The Cartoon Crisis: Anger on Demand
Why did Muslims not react until February 2006 to cartoons published in September 2005?
Many Westeners are puzzled: Why did Muslims not react until February 2006 to cartoons published in September 2005?
A Member of the Danish Society who is well acquainted with Middle East culture and way of thinking gives this answer:
The West does not understand that manufactured anger-on-demand is a classic “negotiating tactic” in the Arab Middle East. It is used to change the dynamics of a situation (in business or in politics) from unfavorable to favorable, under several circumstances:
a) Your opponent has just made a major concession, or done you a real favor. In the West, you would be expected to reciprocate, with a concession or a favor in return. But not in the Middle East! Instead, you invent a reason to be very angry. That way, you don’t owe anything in return, and you can even demand further concessions.
Yasser Arafat was a master at this game. Every time Israel made a major concession under the misnamed Oslo Peace Plan, Arafat would invent some horrible misdeed that Israel had committed, such as
i) Opening the Hasmonean Tunnel, which the Arab merchants in the Old City had looked forward to since it would have brought them more Israeli customers; but suddenly this excavation near the Jewish Western Wall was alleged to be Moslem sacred ground; or
ii) Jewish construction on Har Homah, a hill in South Jerusalem that had been bought by Jews in the 1890’s during the Ottoman period, but was suddenly claimed to be in Arab East Jerusalem; and
iii) When Ehud Barak offered far more to the Palestinians at Camp David than anyone could have imagined, a provocation of epic proportions needed to be invented to justify the Second Intifada; and although tourists, Israelis, and others had been routinely visiting the Temple Mount for decades, the visit by Ariel Sharon, who was not even in the Israeli government at the time, was seized upon as the reason for the mob violence that had been carefully planned months in advance.
b) You are a merchant, and a customer has just offered to pay a much higher price than the object you are selling is worth. The proper Arab reaction is to fly into a rage and ask how he could insult you with such a low offer, which, if you accepted it, would cause your family to starve!
c) You have done something offensive, for which you might be punished. This is no time for weakness! Instead, you must become furious about how you are being insulted, mistreated, and humiliated!
In all these situations, if your manufactured anger is taken seriously, you have already won, because you have redefined the entire negotiating relationship.
That brings us to “cartoongate”. What was the real reason that anger-on-demand had to be mobilized at this particular time, and in connection with what “negotiation”?
The Arabs of Palestine had just voted to make Hamas the dominant power in their Parliament; and every civilized nation had Hamas high on its list of terrorist organizations. In particular, the European Union had said it couldn’t keep sending huge sums of money to the Palestinians if the money would go to Hamas. The money from the E.U. was the real issue, and a reason was urgently needed to be furious at the Europeans, to put them (instead of Hamas) on the defensive. Enter Imam Ahmad Abu Laban, a Palestinian Arab “spiritual leader” in Copenhagen. Four months earlier, some cartoons unflattering to the Prophet had appeared in the independent Danish daily JyllandsPosten (though far milder than the viciously anti-Semitic cartoons that appear regularly in the government-controlled Arab newspapers). Armed with not only these cartoons, but others he contrived to appear insulting to the Prophet – though they had never been published anywhere in Europe! – Abu Laban and several of his fellow “Danish” Imams hurried to visit Hamas-supporting Moslem Brotherhood members in Egypt, now that a nearly-forgotten four-month-old “provocation” had become timely. The original alleged “offenders” were all the E.U. countries where any newspaper had printed, or reprinted, any offensive cartoon; and the first building attacked was not a Danish building, but the E.U. building in Gaza!
For the mobilized anger to be truly effective, the West had to be convinced that cartoons were the real issue, so it was important to keep the mobs inflamed for an extended period. Repressive governments that were being regularly criticized in the West, as in Syria and Iran, both strong Hamas supporters, saw the additional benefit of shifting the blame away from themselves and onto the evil Europeans. (The government-directed mob in Tehran attacked the Austrian Embassy, even though no Austrian paper had published any of the cartoons, but because the International Atomic Energy Commission, headquarted in Austria, had just referred the Iranian nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council!)
It is a big mistake to believe that the masterminds who manipulate the Moslem masses were reacting to the cartoons and an even bigger mistake if European “guilt” over the cartoons will lead to continued funding of Palestinian aid to an unrepentant Hamas, which was the real objective of the “spontaneous” demonstrations all along.
We might add: and remember how convenient the crisis came to Iran - being under charge for its nuclear program – and for Syria - being under charge of involvement in the murder of a former Lebanese Prime Minister. Remember also the upcoming negotiations on the future of Kosovo.
Furthermore: realize that the Egyptian government was extremely active in launching the case before the election – obviously in order to create a tool to attract sympathy from the voters and redirect attention from its own shortcomings.
And remember the necessity to blindfold Europeans to the disastrous aspects of Islam in a modern world by further extending the concept of blasphemy under the Penal Codes in a period where millions of Muslims try to settle in Western Europe. See for instance how close the British “Religious Hatred Bill” came to be passed by the Parliament.
Moreover: deafened by all the screaming and yelling on the alleged insult to Islam maybe European governments will forget how Muslim Countries treat their Christian and Jewish inhabitants.