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Denmark Puts a Man on Trial for Blasphemy

March 10 2017

For the first time in decades, a Danish prosecutor—with the approval of the country’s attorney general—has brought a blasphemy charge, against a man who made a video recording of himself burning a Quran in his backyard and posted it to Facebook. Mark Movsesian writes:

For a European government to bring a blasphemy prosecution in 2017 . . . is incongruous, to say the least. And Denmark is one of the least religious places on the planet. True, it has a state church, to which the large majority of Danes belong. But that is mostly a formal thing. Religious belief and observance are quite low. . . . And Danish authorities have turned a blind eye to blasphemy in the past. In 1997, for example, someone burned a copy of the Bible on a news broadcast on state television. The government did not file charges.

And here’s [the great] irony: the prosecution of the Quran burner is supported by Denmark’s progressive, left-wing Social Democrats, whom one might have expected to take a hard line on secularism and a dim view of blasphemy laws. . . .

What explains these ironies? . . . Perhaps [the prosecutor] worries that public mockery of Muslim beliefs could create an atmosphere conducive to acts of intimidation and violence against Muslim believers. . . . But if he is concerned about this video’s potential to create a climate of intimidation against Danish Muslims, he could have brought a hate-speech charge, which he declined to do.

Or perhaps the authorities worry that this incident will cause a violent backlash from some Muslims around the world, as occurred in 2006 during the infamous Prophet Muhammad cartoon controversy, when mobs attacked Danish embassies in the Mideast. . . . But this particular Quran burning seems to have gone unnoticed; no one was complaining. In fact, the prosecution itself seems likely to draw attention to the incident and spark protests.

Something very puzzling is going on here. . . . [I]t’s worth asking . . . why, in a secular, progressive, enlightened society like 21st-century Denmark, it’s legal to burn a Bible, but not to burn a Quran.

Read more at First Things

More about: Danish Cartoons, Denmark, European Islam, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Politics & Current Affairs

 

Israel Agreed Not to Retaliate During the Persian Gulf War—and Paid a Price for It

Feb. 19 2018

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel, killing one person and causing extensive property damage. Under intense pressure from the first Bush administration to sit still—ostensibly because Israeli involvement in the war could lead Arab states to abandon the White House’s anti-Iraq coalition—Jerusalem refrained from retaliating. Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, comments on the decision in light of information recently made public:

[W]hat was George H.W. Bush thinking [in urging Israel not to respond]? His secretary of state, James Baker, had accompanied the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles (Chas) Freeman, on a visit to King Fahd in Riyadh on November 2, 1990, two-and-a-half months before the beginning of the war, to obtain the king’s approval for additional deployment of U.S. troops in his kingdom in preparation for the attack on Iraq.

He was told by the king that although they would not welcome Israeli participation in the war, he understood that Israel could not stand idly by if it were attacked by Iraq. If Israel were to defend itself, the Saudi armed forces would still fight on America’s side, the king told Baker. So much for the danger to the coalition if Israel were to respond to the Scud attacks. Israel was not informed of this Saudi position.

So why was President Bush so intent on keeping Israel out of the war? It seems that he took the position, so dominant in the American foreign-policy establishment, that America’s primary interest in the Middle East was the maintenance of good relations with the Arab world, and that the Arab world attached great importance to the Palestinian problem, and that as long as that problem was not resolved Israel remained an encumbrance to the U.S.-Arab relationship. If Israel were to appear as an ally of the U.S. in the war against Iraq, that was likely to damage the image the U.S. was trying to project to the Arabs.

In fact, immediately upon the conclusion of the war against Saddam Hussein, Baker launched a diplomatic effort that culminated in the Madrid Conference in the hope that it would lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It didn’t. . . .

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: George H. W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Peace Process, Persian Gulf War, US-Israel relations