Monday, February 06, 2006

They Make Food? The Cartoon Crusade

So, the Saudis are boycotting Danish food, and all because of a tasteless cartoon. I don't know what's worse, the fact that the Saudis are so thinned skinned, the Danes that desperate for attention or that I've inadvertently been boycotting Danish food for years and didn't even know it. (Seriously, name me some Danish food. besides danish, which is French, I think... Do They make those little powdery cookies? Because I never liked them anyway. Kippers!...? Seriosuly, help me out here, what do the Danes eat, anyway?)


Milla and Bryan in comments have pointed out that, in fact the Danes make some rather fine cheese and sweets. I guess I should actually do a bit of research before I open my big mouth (and this has ever stopped me, when?)

Anyway, I was reading this Wikipedia article on the matter and have since changed my stance. I don't think the cartoonists did anything wrong. the cartoons are, well, cartoonish. here's the gist:

The publication of the cartoons has led to significant unrest around the world, particularly in Islamic countries, primarily because depictions of Muhammad are prohibited as a measure against idolatry (see aniconism in Islam), but also because of the perceived sterotyping of Arabs or Muslims.

The drawings, including a depiction of Muhammad with a bomb inside or under his turban, accompanied an article on self-censorship and freedom of speech. Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, commissioned twelve cartoonists for the project and published the cartoons to highlight the difficulty experienced by Danish writer Kåre Bluitgen in finding artists to illustrate his children's book about Muhammad. Cartoonists previously approached by Bluitgen were reportedly unwilling to work with him for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.

Although Jyllands-Posten maintains that the drawings were an exercise in free speech, some contend that regardless of faith, the depiction of Muhammad as a terrorist is culturally offensive and blasphemous. However, many others view the cartoons as a form of non-violent protest in response to the violent threats and intimidation experienced by those who publicly criticise Islam.

Stereotypes are part of the cartoonist's language. it presents an easily recognizable face on a complex idea. To take the representations literally... look, you know the old argument about figurative vs. nonfigurative work. Besides, the point the cartoonists were trying to make about censorship and extremism? A little on the nose. Probably too close to home.

And really, that's what this is all about: Muslim fanatics; fanatics of any kind, don't like to be made fun of. It takes the piss out of them and makes them look like fools. Fanatics hate to look like fools. You can't burn down a Danish embassy in clown shoes and expect to be taken seriously. Likewise, you can't put the Infidels to the sword and bring down the Evil Satan of the West when everyone knows you're just a a bomb throwing kook with a head full of mumbo jumbo.

And truth be told, their kookiness, as is our own, is culturally ingrained. If they didn't have the ban on depicting the prophet, they'd have had their Protestant revolution by now. Imagine if the catholic Church had the same restriction on depicting Jesus. Piss Christ would have set off a war, instead of just being a dirty, highbrow joke.


Anonymous Milla said...

- Havarti cheese;
- Carlsberg and Tuborg beers;
- White Clover and Holland Farm products;
- Danish Crown hams and baby back ribs (Sam's Club);
- On-line: and;
- Porcelain:;
- Lego:

As for the origins of "danish" pastry:

"The Danish pastry (for Danish, as it is often abbreviated in American English) is a comparatively recent introduction from continental patisserie; the first reference to it in English does not appear until 1934. And the connection of this rich confection of yeast dough with Denmark is fairly tenuous; it seems to have originated in Vienna, and the Austrians for some unexplained reason associated it with Scandinavia. The Danes, paradoxically, refer to it as Wienerbrod--'Viennese bread'."
---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 108)

2/06/2006 11:51 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

They are a major producer of dairy products, dried and smoked fish, have excellent jams and jellies, their chocolates aren't bad, and, of course, their sugar cookies.

The dairy products were common in the Middle East.

Holsteins were originally bred in the southern region of Denmark: Schleswig-Holstein.

2/07/2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

Huh. I stand corrected.

Still though, we mock their God and they boycot cheese and burn down embasseys? seems a bit... much. But then they are almost as superstitious as our leaders so it shouldn't surprise me any.

2/07/2006 6:42 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Oh, the Danes also produce the majority of insulin in the world, so diabetic Muslims won't boycott for long.

It's hard to boycott companies in a global economy. There's no way of knowing what you use that they make until you boycott.

2/07/2006 7:01 PM  
Blogger Elayne said...

A propos of absolutely nothing, Keith, when are you going to turn on your Atom feed? I keep missing your posts because I read everything via Bloglines and I have no way of knowing when you have new posts!!

2/08/2006 4:28 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Oops! Thought I had it on... check it now.

2/08/2006 5:52 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Actually, the Church has delved in iconoclasm several times in its history and a great of religious art was destroyed as a result.

The Puritans and Calvinists were iconoclasts and destroyed a great deal of religious art.

Persian and Indian Muslims have never been as observant of this restriction as the Arabs, but the examples are few and far between, mainly commissioned illustrated scholarly texts on the Qu'ran for a few of the royality.

2/08/2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Oh, no doubt the Protestants made a bloody mess of things for about two hundre dyears or so. But the protestant reformation opened the door for liberalization and freedom of thought. Once you could overturn THE One True Church and offer an alternative, the Enlightenment became inevitable.

But the Middle East region has yet to have it's reformation. It's insular, dogmatic and regressive and until Western ideas like freedom of expression (and justthe notion that disagreement isn't blashemous) it's going to seem like a bad parody of the dark ages.

Not that forcing Democratic ideals on them at gunpoint is the way to go, either. I'm just saying, the state of affairs over there smells an awful lot like the fifteenth century. Hopefully the war won't last a hundred years, this time.

2/08/2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Van said...

You wrote:
"I don't know what's worse, the fact that the Saudis are so thinned skinned, the Danes that desperate for attention or that I've inadvertently been boycotting Danish food for years and didn't even know it. (Seriously, name me some Danish food. besides danish, which is French, I think... Do They make those little powdery cookies? Because I never liked them anyway. Kippers!...? Seriosuly, help me out here, what do the Danes eat, anyway"

The previous posts mentioned most of the foods that we import from Denmark, except for patte and, specifically, smoked salmon.
So that's about it.

As for your comments in regards to the Dane's wanting attention. Well, they are not really the type who want attention. If you could compare the Danish culture to any portion of the U.S. I think that New Englanders may be an accurate paralell on some levels. Both are sturdy, quiet yet insightful when speaking, cold at first then friendly when you break through the outer shell, and most of all - humble.

This is not an arrogant bunch.

2/09/2006 6:45 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

I retract my assement of the Danes. (I thought I made that clear in my update, but I guess I didn't).

For the record, I'm totally on the dansh side. I don't think they did anything wrong and applaude the bravery of the artists invovled, knowing that they were going into a hotzone of intelectual space and deciding that freedom of speach and expression are more important. They are putting their lives on the line in an admirable way, unlike the suicide bombers and imams calling for fatwas.

as Neil Gaiman pointed out on his blog a few days back, Salmon Rushdie spent most of a decade in hiding for doing the literary equivilent of what these Danish cartoonists have done. That's no small gesture.

2/09/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger Elayne said...

Keith, I just rechecked for your Atom RSS feed. No go yet. Email me if you need help setting this up. I like your blog but without an RSS feed I'll forget to read it!

2/09/2006 10:43 PM  

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