Monday, April 17, 2006

Opus Dei and a new cartoon-gate? (UPDATE)

Cannon here: Until now, I have not commented on the offensive anti-Islamic cartoons published in the right-wing Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten -- cartoons which, when transmitted throughout the Muslim world, sparked hellish riots. My first reaction to the violence was that no-one should ever die over a mere drawing. As Robert Crumb once observed, "It's only ink on paper, folks."

That said -- and speaking as an artist -- I would never attempt to represent Mohammed in any drawing or painting. My Danish brothers in the trade exercised their right to free speech in a very unwise fashion. (The only painting of the prophet I've ever seen appeared in a book by Manley Palmer Hall -- and that illustration, respectful as it was, does not appear in the most recent re-issue.)

Why did the cartoons provoke such violence? We should understand two points:

1. Many poorer Muslims cannot read. An insulting drawing may well have more impact in that world than would an insulting text.

2. A conservative Catholic religious writer named David Warren has claimed that the offending cartoons were distributed throughout the Islamic world in a "media kit" assembled under the direction of the Imam of Copenhagen, Ahmed Abu-Laban. According to Warren, this media kit was filled with deliberate fakes, designed to provoke outrage:
And in addition to the dozen cartoons that had actually appeared in that obscure provincial newspaper -- most fairly innocent, and one actually satirizing opposition to Islam -- the delegations' "media kits" included as many as 30 graphics that had never appeared, and by their nature would never appear, in a Western mainstream newspaper. For instance, a photo of a man dressed as a pig, over the caption, “This is the real Mohammad.”

The fake pictures not only outnumbered the real ones, they were much nastier. Many were in the style of anti-Semitic cartoons that appear frequently in Arab papers, but turned around to target Muslims instead of Jews. And the covering letter, which I have read in translation, was full of outrageous lies about events in Denmark, and misrepresentations of what had been said by Danish journalists and politicians.

It is this document, and not any copy of Jyllands-Posten from Sept. 30th, 2005, that is at the root of the Muslim riots, the Saudi-sponsored pan-Arab boycott of Danish goods, and various fatwas and other acts that put Danes and other Europeans, who had never previously heard of Jyllands-Posten, in peril for their lives.
I would like confirmation of these details. Although Warren strikes me as a cultured and decent sort of fellow, I usually give full trust only to those who sit on my side of the political aisle. But if he has provided accurate information, then "Cartoon-gate" really amounts to -- well, nobody likes the word "conspiracy," so insert your favorite euphemism here.

In that light, what are we to make of this report that a new anti-Mohammed cartoon has sparked another uproar? The venue, intriguingly enough, is an Opus Dei-linked periodical named Studi Cattolici:
It shows the poets Virgil and Dante on the edge of a circle of flame looking down on Mohammed.

"Isn't that man there, split in two from head to navel, Mohammed?" Dante asks Virgil.

"Yes and he is cut in two because he has divided society," Virgil replies. "While that woman there, with the burning coals, represents the politics of Italy towards Islam."
First thought: It's a little surprising to see an Italian cartoonist place Dante in hell.

Second thought: Although many Muslims may not recognise the literary references, they will surely recoil at the sight of the Prophet cut in twain. One needs no ESP to guess at the possible response. So why did Opus Dei -- a sect founded by a supporter of fascism -- sanction such a provocation so soon after the anti-cartoon riots?

Obviously, anyone who sneaks into a fireworks factory and strikes a match must want to see an explosion.

(For more on the shadowy world of Opus Dei, see here.)

UPDATE: While my focus above was on Opus Dei and the rather mysterious Ahmed Abu-Laban, I should also have noted that Jyllands-Posten is run by a lady named Merete Eldrep, who was once the Deputy Director of the Danish Energy Authority. Her husband, Anders Eldrep, heads up the Danish Oil and Natural Gas Company, the acronym for which is -- I kid thee not -- DONG. The firm will soon be privatized.

Now, one could -- if one were of a sufficiently conspiratorial turn of mind -- create an interesting little scenario out of all this. Presuming that the current "clash of civilizations" is largely the pretext for grabbing Middle Eastern oil -- a fair presumption -- one can easily understand why someone in that business might want to use a family-owned media resource to help keep the fires of war burning.
The reality wars are coming.
joe, for a more measured accounting of opus dei's questionable history, may i suggest terry eagleton's review of a new apologia in april's harper's. i'll try to find a link later today.

but for now this thought: given their highly questionable history, you just have to wonder why they would raise their usually secretive heads to bring any attention to themselves by demanding sony list a disclaimer for the da vinci code film. i do hope sony simply invites them to prove their purity.
The story about the deliberate fakes showed up in the Wall Street Journal among other places.

I recollect that the man dressed as a pig was apparently a 3rd place finisher at a whistle-like-a-pig contest in France a few years ago, although I can't seem to find a reference.
the depiction of Mohammed is not the original of the cartoonist but is in fact how Dante depicts Mohammed in "The Inferno":

"Inferno XXVIII, 19-42.

The poets are in the ninth
chasm of the eighth circle, that of the Sowers of
Discord, whose punishment is to be mutilated.
Mahomet shows his entrails to Dante and Virgil
while on the left stands his son Ali, his head cleft
from chin to forelock."

Among others, Dali, Rodin and Blake all treated the subject in paintings. There's even a silent film which depicts the scene from 1911.

The cartoons, originally published in September '05 were definately used in early February '06 as part of an information operation to inflame Muslims worldwide at a critical time in the negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program.

In case any of your readers care to see the real 12 cartoons there are links at this Feb. SMC post.
sofla said:

My understanding is that the entire thing was indeed a setup, but from the opposite direction suggested by whomever it is you've quoted above.

First, evidently, the Danish editor(s?) who decided to print the actual cartoons did so as a deliberate provocation, an experiment to see how riled up it would get the Muslim community. And that, after they'd evidently, on their own account, refused to print similarly incendiary cartoons of a Christian nature, out of self-stated concern not to unnecessarily inflame or offend for no purpose. (They've later explained that stated reason wasn't true, and that it was simply a PC cover to avoid telling those doing the cartoons that they were bad and untalented).

Second, it didn't rile them up very much. No overt demonstrations, no attacks, just reasonable letters of protest. Not exactly what was sought, evidently, so after some 6 to 8 weeks of having no public 'bad' response, the editors began a round of themselves publicizing and arranging the further publication of the cartoons in question.

While this wouldn't make much sense normally, it does when one considers the Zionist bona fides of the 'Danish' editors, what they've already revealed about their motives, and the further analysis of an obvious although hidden motive, which is to further the 'clash of civilizations,' to convince the West that there is complete irrationality and hatred on that side that must be met with violence.
You guys shame me. I SHOULD have found the WSJ article. And being a fan of Dore, Blake and Dali, I should have recalled those images.

Never read Dante, even though my Eye-talian grandmother gave me a copy of the Inferno. I can't even say I read Virgil, although I was supposed to do just that for a class. But that was the year of a famlily crisis, time was short, and I made do with the Cliff's Notes to the Aenid.

The Opus Die cartoon makes a little more sense now, but I still say it was a foolish provocation.
I recalled reading about Opus Dei by an American living in Portugal. It's a bit on the frivolous side, but worth a read.
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