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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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While the Danish Imams were busy touring the Middle East for mustering support for their enterprise, the cartoons had already started their journey to the pages of newspapers and periodicals across Europe, Asia, Africa America and Australia generating comment even where the cartoons were not reprinted. Newspapers of some Muslim countries too had reprinted some of the cartoons with condemnations but till the end of 2005 there was not much public reaction in the Muslim world. Things started heating up after the publication on January 10 of some of the cartoons by Magazinet a Christian newspaper in Norway. Shortly afterwards Saudi Arabia and Libya recalled their ambassadors from Copenhagen and a boycott of Danish products was launched which soon spread to many Middle East countries and started hurting Danish economy. In an effort to defuse the crisis the Danish Prime minister A F Rasmussen and Jyllands Posten both expressed regrets on 30 January 2006 for having hurt the feelings of Muslims.


Several European newspapers felt that the Danes were caving in before the Islamists and as a symbol of their determination to uphold their right to subject even the most sacred things to criticism and satire decided to republish the cartoons in their pages. The German Die Weldt led by putting one of the cartoons on its front page. Several French, Spanish, Italian and Swiss newspapers also reprinted the cartoons. The international Islamic protest alliance put together by the Danish and other Islamist clerics responded immediately and from early February 2006 violent demonstrations erupted throughout the Muslim world. Governments of even the Muslim countries friendly to the west joined in expressing their outrage against the cartoons. Buildings housing Danish and Norwegian diplomatic missions and churches and synagogues were torched or vandalized. Flags of Denmark, and some other European countries, and of USA were trampled upon or burnt. Protesting mobs called for killing those who had insulted Islam. On 3 February British Muslim protesters marched to the Danish embassy in London carrying placards reading "Butcher those who mock Islam" " Europe you will pay, Osama is on the way" etc. Clerics in Pakistan and India announced big rewards for anyone assassinating the cartoonists. Business establishments selling Danish products and franchise holders of US fast food chains were torched. More than a hundred people died in the disturbances following the protest demonstrations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria.


The protests against the cartoons quickly developed into the expression of the rage of the Muslim Ummah against the perceived overall aggression of the West against Islam. The old and widely shared grievances (Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.) as also new grouses like USA's efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons were superimposed on the cartoons insult. Unrepresentative and unpopular regimes in many Muslim countries sought to refurbish their tattered legitimacy by donning the mantle of protectors of Islam and hoped to win some respite for themselves by diverting the anger of the masses towards external offenders. Political parties, religious bodies, trade unions and other organizations and individuals also seized the opportunity to improve their standing with the masses and used the protests to push their own agendas. The surprise victory of Hamas in the Palestine elections complicated the situation still further.


Governments of USA and UK chose to tread with care and circumspection. British foreign secretary Jack Straw while conceding the principle of press freedom called the reprinting of the cartoons by the European press "unnecessary...insensitive… disrespectful…wrong". The US Government spokesman too while supporting press freedom called upon both sides to show understanding, tolerance and mutual respect. Speaking at a conference in Qatar former US President bill Clinton strongly condemned the cartoons and posed the query whether Europe was going to substitute anti-Semitic prejudice with anti Islam prejudice?

Governments of continental European countries as also the EU came out in support of the Danes. The Vatican, however, observed that the right to freedom of thought and expression can not imply the right to offend the religious sentiments of believers of any religion. The Vatican also deplored the use of violence by protesters.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan responding to a request from the Arab League asked the press to be more sensitive in its handling of religious matters.


The fury of the protests by the Muslim street has died down but the merits and demerits of the Jyllands-Posten action in publishing the caricatures of Islam's Prophet continue to be debated in international media. Comments on the issue seem to have followed the line taken by the leaders of the two sides and mostly focused on the issue of press freedom vs. religious susceptibilities. The Muslim stand has been that the cartoons were an unacceptable insult to their most revered Prophet and were one more instance of the continuing aggression of the West against Islam. The Danes and their European supporters have contended that the right to caricature things held most sacred by religion has been at the core of their culture having been won after centuries of struggle. Both sides have also pointed to flaws in the other's argument. The Muslims have referred to the taboo against denial of the Holocaust by the European press. The Europeans pointed out that representations of the Prophet have been appearing in Muslim countries and that in any case Muslims can not force Europeans to observe Muslim taboos.

