Friday, February 10, 2006

Intimidation Works

The cartoon intifada continues and spreads across the whole Muslim world. The campaign against the Danish cartoons that depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed and the accompanying threats against the cartoon publishers has had an intended effect of intimidating many in the West into submission.

Very few newspapers or magazines in the U.S. have published the cartoons, preferring simply to describe them with words. In the U.K., a magazine, The Liberal, removed the cartoons from its website for safety reasons. (This magazine was the second one in the U.K. to publish the cartoons on its website and then quickly remove them.)

Senior police officers at Scotland Yard warned the magazine its staff could not be guaranteed protection from possible protests, after which the cartoon was pulled from the Liberal’s website and replaced by a large white square with the word “censored” placed over it.

Following the withdrawal of the cartoon, Ben Ramm, the magazine’s editor, announced on the website: “Despite our wishes and convictions, for reasons of safety the magazine will no longer carry the cartoon itself.”

In an earlier online editorial accompanying the publication of the cartoon, Mr Ramm had taken a strong line in support of free speech. “[The Liberal] will not be coerced into self-censorship by the threat of violence from those who use a platform of free speech to call for the destruction of the very system that enfranchises them,” he wrote.

One Western government, Sweden, shut down the website of a magazine over publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

The violence, threats, and boycotts by Muslims are having their intended effect. Many in the West are being successfully intimidated. They refuse to publish or withdraw publication of the cartoons out of fear.

It is difficult to blame them for being afraid. Brave words are easy to print or speak. Actions that put yourself and your colleagues at risk of death is not easy. The police in many European cities can not protect the media and their staffs from the many potential sources of harm. For those with staff in Muslim countries (such as CNN and BBC), the risk is more obvious and much higher, and the available protection is even less reliable.

The intimidation felt by many today is clear to us. Now imagine the intimidating effect of an Iran with nuclear weapons.

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