Nice civilization you got here. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.
That was the sinister subtext of a letter addressed to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, asking him to "take all those responsible to task under law" for the infamous Mohammed cartoons. The letter is remarkable for when it was sent and for who sent it.
The letter was signed by the eleven ambassadors of Islamic or heavily-Islamic countries. Libya, Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, Palestine, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bosnia-Herzegovina complained about the Jyllands-Posten cartoons on October 12, long before the current round of protests.
It is, of course, their right to complain, but demanding legal action is pretty arrogant. It’s also depressing, because it shows that these worldly ambassadors don’t even know how a free country works. Asking an executive to restrain lawful speech in a free country is like asking him to kindly restrain the rotation of the moon.
But that’s not the surprising part. The surprise is the implied extortion at the end of this paragraph:
We strongly feel that casting aspersions on Islam as a religion and publishing demeaning caricatures of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) goes against the spirit of Danish values of tolerance and civil society. This is on the whole a very discriminatory tendency and does not bode well with [sic] the high human rights standards of Denmark. We may underline that it can also cause reactions in Muslim countries and among Muslim communities in Europe.
"Reactions?" Whatever could they mean by that?
Peaceful protests? Harsh language? Nothing to worry about in a democracy with a strong free speech tradition, thanks. All in a day’s work. Not worth warning us about.
No, the ambassadors anticipated "reactions" sufficiently dangerous that they thought Denmark ought to be warned about them.
Even though it is written in English, the significance of the ambassadors’ thinly veiled threat has escaped the attention of the English-speaking media. I only saw it, because a Danish friend sent it to me. To see the letter for yourself, you can download it from the Danish newspaper Berlingske on this page, next to the word "Grafik."