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Adept at puerile politics

By Ted Lapkin - posted Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Call out the Marines! If the protest rhetoric coming from the Islamic world means anything at all, the next target of a rampaging mob will be the US Supreme Court on Capitol Hill.

The exterior of the court building features 18 friezes that portray lawmaking luminaries from Hammurabi to Napoleon. And included within this statuary salute to jurisprudence is Mohammed, who is depicted holding the primary source of Islamic law - the Koran.

The sculptor who carved the Supreme Court frieze during the 1930s meant no disrespect to the Islamic faith. The incorporation of Mohammed within the ranks of this pantheon was intended as an expression of respect rather than repugnance.


But benign intent should make no difference to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, which issued a blanket warning against depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

"What is more important," asked AFIC president Dr Ameer Ali, "to preserve freedom of speech or to antagonise one fifth of humanity?"

In reality, of course, the presence of the Marine Corps' Washington barracks only a few blocks away pretty much guarantees the safety of America's highest court.

And a deeper look at the timing, scope and focus of the Danish cartoon controversy raises suspicions this crisis owes much more to cynical calculation than spontaneous combustion.

After all, the fuse that ignited this firestorm of Islamic violence was of an extremely slow-burning variety.

It was long ago and far away September 2005 when Copenhagen's Jyllands-Posten newspaper first printed the 12 offending caricatures of Mohammed. That is a full four months before any violence erupted on their account.


This lengthy gap between publication and protest belies any argument that these riots were impetuous acts of reflexive indignation.

In fact, a BBC report revealed that the task of fomenting such large-scale disorder required careful planning and calculation. After the cartoons were published, Danish Muslim leaders embarked on a tour of the Islamic world to inflame bedlam and bigotry.

But the eminent imams weren't entirely confident that the Jyllands-Posten's dirty dozen drawings of the Prophet created enough of a slam-dunk case. So it was decided that a bit of embellishment was in order. The BBC relates that these clerics fabricated several particularly obscene sketches that they added to their portfolio of provocation.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on February 15, 2006.

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About the Author

Ted Lapkin is associate editor of The Review, a monthly journal of analysis and opinion put out by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, AIJAC.

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