April 2006

Osama Bin Laden is alive and well … well, he is still reduced to just a faceless voice without access to a video camera. The mass-media elected leader of Al-Qaeda sent another audiotape to al-Jazeera on Sunday. According to al-Jazeera, the tape is “believed by Washington to be authentic.” It was his first public relations event since January and it seems to be more of a “I am still here and hearing the news” message than anything else. And so the distant-learning op-ed propaganda war goes on, but who is listening? (more…)


Left: Miniature of Muhammed re-dedicating the Black Stone at the Kaaba. From Jami Al-Tawarikh, by Rashid Al-Din, 1324. Edinburgh University Library, ms. 20, fol. 55. Date: 1324-1585. Arabian (Mecca). Right: Norwegian newspaper showing the Danish cartoons (posted on al-Jazira).

Hamlet: ‘By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!– I say, away!–Go on; I’ll follow thee.’ [Exeunt Ghost and Hamlet.]

Horatio: ‘He waxes desperate with imagination.’

Marcellus: ‘Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.’

Horatio: ‘Have after.–To what issue will this come?’

Marcellus: ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’

Horatio: ‘Heaven will direct it.’

From Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” (I, iv)

By now the whole world knows about a controversial set of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Published in a major Danish newspaper (Jyllands-Posten), the images are rotten to the core to many Muslims. The rotting has been going on since last September, when the images were first printed, in part as a challenge to find Danish artists not afraid to caricature Muhammad as they have Jesus and other prophets in the past. As an illustration of how fast this story is developing in cyberspace, check out the post on Wi[c]k[ed]ipedia.

No matter what you think of the humor in the drawings, the current situation is no fun for anyone. The outrage of many Muslims worldwide has boiled over in the past few weeks to a remarkable escalation not seen since the days of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. There has been an economic boycott of Danish products, resulting in the
loss of millions of dollars in sales to the Middle East. Some Danish embassies have been closed. Flags have been burnt. An Iraqi insurgent group has called for attacks on the small contingent of Danish troops fighting with the coalition. Republication of the cartoons in Norwegian and French newspapers has led to an ever wider frenzy about a Western conspiracy to defame Islam.