It was only natural for the Islamic clerics to lead with the most strident condemnations of the West. Internet savvy Muslims across the world also vigorously campaigned on the cyberspace against the humiliation of Islam and its Prophet. The opinion of the majority of the well educated and westernized Muslims was exemplified by Ehsan Ahrari, CEO of the Alexandria Va. based defense consultancy Strategic Paradigms ;

"Two issues must be clearly understood regarding this controversy. First, for Muslims nothing and no one is above Islam. No one should be allowed to be disrespectful about anything remotely associated with Islam. Having an open discussion regarding the Islamic faith is perfectly acceptable. Insulting Islam is not…..Second, not many understand in the West that a requirement of the completion of the faith for Muslims is to love and respect the Prophet of their religion . That might also be an alien notion, especially among secular westerners for whom freedom of expression has remained an integral part of their secular Puritanism…"

(Asia Times Online-Feb 4,2006 )

Ahrari and many others used the example of somebody shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre to argue that freedom of expression should be limited by the need to prevent undesirable consequences.


Even while the storm was raging, the tiny minority of rational Muslim journalists had the courage to voice their disapproval of the hysterical protests. Jihad al-Momani editor of the Jordanian paper al-Shihan reprinted three of the 12 cartoons in his paper with the comment…….

                "…. Muslims of the world, be reasonable..

…what brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

(Momani of course ended up being fired and jailed. Similar was the fate of some other Jordanian and Yemeni journalists who had dared to reprint some of the cartoons).

              Munir Ataullah (Daily Times, Pakistan .. 15 Feb 2006 ) was even more forthright;..

" Let me ask you; do you seriously "respect" all religions..…

………. It is not as if the Western world is unaware that most of the mob action and protests we have witnessed, far from being 'spontaneous', are the result of carefully orchestrated efforts over many months by committed Islamist groups that many governments have chosen to support for their own political ends. And, given our own track record and proclivities, we have nothing to teach anyone, and the non-Islamic world must be doubling over with laughter at our pretensions of occupying the moral high ground when it comes to pontificating on the issues of religious freedom, tolerance and sensitivity. How long would the equivalent of an Abu Hamza or an Omar Al Bakri survive in the Islamic world?…."


Views of western academics and authors spanned a wide range from complete justification to outright condemnation of the protests. The sympathetic camp included the eminent Islam specialist John Esposito, Professor of Religion, International Affairs and Islam at the Georgetown University (also a Consultant for the US Department Of State) who saw the cartoons as an expression of xenophobia and Islamophobia prevalent in the European societies and as "… mocking Muslims' most sacred symbols and values, hiding behind the façade of freedom of expression,," (Islamica Magazine issue # 15)

A more extreme view came from Ruth Mas of W L University, Waterloo who observed " it's racism pure and simple.." and that the violence was merely the " Muslims reacting to the racism, not to blasphemy."

The popular British author and historian William Dalrymple criticized the Cartoons as “a needless and pointless stoking of a raging fire that serves no one’s interests……This is an extremely sensitive moment with western troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and things are extremely uneasy in Palestine and tricky in Iran...”


Fleming Rose, the editor responsible for publishing the cartoons in Jyllands Posten claimed that the Muslims were trying to impose their religious taboos in the public domain…."that is not asking for my respect-it's asking for my submission".

Noted writer Christopher Hitchens referred to the regular publication of caricatures highly offensive to the Jews in the Arab and Muslim media with the obvious approval of the state authorities concerned. The Danish cartoons, Hitchens felt, asserted the right to mock not only at Islam but at religion. He also castigated the Bush administration for its uncalled for intervention in the debate. And argued that the attempt of the Muslims to force non-Muslims to accept Muslim taboos is proof of aggressive intent. In effect, the Muslim is saying “for the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.”…

("The case for mocking religion" 4 Feb2006)

Charles Krauthammer criticized the western press and politicians for their pusillanimity in dealing with the issue;

"…The worldwide riots and burnings are instruments of intimidation, reminders of van Gogh's fate. The Islamic "moderates" are the mob's agents and interpreters, warning us not to do this again. And the Western "moderates" are their terrified collaborators who say: Don't worry, we won't. It's those Danes. We're clean. Spare us. Please……"

( “The Curse of the Moderates” Washington Post 10 Feb 06)

(To be continued)

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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