Austin Bay

In early February, Danish police launched a pre-emptive attack on terrorism when they arrested three men involved in a "terror-related assassination" plot. The cops carefully identified the men as "a 40-year-old Dane of Moroccan origin and two Tunisians."

The would-be murderers targeted 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, an editorial cartoonist, and his 66-year-old wife, Gitte.

Think about it -- a 73-year-old and 66-year-old. Visit two Danes that age, with names like Kurt and Gitte, and you expect a platter of Danish pastry. If Kurt has an edge to him (and fair bet he has one -- after all, he's an editorial cartoonist), you might hear him satirize European politicians and their more imperious nostrums. Editorial cartoonists get paid to do this, slap down politicos and shibboleths -- at least editorial cartoonists fortunate enough to live in democracies that respect the rule of law.

Why target Kurt and Gitte? Mr. Westergaard works for a Danish newspaper with guts, the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

In the fall of 2005, the Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons mildly satirizing political Islamism. Its editor argued many Muslim immigrants criticize Europeans and European liberalism but brook no counter-critique. The cartoons didn't purport to convey fact, but were opinion.

Four months after their publication, waves of coordinated violence erupted around the globe, riots organized by Islamist activists. Terrorists threatened the journalists and cartoonists with death.

I recall Westergaard's cartoon quite well. He drew a picture of the prophet Mohammad, but turned the prophet's turban into a bomb with a burning fuse. His cartoon echoed late 19th and early 20th century cartoons depicting anarchists -- usually wild-eyed Russians or Balkanites -- lugging a cannonball bomb with a fuse.

This makes Westergaard not only a student of his craft but an artist who understands the connections between contemporary Islamo-fascist terrorists and the anarchist movement of a century ago. They are extremists. They are murderers. His cartoon captured the thought in a single, brilliant image.

Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh, said the assassination attempt "shows that, unfortunately, there are in Denmark groups of extremists that do not accept and respect the basic principles on which the Danish democracy has been built."

In the wake of the arrests, numerous editorial writers remembered the brutal murders of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (2002) and Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (2004) by Islamist terrorists. Pearl was kidnapped and slain in Pakistan. Van Gogh, however, was killed on a Dutch street -- stabbed to death. Van Gogh's theologically inspired murderer carved a message in his chest.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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