Newspapers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy yesterday reprinted caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, escalating a row over freedom of expression which has caused protest across the Middle East. France Soir and Germany’s Die Welt published cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper, although the French paper later apologised and apparently sacked its managing editor. The cartoons include one showing a bearded Muhammad with a bomb fizzing out of his turban.
The Guardian includes an excerpt from an article in France Soir defending the decision to publish the cartoons, on the basis of exercising “freedom of expression in a secular country”. In this connection, the IRR website has an interesting article from the forthcoming issue of Race & Class which demolishes the rosy view of French secularism held by some people on the Left:
“Some of the roots of the recent unrest in France unquestionably lie in the country’s hysterical obsession with secularism and an associated state-sanctioned Islamophobia. The separation of religion and state is one of those valeurs républicaines (Republican values) which everyone has been referring to since ‘les émeutes‘. But secularism in France seems to be going horribly wrong. Indeed, la laïcité (secularism) seems to have become a form of fundamentalism itself which discriminates against the country’s Muslims. Numerous politicians and intellectuals claim that Islam, France’s second religion, is incompatible with les valeurs républicaines.”
The BNP have also published some of the cartoons on their site, assuring their followers that “we certainly will not be grovelling to anyone who cannot tolerate important western democratic values such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression and those who fail to appreciate a sense of humour”. Ah, the famed BNP sense of humour, manifested in waggish remarks about blowing up Bradford’s mosques with a rocket launcher.