The Never Ending "Cartoon Crisis"


One of the least surprising revelations to come out of the latest tranche of WikiLeaks cables is that the Syrian government, led by the supposedly secular Baathist Bashar al-Assad, helped arrange anti-Danish and anti-Norwegian riots in 2006 in response to the publication of the now-infamous "Mohammad cartoons."  According to a cable from the U.S. embassy in Damascus, the Assad government "allowed these demonstrations to occur and almost certainly helped to facilitate them at the beginning," a point made contemporaneously by Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, the State Department (in a 2006 report on religious freedom in Syria), and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But it's also important to remember that as embassies burned, the Bush administration offered, in the words of Tim Cavanaugh, a "craven condemnation of an affair that is none of their business."

In related news, Danish police today announced the arrest of five people today on terrorism charges. According to Sky News, the men, most of whom had obtained residency in Sweden, were planning an "imminent" attack on the headquarters of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first published the cartoons.

The Danish Intelligence Agency PET said that three of the four men it arrested were Swedish residents who entered the country on Tuesday night.

It identified them as a 44-year-old Tunisian citizen, a 29-year-old Lebanese-born man and a 30-year-old Swedish resident whose origin was not immediately known.

The fourth suspect was a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker living in Copenhagen, while the man arrested in Stockholm was described as a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background.

Jacob Scharf, head of PET, said the arrests had stopped "an imminent terror attack", adding that the suspects had allegedly planned to "kill as many people as possible".

Alas, nothing new here. The suicide bomber who blew himself up (prematurely) earlier this month in Stockholm was, according to police, on his way to a newspaper that published a Mohammad cartoon by Swedish artist Lars Vilks. In 2008, three men were arrested in connection with a plot to kill Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist responsible for the famous Mohammad-with-bomb-in-turban illustration. In January, a Somali man broke into Westergaard's house wielding an axe; the 75 year-old artist escaped into a panic room and Danish police shot the attacker. In September, two men were arrested in Norway for planning a bomb attack against Jyllands-Posten. Also in September, an explosion in a Copenhagen hotel (which I blogged here) turned out to be a letter bomb being assembled by a one-legged Chechen boxer. The target? Would you believe that is was Jyllands-Posten?

Last week, Danish journalists Lars Hvidberg and Jacob Mchangama looked at the so-called cartoon crisis five years later.

NEXT: Tucker Carlson: Michael Vick Should Have Been Executed

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. a one-legged Chechen boxer

    I really worry about the day that we run up against a terrorist with at least three working synapses.

  2. Yes, but terrorism is caused by US aggression.

    1. Ie, they have a point?

      1. I guess, if you think US aggression makes people hate cartoons.

    2. A Lebanese, a Tunisian and an Iraqi (the Swedish resident), attempting to commit terrorism because of a cartoon.
      Makes a great case for immigration and multiculturalism.

  3. Somewhere an old school Muslim is furrowing his leathery brow and thinking “Cartoonists? Really? That’s the best target you can come up with?”

    1. “Bomb the Mosque!”

      classic film

  4. When are they going after Matt Stone and Trey Parker?

    1. Matt and Trey have a lot of money to buy guns and fences and/or guys with guns to walk those fences. So, probably never. Unarmed cartoonists are a much softer target, especially for the morons that seem to be drawn to blowing themselves up.

      Islam: dedicated to proving that its adherents are even dumber than other religions’ adherents.

      1. Re: Episiarch,

        Unarmed cartoonists are a much softer target,

        Unarmed socialist [i.e. unthinking] cartoonists are a much softer target – let’s be clear about it…

    2. I would be a hell of a lot more scared of the Scientologists if I were them. Those mofos are crazy as shit.

      Also did you know they are building a giant underground bunker in Wyoming to store L Ron’s works. True story I know a guy doing the enviro study for it.

  5. I cant wait for all the newspapers around the world to band together in defense of free speech and rejection of fundamentalist intimidation.

    In the meantime, I’ve got my eyes are on the sky looking for flying pigs.

