured a couple of weeks back.


At 2/09/2006 4:12 AM, Anonymous Vasha said...

Actually, the Saudis have no real need to distract attention from yet another mass crowd death (363 suffocated) at Mecca. Pious people know that the Hajj is dangerous and that's actually part of the attraction. Coincidentally, I was reading about this today. Several thousand people have died in mass incidents over the last 15 years and hundreds more individually; to many people it seems like a sort of sacrificial thing, not to mention that official doctrine is that a person who dies on Hajj is guaranteed Paradise.

Why all the deaths? Well, it's a three-day route through sacred places on a very tight time-schedule with two million people participating (and it's *only* two million because the Saudis set quotas). The most dangerous part is the so-called Stoning of the Devil at the Jamarat Bridge which involves almost all the two million trying to pass through two 40-foot-wide areas between noon and sunset on the final day. In such a sardine-packed crowd as that, if just one person trips, others fall over him, movement is disrupted, chaos spreads, and heaps of people pile up, leading to mass suffocation.

It's true that the Saudis are trying to improve the infrastructure to relieve the congestion; the Jamarat Bridge is due to be demolished this year and replaced with a four-story structure (instead of the current two stories). But they're not facing any major public-opinion pressure because of the ongoing problems.

See If It Doesn't Kill You First: An American Muslim's Pilgrimage for one person's experience.


At 2/09/2006 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today on CNN the channel displayed a whole tranch of anti-Israeli/Jewish cartoons from the Muslim media. At he end of the report, which concerned itself with the muhammed cartoons, the newscaster explained why they were not showing the latter.

The words "spineless western media" did not figure in his explanation.


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