Re: Bishops condemn intolerance of Islamic cartoons, Volume 12, Number 07, February 20 - February 26, 2006
In 1989, 96 fans of the Liverpool Football Club were killed in a crush at a football match at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. The official inquiry into the cause of this disaster concluded 'The real cause of the Hillsborough disaster [was] overcrowding, the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.' However, the day after the disaster, the Sun newspaper published a lead story representing the Liverpool fans as animals. 'Some fans pickpocketed victims'; 'Some fans urinated on the brave cops'; 'Some fans beat up PC performing CPR' were the subheadings. As a result, the Sun became a hated newspaper in Liverpool and a boycott almost chased it from the city until it issued a grudging apology over ten years later.
Why mention this? No one questions the Sun's right to publish whatever it wants, but I think few people would object to people in Liverpool demanding an apology for the Sun misjudging the situation and then refusing to correct itself. Of course, there are people who would argue that the Liverpool fans were "to blame" for having a reputation for hooliganism (including their role in the Heysel Stadium disaster) and that the city had many problems with drugs and unemployment. Why get hung up about an old newspaper story? Pride. I think people couldn't face working on other problems with this insult hanging over them.
It's true that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons in themselves are pretty bland, but to pretend a discussion is only about some inky marks on a page is disingenuous. The framing of the cartoons represent a hyper efficient version of Norman Tebbit's old cricket test. Do you love your European free speech or your Eurabian prophet? It backs Muslims into a corner. The choice is to be for a moment feted by the right (and maybe then forgotten) when you come out for Europe or to seek the security of your own community leaders, even though they are frightful reactionaries with axes to grind.
These riots and incendiary speeches are a shame. But I think it's a double shame that the media don't emphasise that most of the world's 1.2 billion muslims have reacted peacefully or taken up witty protests like http://www.sorrynorway-denmark.com/, or that the Danes refused to recognise the situation was heading out of control many times during the last quarter of last year. The whole of this story has been about increasing confrontation rather than defusing it, and I suspect that that may have been the ulterior motive for both sides.