NYT's Treatment of Muslim Cartoons Remains Hostile, Hypocritical

Reporter James Barron wrote Wednesday about Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who garnered unwanted attention when he drew the famous cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

It was one of several cartoons mocking Muhammad run by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, and used months later as a pretext for riots by radical Muslim in several European cities.

Then as now, the Times coverage of the controversy was hostile. Back in 2005, not only did the New York Times, a major media outlet, ignore the free speech issue, but the paper ladled out little blame to radical Muslim groups that burned down buildings in European cities, instead blaming the Danish newspaper and the cartoonists for incitement, while refusing to reprint the cartoons to show support for free speech.

From Barron's "Artist Who Set Off Muslim Fury Visits City":

A Danish caricaturist is making his first tour of the United States since the 2005 publication of his cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad that provoked fury across the Muslim world, according to a Danish press freedom group that is promoting the trip.

The International Free Press Society said the caricaturist, Kurt Westergaard, would appear on Wednesday in Manhattan and at Princeton University and on Thursday at Yale University, where the Yale University Press recently refused to include the cartoon in a book about the controversy.

Diana West, the vice president of the society, said Mr. Westergaard's appearances coincided with the fourth anniversary of the original publication of the cartoon in a Danish newspaper. It showed Muhammad wearing a turban that looked like a bomb.

And how's this for a hostile introduction? It would be far more accurate to say "people who have been at odds with Muslim extremists."

The free press society's board of advisers includes a number of people who have been at odds with Muslims. Among them are the scholar Daniel Pipes, who has called for profiling Muslims at airports, and Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who leads an anti-Islam party that won about 15 percent of the vote in European Parliament elections in June.

Mr. Westergaard's cartoon was one of 12 that initially appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 and was later reprinted elsewhere. Images of Muhammad are forbidden by Islam, and as word of the cartoons spread, violent protests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East followed, with mobs attacking Danish embassies and diplomatic offices.

Last year, two Tunisians and a Dane were arrested in Denmark and accused of planning a "terror-related assassination" of Mr. Westergaard.

Most hypocritically, the Times sniffed in a February 7, 2006 editorial:

The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.

Yet the Times didn't have trouble running a photo the very next day of a painting by Chris Ofili offensive to Catholics - the Virgin Mary clotted with elephant dung.