Muslim world launches new cartoon war

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti international commentator Yelena Shesternina) - The entire Muslim world may start a new cartoon war in the near future. It will be no less radical and irreconcilable than the one in 2005.

The first signs of confrontation between the Muslims and the West are obvious. In Afghanistan, thousands of people are burning European flags in the streets, Danish politicians are not allowed in Iran, while Saudi hackers are breaking into European sites and calling to boycott Western goods.

Far from everyone in the West has learned a lesson from the first cartoon war in 2005, when Jyllands-Posten, a little-known Danish newspaper, managed to cause an uproar in the whole world with just one publication. Its cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad offended 1.5 billion people. Islamic traditions prohibit the publication of any images of people, not to mention the prophet.

As a result, massive protests swept the Muslim world, and in some countries Western diplomats had to go home within 24 hours. Denmark and the countries in which journalists dared reprint the cartoons were on the verge of breaking off relations with dozens of Muslim states. About 50 people fell victim to pogroms and demonstrations. Terrorists threatened to punish not only the authors of the cartoons but all those countries that supported them. They blacklisted almost the whole of Europe - Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Sweden, and Iceland.

Now, two and a half years later, the situation seems to repeat itself. This time, not only Denmark but also the Netherlands dared insult the Muslim world. The Danish press again published Muhammad cartoons. This was a kind of revenge on behalf of Danish journalists. They learned in February that several people, including two from Tunisia and one from Morocco, were planning an attack on one of the authors of the cartoons. Needless to say, the indignant Danish Muslims staged pogroms in Copenhagen; then resentment spread to other Muslim countries.

Maybe, it would have ended with that but the Dutch ultra-right poured more oil on the flames. Geert Wilders, the Freedom Party leader, made a documentary titled Fitna, which means "troubled times" in Arabic. Nobody has seen the film yet but everyone knows what it is about - the author has done his best to advertise it. This 10-minute film denounces Islam, referring to the Koran as "Mein Kampf."

Wilders told Fox News that he despises political correctness and does not believe that all people are equal. He said that European culture is far better than the Muslim culture, and admitted that such statements may hurt people but said it was "their problem," not his. Such rhetoric enjoys enough support in the Netherlands - after the recent elections, the ultra-right nationalists became the fifth strongest party in parliament.

It is possible that by making such statements, Wilders simply wants to increase his popularity at home. The louder the statements, the more attention they attract. But it was enough for Muslims to hear that the film exists to start burning all European flags, and to threaten to kill not only its author but all Western politicians who dare show any support for his views.

Dutch politicians are prone to playing with fire despite the deplorable consequences of this attitude. Nationalist Pim Fortuyn became the first martyr on the eve of the 2002 elections in the once calm Netherlands. He advocated the Netherlands-for-the-Dutch principle, and urged ridding the country of immigrants (there are about a million of immigrants there). His death made the ultra-right a runner-up in the elections. Two years later, in 2004, Theo van Gogh, the author of the anti-Islamic movie "Submission" was shot and stabbed to death by an Islamic fundamentalist.

Realizing what consequences the Wilders' movie may inflict on Europe, virtually all European politicians have been trying to bring Wilders to reason. His most famous compatriot, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said that the movie would threaten the position of Dutch troops in Afghanistan. The Afghans do not conceal that they are not going to tolerate the Dutch presence. Moreover, they are demanding that their government should sever relations with the Netherlands and Denmark. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende urged Wilders to display responsibility in his conduct. But he cannot do more than that because the Netherlands is a democratic country where everyone can say what he or she wants.

It is time for the politically correct Europe to come to its senses and stop defending its democratic principles at all costs. The value of human life overrides any liberties, even freedom of expression. If the ultra-nationalist shows his movie, there may be dozens of victims (I'm not talking about his life). Or are the Europeans ready to sacrifice dozens of Muslim lives so that Wilders can enjoy freedom of expression?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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