    1. The FAA revoked my license.

  6. jyllands pesten (ha!)


  7. So a cartoonist draws a picture making it seem like followers of Muhammad are bomb-crazy lunatics, and these guys respond by trying to blow shit up.

    Great job, terrorists! You now have become walking human versions of the Muhammad cartoon that bothered you so much. Nobody in the west could possibly cast your religion in a worse light than you already have.

    1. One of the prominent Shia clerics (I think it was al-Sadr, actually) in Iraq pointed that out.

  8. The Danish Intelligence Agency PET said that three of the four men it arrested were Swedish residents who entered the country on Tuesday night.

    There you have it – the reason why nobody should be profiled: the Swedish would be singled out unfairly…

    1. There’s nuthingkt unfar aboot szingling oot de Svedes!

      1. A M??se once bit my sister…
        No, realli! She was Karving her initials on the m??se with the sharpened end of an interspace t??thbrush given her by Svenge – her brother-in-law – an Oslo dentist and star of many Norwegian m?vies: “The H?t Hands of an Oslo Dentist”, “Fillings of Passion”, “The Huge M?lars of Horst Nordfink”…

        1. Monty Python…Holy Grail?

  9. Heard a BBC reporter ask one of the Posten editors if they were now going to tone down their rhetoric in a condescending, accusatory tone.

    1. That would be the BBC for you. Freedom of speech is for important people, like them. *roll-eyes*


  11. See me in my latest kartoon with a scimitar poised over the head of an infidel. I am a fun, krazy prophet.

  12. I wonder if anyone’s planning to storm the offices of Reason over that “Draw Mohamed” contest.

    1. Perhaps not, but someone might try subjecting the site to a DDoS attack, for being insufficiently pro-Julian Assange.

  13. To be fair to Muslim radicals, I can’t remember the last political cartoon I saw that didn’t make me want to kill the person that drew it.

    1. Relax. It’s not Friday yet.

  14. I’m a bisexual American Jew. That’s three reasons for the terrorists to want to kill me. I figured I only have one neck, so I might as well rack up the beheading demands. I’ve added “Monday Mohammed” as a weekly cartoon feature on my blog.

    1. Add reason #4. I’d kill you for your lack of decorating taste but I enjoyed the videos.

  15. But why should be necessarily believe what these cables say? We already know the leak about Cuba banning “Sicko” was false.

    1. It’s certainly vexing. Anarchists don’t trust the government, but they trust the government’s operatives? Some would call this having one’s cake and eating it too.

    2. Actually at the time the Leak was written it was true. But in the end, that film was not banned in Cuba.

      Not saying everything written in those cables is the truth, but in this case, your particular example is misleading.

      1. can you cite some hard evidence it was banned?

        1. I think what MRK means is that they were planning to do a ban, but then did not.

          1. And of course, the U.S. government, like all governments, is so believable, that we should just take their word for it that this is how it went down.

      2. How’s that cake, MRK? Good?

        1. I don’t really care about the govt, or its employees, and I’m certainly no fan of Michal Moore. I simply want to prevent misinformation from spreading further.

          Seems like someone in the state department was told Cuba banned sicko or was going to ban sicko, and reported that as fact to their superiors.

          Those cables were written by people, and people are misinformed just as as often as they lie. However so far there has been no evidence that there have been any ‘fake’ cables.

          I think one reason the major media outlets are not reporting much on the scandals exposed in these cables is they are hard to confirm with other sources (The other reason being most news outlets are wary of poking the govt in the eye).

          So I don’t really see how I’m having my cake and eating it too.

          1. “Seems like someone in the state department was told Cuba banned sicko or was going to ban sicko, and reported that as fact to their superiors.”

            Or they simply lied to spread misinformation. It’s not like governments haven’t done that plenty of times before.

  16. There must be a bunch of homicide bombers just itching to go after cartoonists; “if you say I can’t take a joke, I’ll kill you”?

  17. When I think of Mohammad I think of some crazy dude with a beard and a bomb in his turban, but that’s just me.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.