International Free Press Day was an auspicious time for the originator of the most famous Mohammed cartoon to make an appearance at several locations in the USA to talk about freedom of the press. Last night Kurt Westergaard spoke to a small private group in Manhattan, after appearing earlier at Rutgers and Princeton.
Fox News has a report on the event — although, needless to say, they don’t have the thatchers to actually publish Ol’ Turban Bomb himself. We’ll make up for it by posting him right here, as a reminder of what this deadly farce is all about.
Today Mr. Westergaard is appearing at Yale, and the Yale Muslim Students Association is “deeply hurt and offended” by the man who “propagates hate”.
Here’s what Fox has to say:
Muslims Not ‘Free of Being Mocked, ‘ Danish Cartoonist Says
Muslims need to develop a sense of humor and an appreciation of satire — and they need to understand that they are not “free of being mocked or being offended,” says the Danish caricaturist whose cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad incited rage throughout the Muslim world four years ago.
Kurt Westergaard told roughly a dozen listeners Wednesday night that he will “always” be ready to defend an individual’s right to religious freedom.
“As the Danish tradition is for satire, we say you can speak freely, you can vote, you can speak out anytime, but there’s only one thing you can’t do — you can’t be free of being mocked or being offended,” Westergaard said. “That’s the conditions in Denmark and so many countries.”
Westergaard spoke at a private residence in midtown Manhattan in conjunction with the Hudson New York Briefing Council. It was just his second appearance in the U.S. since the 2005 publication of his notorious cartoon, which depicted Muhammad wearing a turban resembling a lit bomb. In Islam, any depiction of Muhammad is forbidden and considered blasphemy.
Westergaard’s controversial cartoon was one of 12 that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and led to widespread violent protests throughout the Middle East, Asia, Denmark and Africa.
Several months after the cartoons were published, a Pakistani cleric reportedly offered 1.5 million rupee — roughly $16,700 — and a car to anyone who killed Westergaard. Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the Mohabat Khan mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar, announced the bounty in February 2006 at the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school that he leads.
In June 2008, Westergaard and ten newspaper editors were reportedly summoned by Jordan’s public prosecutor on charges of “blasphemy” for reprinting the cartoons. Three men were arrested last year in Denmark for allegedly plotting to assassinate him.
Security at Wednesday night’s event was heightened, with two uniformed New York Police Department officers stationed outside the building as Westergaard spoke. Additional security measures were also taken earlier in the day when Westergaard spoke during a luncheon at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and at Princeton University. He is scheduled to speak at Yale University on Thursday — an appearance that is causing some controversy on the Ivy League campus.
Members of the Yale Muslim Students Association have said they are “deeply hurt and offended” that Westergaard will speak on the New Haven, Conn., campus, though they do not plan to protest. The group said Yale fails to recognize the “religious and racial” sensitivities surrounding the matter.
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“As an institution purportedly committed to making our campus an educational environment where all students feel equally comfortable, we feel that by hosting Kurt Westergaard Yale is undermining its commitment to creating a nurturing learning environment by failing to recognize the religious and racial sensitivity of the issue,” the group said in a statement.
And here’s what might be called the “Charles Johnson Equivalence” — anyone who thinks that Islam is a violent and intolerant religion is the same as a “white supremacist” or a “Holocaust denier”:
“Certainly, it would be unlikely for a white supremacist or a Holocaust denier to be a distinguished guest speaker at Yale; hosting individuals who propagate hate is not only a disservice to the minorities that hate is directed towards but to the campus community as a whole.”
But Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the event was meant to rile Muslims.
“We’re strong believers in the First Amendment and he has the right to publish whatever he wants, however bigoted and offensive it is,” Hooper told FOXNews.com. “The people who brought him here are obviously intending to offend Muslims, but we’re not going to rise to the bait.”
Hooper said Westergaard’s appearances at Princeton and Yale represent more instances of the “Muslim-bashing” he says is growing in the United States.
“Their intent is to offend and get free publicity by getting Muslims to reply with a reaction,” Hooper said. “So, we will not.”
Westergaard, meanwhile, called on his detractors to “respect our democratic values,” including freedom of speech, and reiterated that he would create the cartoon again “if it was required.”
Wearing red pants and a matching red scarf, the 74-year-old walked gingerly with a cane and said he’s no longer afraid of the constant threat of being assassinated for his drawings.
“I’m so old that I’m not really afraid anymore,” he said. “The older you get, there’s lesser and lesser at stake.”
Asked whether his depiction of the Prophet Muhammad originated from his personal politics or as part of his job as a cartoonist, Westergaard replied: “I am fighting for a just cause. And so you have a moral alibi, which is good, and then I have only worked according to our traditions in Denmark.
“And, of course, there’s been a lot of support from the man which I meet in the street, the ethnic Dane who pats my shoulder and says, ‘Well done.’ Then there’s also been the Muslims who have threatened me and cursed me … but I think the most reactions I have received, they are very positive.”
And IFPS gets a mention. YAY!
Diana West, vice president of The International Free Press Society, which organized and promoted Westergaard’s visit to the U.S., said, “It was a sheet of cartoons in a very small newspaper in a very small country that kicked off this now extremely significant event.”
“And as a result, Westergaard has lived the last four years under death threats and in heightened security. It was a cartoon that he drew — this is his job.”
She went on to criticize the decision by the Yale University Press not to publish Westergaard’s image in a book released earlier this month, saying it reeked of “cowardice” and “appeasement.”
“The question becomes whether we in the West submit to Islamic law regarding free speech and free expression,” she said. “This is supposed to be a free country.”
Back in September 2005, Kurt Westergaard had no idea of what his simple cartoon would do. Little did he know it would become the Turban Bomb Heard Round the World.
Hat tip: Steen.