Ah, beautiful Denmark. The land of poets and warriors, of sages and artists. The land of Beowulf and Brahe. The land of Magnus the Great and about half of Jessica Alba. The land of Hans Christian Anderson and Reptilicus. Denmark is a beautiful country with a rich and colorful history and an even more rich and colorful mythology. It also has the balls to stand up to the fundamentalist Muslims.
Two years ago a collection of Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed provoked a ludicrous amount of outrage from certain sets of the Muslim population. Apparently depicting Mohammed is a big no-no, big enough to spark protests, death threats, and a whole lot of signs that say "behead those who insult Islam". Guess I should have thought twice before adding Mohammed to my Wii baseball team. (He bats between Jesus and Richard Dawkins, but really shines as an outfielder.)
In any event, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who drew one of about a dozen of the cartoons that got people so up in arms, was the victim of serious death threats from some of the "offended" folks. On Tuesday, three men were arrested by Danish authorities and charged with conspiracy to kill Westergaard. In a delicious turn of events, newspapers across Denmark reprinted the offending cartoons yesterday, as did newspapers in Spain, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Officially they were "documenting the history of the case", but I like to think of it as a big middle finger to all the crazy religionists who claim the right never to be offended even as they breathe fire and hatred at everyone else. (I'm not just talking to the Muslims here, either.) One of the newspapers involved in the matter, Berlingske Tidende, issued the following statement:
"...[We] unambiguously back and support the freedom of speech that we as a newspaper always will defend."
Bravo. Thing is, no one, and I mean no one, has the right not to be offended. Muslims, Christians, atheists, fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks - all of us are open to criticism and we're all free to criticize each other. Shrill objections and threats of violence against people who question your beliefs are the stuff of preschool playgrounds, not of the adult, rational world. Or perhaps the stumbling block here is the word "rational", as we have seen time and again that the people who would exploit religious bigotry to foment hatred and murder are anything but reasonable.
This actually calls to mind the fellows over at Preaching Your Funeral. You'll recall that I've been bothering these guys for a couple of weeks now to no avail about getting myself burned in effigy on their website. (I guess ol' Skippy doesn't have the star power of Rosie O'Donnell.) Now that kind of crazy crap is about as "offensive" as you can get, but I've yet to see any atheists trying to shut these fellas down. If anything, they're getting linked from more atheist blogs than I can count as the rest of us look on in bemusement. As I've said before, I'm not even sure that it isn't just one big joke.
In any event, kudos to the Danes for standing up to the nutjobs, and kudos to Westergaard for putting his neck on the line in the name of freedom of expression.
Oh, and here's his blasphemous cartoon.