Muslim News would like a statement from The Blanket
regarding the decision to republish the 12 infamous
set cartoons of the Muslim prophet. Below are some
points (some sent to us from our readers) we would
like you to answer.
of the cartoons depicts the prophet as terrorist;
in translation this would mean that all those who
believe in the prophet are in fact terrorists, linking
all Muslims with terrorism, would you classify this
as a forum of religious hatred that can only serve
to accelerate growing Islamophobia?
A: In whose translation? The cartoonist
responsible rejects such an interpretation. If you
are referring to the cartoon in which his head is
shaped like a bomb, could it not also be a comment
some forms of Islam are a mind-bomb, i.e., it is
the thinking behind it that leads to violence? Could
it also not be a comment that the ideology of Islam
is about to explode, given that the bomb was placed
in the head, where thinking occurs? Could it also
be that someone else has lit the fuse? Is the meaning
of the cartoon itself not open to debate? Who has
decided what its true meaning is and decreed that
no one else is allowed to determine the meaning
for themselves? How can anyone come to a conclusion
about what exactly the cartoon is saying without
No, I would not classify the cartoon as a form of
religious hatred. I would classify it as a comment
on current events. I do not believe that that cartoon
can only serve to accelerate growing Islamophobia.
In fact, I believe the censorship of the cartoons
and the violent protests against them, and the fear
that has created, have served to accelerate Islamophobia,
far, far more so than any of the cartoons could
The cartoons have and continue to cause a lot
of distress, why did you decide to wait 3/4
weeks to re-open what is viewed by many to be controversial
A: First of all, whether views
are controversial or not does not matter to us,
in that we do not and will not shy away from views
simply because they are controversial. We decided
to publish the cartoons over the course of 12 weeks
(one cartoon a week) in response to the Manifesto
Against Totalitarianism. Publishing the Manifesto
alone would have been like a pebble in the ocean
in terms of an act of solidarity; the manifesto
had 12 signatories for a reason - not because 12
people were the only ones who would put their names
to it but because of the 12 cartoons and the reaction
to it. So to publish the manifesto and follow it
up profiling each of the signatories along with
a cartoon was a way to do a little more to support
the manifesto, and put the context of the debate
(about totalitarianism) to the forefront. As The
Blanket is a free speech website, to publish
the manifesto and the profiles and not publish the
cartoons would have been cowardly. We also did not
want to just dump all the cartoons at once, hence
putting them in the context of the debate by featuring
one at a time
alongside the profiles.
What's your response to accusations that the
cartoons were not republished as a demonstration
of solidarity with those who believe in freedom
of expression but an attempt to gain notoriety through
the tested method of provocation.
A: Nonsense. Given that the cartoons
are already widely available on the web, and that
we are not publishing them just to publish them
but are including them as part of a wider debate
- and not publishing them all at once - it
was not anticipated that The Blanket carrying them
would be such an issue. Type in 'Danish cartoons'
on any search engine and you will find them on any
number of websites. Why The Blanket publishing them,
in the manner we are, would be any different from
the other websites was not considered.
As for people reducing what The Blanket is doing
to a quest for notoriety, that is a nonsense as
well, and just diverts from the substance of the
debate and makes it about personalities, which ignores
and trivialises what are issues of importance: freedom of speech, human rights, totalitarianism,
manners of protest, violence and its use; you would
have to ask why someone would come away from what
we have published with the conclusion, 'oh, it's
just a publicity stunt'. That just dismisses what
are vital issues to quite a lot of people.
The Blanket was started as a response to censorship,
and its reason for being, as articulated from the
start, is as a commitment to free speech.
"The Blanket project exists as a commitment
to freedom of speech.
Its purpose is to facilitate analysis, debate
to resist censorship, and to create the space
for a diversity of views.
Our differences will never defeat us so long as
we have the courage to air them."
take that seriously, and over the last five years
have kept The Blanket open to all comers, and not
without some trouble doing so. We've had our homes
picketed, our lives threatened, our home raided,
our character vilified; anyone who thinks we aren't
serious about our belief in freedom of speech hasn't
been paying attention.
Q: Do you believe in absolute
unchecked and uncensored forms of expression?
A: As an aspiration yes. In practice
we know there are boundaries. There are enough people
seeking to tighten the boundaries. Our position
is to push against them. We search for ways to allow
free expression, not means to curb it. We believe
we have been consistent in our approach over the
years and our publication of these cartoons in the
context of the debate is in that consistency.
At what point does The Blanket draw a line
between satire and bigotry?
How can you? Is not satire a form of humour? Where
does one person's humour end and another's begin?
If something is bigoted, or in bad taste, would
that not be obvious to all? So why be afraid to
put it on display for what it is? Are we to believe
that bigots and bigotry do not exist? Are we to
corset the bigots so we do not recognise them when
they are in our midst?
The Blanket considers all belief systems, of whatever
type, to be open to question, censure, criticism
and ridicule within the parameters of the legal
constraints alluded to above.
Q: Would The Blanket consider
publishing any cartoon that reinforces other controversial
stereotypes such as anti-Semitic or racist cartoons?
A: We would consider anything submitted.
We have carried cartoons in the past that were likened
to the 'Punch' cartoons, and were complained about;
we are currently carrying two images of Jesus Christ
that could be considered offensive by someone, somewhere;
we would not publish wily-nily, but would publish
most anything in the context of the debate. It can
be, and has been, argued that much of the written
material we have carried regarding Palestine, for
example, is anti-Semitic (although we would disagree),
or at the very least, anti-Israeli; we carry articles
that can be called anti-American, some of them vehemently
so; we've carried articles slamming the Catholic
church, and articles written by people hostile towards
Irish Republicanism, including former loyalist paramilitaries
and members of the security forces. The very fact
that one of the main writers for The Blanket
is a former IRA prisoner, convicted of murder, some
people would – and do – consider to be beyond the
pale. The image of the Blanketmen we use in our
masthead offends some people, puts them off. Should
we disavow who we are, what our beliefs are and
where they came from to please them? Offence is
in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? Should we
not air views that are disliked? Is it not better
to know what people are thinking, and to expose
views for what they are? Should they be hidden away
to fester, lulling people into thinking that they
do not exist? Are we only to carry those views that
we agree with, expressed in a manner in which we
approve? Is that the job of all media? We don't
think so. We are not afraid to be contradicted,
or to be wrong, and shown to be wrong. We are also
unafraid to be right.
Does The Blanket see its responsibility in promoting
tolerance, or does it value being seen showing solidarity
to those who endorse absolute freedom?
A: We don't see it as being an
either/or proposition. We promote governance of
ideas, of opinions, of different points of views,
and part of that is supporting those who are doing the
same. These cartoons are being published on The Blanket as part of a push against intolerance.