The never-ending story of the Mohammad cartoons…
Dairy company Arla Foods has been hit hard by the boycott of Danish products across much of the Middle East. Now the storm has settled somewhat, and they’re trying to inch their way back into this pretty substantial market. Their means to this end are full-page advertisements in 25 Arab newspapers last sunday, explaining their distancing themselves from the cartoons. Excerpt:
“Arla Foods has distanced itself from the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten’s actions in publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. We do not agree with the newspaper’s reasons for publication.
… we understand and respect your reactions that have led to a boycott of our products following the Danish newspaper’s irresponsible and unfortunate action.
… justice and tolerance are fundamental values in Islam.” (Arla)
In my opinion, a well-worded and tasteful text. And certainly understandable, given that hundreds of Danish jobs are at stake. But apparently, this is too much to handle for Jens Rohde, spokesman for the ruling Liberal Party (Venstre). Today, he says:
“Arla is ready to sell its own grandma to sell its products in dictatorships. I can not in the least understand that our principles can be taken so lightly. My freedom rights are not for sale for two pints of milk.” (JP, my translation)
I have nothing but respect for the Prime Minister’s handling of the case. But Rohde sounds almost as the muslim clerics here. Arla has said nothing about freedom rights. They have distanced themselves from the cartoon and the newspaper. If that is not exercising your freedom rights, then what is? Apparently, you can only be a liberal if you agree with the Liberals. Arla’s idea of tolerance is not the same as the Liberal Party’s. So what? Let me, like so many before me, (mis)quote Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Even though formal ties were abolished many years ago, it is now obvious that Jyllands-Posten is still very much the Liberal Party’s paper. Usually balanced and professional, and my online news outlet of choice, they do have a hard spot for religion of any kind.
It was JP that a few years ago ran some very hostile articles on the teaching of Creation alongside Evolution at Vejlefjord, the Adventist high school in Denmark. Eventually the minister did actually look into the case and found that their accusations were groundless and the school’s curriculum wholly in line with government requirements.
Now JP, and apparently certain parts of the Liberal Party are cementing this anti-religious position: You may believe anything you like, except that you are right and we are wrong. For of course, you are wrong and we are right. That doesn’t sound truly liberal to me.