Frankfurt cancels ‘Muhammad look-alike contest' out of fear of offending Muslims
by Aaron Eitan Meyer • Oct 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm
On October 9th, the German Newspaper Der Spiegel ran a story with the provocative headline "German Satire Magazine Shocks with 'Unbelievable Competition'" in which it reported that the magazine Titanic was planning on hosting a Muhammad look-alike competition, even inviting Turkish President Abdullah Gül to participate. Completely tongue-in-cheek, Titanic invited would-be guests to Frankfurt's Museum of Caricature with the tagline "It will be a blast."
Despite some initial outrage, Titanic insisted that it would go ahead with the satirical contest as planned, even marketing it as the most dangerous event at the Frankfurt Book Festival.
Unfortunately, the city of Frankfurt lacked the fortitude of Titanic, and backed out of an earlier pledge to hold the competition, giving only the transparent excuse that "the site initially chosen appeared to be too small to hold the number of people that might show up, given the buzz being generated."
However, statements made by Frankfurt police and prosecutors revealed an apparently different motivator – fear of a possibly violent response from the Muslim community. Citing the Franfurter Rundschau, the article went on to quote Frankfurt police spokesman Juergen Linker as being relieved that there would be no ‘protests' as a result of the event's cancellation. Frankfurt prosecutor Doris Joeller-Scheu echoed the same sentiment, saying that they "...are pleased because there would surely have been problems without this cancellation.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Watan, which is distributed with the International Herald Tribune according to its website, was much clearer regarding the contest, terming it not only a ‘crime' against Islam, but "even more serious than that of the cartoons." The article also called "a series of strikes" to be held in Germany, the rest of Europe, and Islamic countries, in addition to urging Islamic governments to pressure Germany.
Regardless of the exact meaning of the threatened ‘strikes' or ‘protests,' the fact remains that the cancellation itself is a problem. Once more, speech involving Islam, in this case fictional satire, is quashed out of fear of offending Muslims or fear of a potential Muslim reaction. Once more, a European government has chosen to kowtow to Islamist pressure rather than reaffirming the core right to free speech.
Titanic magazine was contacted by this author regarding the controversy, but has not responded to date.
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