Story from New York

Date: Thu,  9 Feb 2006

“A BLESSING from God”: So have Iran’s leaders, starting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

A closer look at the row, however, shows that the whole rigmarole was launched by Sunni-Salafi groups in Europe and Asia, with Ahmadinejad and his Syrian vassal, President Bashar al-Assad, belatedly playing catch-up.  God had nothing to do with it.

To see how the whole thing was manufactured to serve precise political ends, consider the chronology of events:

The cartoons were published last September and, for more than three months, caused no ripples outside small groups of Salafi militants in Denmark.

In December, a group of Danish Muslim militants filled their suitcases with photocopies of the cartoons and embarked on a tour of Muslim capitals.

They failed to get to Tehran: The Iranians, being Shi’ites, saw them as Sunni activists bent on mischief. But they managed to go to Cairo, Damascus and Beirut and, were allowed to send emissaries to Saudi Arabia.

The Danish Muslim group also did something dishonest — it added a number of far more derogatory cartoons of the Prophet to the 12 published by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and misled its interlocutors in Muslim capitals into believing that all had appeared in the Danish press.

In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood told the Danish group that this was not the time to kick a fuss over the cartoons. The brotherhood was busy plotting its election strategy and pretending to be a “moderate” political party. The last thing it wanted was to be branded as a rabid anti-West force. The brotherhood leaders suggested that the matter be put on ice until January.

The Danish militants also received a negative reply from Hamas, the Palestinian radical movement. Hamas was busy trying to win a general election and needed to reassure at least part of the Palestinian middle classes. The Hamas advice was: Wait until after we have won.

The emissaries found a more sympathetic audience in Qatar — where the satellite-TV channel Al Jazeera (owned by the emir) specializes in inciting Muslims against the West and democracy in general. The channel’s chief Islamist televangelist, Yussuf al-Qaradawi (an Egyptian preacher who is also a friend of Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London), was all too keen to issue a “fatwa” to light the fuse. He then mobilized his network of Muslim Brotherhood militants in Europe to attack the cartoons and claim, falsely, that images were not allowed in Islam and that the Danish paper had violated “an absolute principle of The Only True Faith.”

Thus the call for Jihad received its supposed “theological” green light. (Ironically, the section of the brotherhood headed by al-Qaradawi is financed by the European Union as a non-governmental organization.)

As the first rent-a-mob crowds appeared on global TV screens, Ahmadinejad realized that here was a cow worth milking.

For Denmark is set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council — at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. What better, for Tehran’s purposes, than to portray Denmark as “an enemy of Islam” and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council?

To regain the initiative from the Sunni-Salafi groups, Ahmadinejad quickly ordered a severing of commercial ties with Denmark, thus portraying the Islamic Republic as the Muslim world’s leader in the anti-Danish campaign.

Syria was next to jump on the bandwagon, again for mercenary reasons.

The United Nations wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and five of his relatives and aides, including his younger brother, for questioning in the murder of Lebanon’s former premier, Rafiq al-Hariri. (Assad has tried to negotiate immunity for himself and his brother in exchange for handing over the others — but the U.N. wouldn’t play.) As with Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian dossier will reach the Security Council under Danish presidency.

To portray Denmark as “an enemy of the Prophet” would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri.

The Danish-cartoons cow will also be milked in another way: Tehran and Damascus have launched a diplomatic campaign to put the issue of “protecting religions against blasphemy” on the Security Council agenda. If that were to happen, issues such as Iran’s quest for the atomic bomb and Syria’s murder machine in Lebanon might be pushed aside, at least as far as world public opinion is concerned.

People watching TV news may think that the whole Muslim world is ablaze with righteous rage translated into “spontaneous demonstrations.” The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, even if offended by cartoons which they have not seen, have stayed away from the street shows put on by the radicals and the Iranian and Syrian security services.

The destruction of Danish and Norwegian embassies and consulates happened in only two places: Damascus and Beirut. Anyone who knows Syria would know that there are no spontaneous demonstrations in that dictatorship. (Even then, the Syrian secret police failed to attract more than 1,000 rent-a-mob militants.) And the Syrian government refused the Norwegian Embassy’s request for additional police protection. It was clear that the Syrians wanted the embassies sacked.

The rent-a-mob attacks in Beirut were more cynical. The Syrian Ba’ath – which has been murdering, imprisoning or deporting Sunni-Salafi militants for years — was suddenly transformed from a radical secular and Socialist party into “the Vanguard of the Faith.” The mob that committed the atrocities in Beirut was bused from Syria and consisted of Muslim Brotherhood militants who are never allowed to demonstrate on their own account.

The Muslim crowds that have demonstrated over the cartoons seldom exceeded a few hundred; the Muslim segment of humanity is estimated at 1.2 billion. And only three of Denmark’s embassies in 57 Muslim countries have been attacked.

The Danish Muslim gang who lied by adding cartoons that had never been published has done more damage to the Prophet and to Islam than the 12 controversial cartoonists of Jyllands-Posten.

The fight between Denmark and its detractors is not between the West and Islam. It is between democracy and a global fascist movement masquerading as religion.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

It is rapidly becoming clear that the “cartoon Intifada” is a hoax.

It is not the spontaneous rage of offended Moslems. It is a faux crisis fabricated by the Danish Imams and Syria, whose goals are to create:

a.) intimidation to squash western free speech and any artistic creativity that might be critical of Moslem terrorism.

b.) a smokescreen to take Iran off of the front pages, and diffuse the international movement against its WMD designs.

c.) a high-profile incendiary show of fervent support and protection for Islam by any regime, especially a secular one like Syria that wants to out-extreme the extremists.

Consider the following:

1.)  The original cartoons are not anywhere near as horrific as the cartoons that have appeared regularly in Moslem press throughout the world for decades, demonizing Jews, Israel and Christians.  Yet there are no Moslems apologizing for these hate-laden cartoons.

No civilized nation can contend that it has the right to insult anyone but then deny that same right to everyone else.

2.)  The Danish Imams that brought the cartoons to the attention of political leaders in Arab countries forged three new cartoons, pretending that these too were part of the Danish collection.  These forged cartoons were indeed insulting characterizations of Mohammed as a pig, having sex with children, and being anally penetrated by a goat  — far more horrific than the rather mild Danish spoofs.

The Imams knew that the Danish cartoons were not so bad.  So they had to forge some fake really bad ones in order to get the desired response from their audiences.

3.) The assertion that Islam bans pictures of Mohammed is a lie.  There is a centuries-old tradition of depicting Mohammed in art.  Cf. <> for a collection of hundreds of years of Moslem art depicting Mohammed.  Moreover, none of the figures in the cartoons are necessarily Mohammed.  This lie was necessary in order to fabricate an explanation for the extreme Moslem rage.

4.)  The hypocrisy of these violent demonstrations has not found _expression in western media, but it should.  This hypocrisy belies the sincerity of these demonstrations.  How can any civilized society be passive, or even supportive, when their leaders kill millions of their own (Saddam Hussein killed c. 1,300,000 Moslems in his 32 years of violent despotism), or when their co-religionists bomb mosques with hundreds of Moslem worshippers inside them (as have the Sunni terrorists in Iraq)…..and yet that same society explodes into paroxysms of violence, murder, threats of genocide, and outraged self-righteous fury when a Qur’an is purported to be mishandled, or a newspaper publishes harmless cartoons?

5.)  The timing is odd.  The cartoons were first published in September.  They were re-published in an Egyptian journal, El-Farg, with provocative headlines, on October 17; but elicited no response. Only after a summit meeting in Mecca in December did the cartoon issue go ballistic.  In Syria and Iran, that meant heavy press coverage in official news media and virtual government approval of demonstrations that ended with Danish embassies in flames.

6.)  As the issue catapulted from a local Danish kafuffle to an international incident of incendiary proportions in December, the Danish imams were at it again: this time with lies that the Danish newspaper had actually published not just 12 but 120 cartoons, that the paper was a government mouthpiece, that the Danish government was sponsoring a massive Qur’an burning party, and that the government was planning to make a movie blaspheming Mohammed.

All pure fiction  —  but very effective in heightening the furore and inciting the Moslem “street” to even greater violence and hatred.

7.)  In a later publication, El-Farg editors wrote, in opportunistic hindsight, that “…It would have been better that this [current] holy war against Denmark been launched during the holy month of Ramadan (October) …This irrelevant….timing is but a sign that this violent response to the cartoons is politically motivated by Muslim extremists in Europe and the so-called secular governments of the Middle East.”

So, at least to the editors at El-Farg, the ‘cartoon Intifada’ is a jihad, which should have started in October.  And the delay is evidence that the current “holy war against Denmark” is a political ploy.

In sum, the current “cartoon Intifada”, with its death (to date, at least 10 Moslems have been killed in Afghanistan riots, a Catholic priest murdered, and scores injured) and destruction, threats of genocide and terrorism, hatred and intimidation, is all the product of Moslem leaders’ manipulation.

Now, why would anyone do that?

The anti-Syrian coalition in Lebanon has accused the Syrian government of starting the riots.  Young Bashir is deeply beholden to Iran.  So one must look to Iran as the source of the conspiracy-like process that has set the Moslem world aflame.

But, what could be Iran’s motives?

Thanks to a recent USA/EU/UN/Egyptian agreement for a nuclear-free Middle East, Iran will now be able to link its compliance with UN/EU/USA demands for a halt to its nuclear ambitions to the West’s pressuring Israel to dismantle, or at least disclose to the IAEA, Israel’s own nuclear program.  That is what a nuclear-free Middle East means.

The obvious question that Iran and other Moslem countries can now raise is:  Why are you attacking Iran about its embryonic nuclear program which they say is meant for peaceful usages; when you let Israel get away with building a whole arsenal of nuclear WMDs with delivery systems which are clearly, and avowedly, for military purposes?   Curtail Israel and Iran will stand down.

Brilliant.  Ahmedi-Nejad may be crazy, but he is not stupid.

And the cartoon crisis explodes with perfect timing.

Thanks to this new “jihad against Denmark”, the West is shown very clearly just what it means to get the Moslem world angry.  If this is how they act when some cartoonists blaspheme, how  do you think they will act if the West does not follow through and show  ‘even handedness’ and ‘fairness’ by pressuring Israel just as much, or more,  than it pressures Iran?

Now that the West knows what price there is to pay for stoking the ire of the Moslem world, not only will all western cartoonists be far more circumspect and self-censuring, but so will other artists, journalists, analysts, historians, Middle East scholars, diplomats, and governments.

When the Egyptian Ambassador to Denmark departed, following Egypt’s decision to cut off diplomatic relations in the wake of the cartoon crisis, his parting words were “Denmark must do something to appease the Moslem world.”

What sort of appeasement might he have in mind?  What could Denmark do that would calm the savage wrath of the Moslem world whose delicate religious sensibilities have been ravaged by these cartoons?


Will we soon see Denmark leading a diplomatic charge in the UN to suspend action against Iran until Israel has divested itself of its WMDs?


David Meir-Levi

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