Fundy Melbourne Sheik Mohammed Omran predicts a camel-related spinal trauma:
“They are trying to provoke Muslims,” Sheik Omran said through his spokesman, Mustafa Kocak.
“You would expect a country like Australia, which is multicultural, would be sensitive to such issues.”
Mr Kocak said it was hard to predict the reaction the images would have in Australia.
“It may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, it may not,” he said.
I’d like him to list all the other straws, and to tell us what might take place once that camel is broken. One of the surprises of this cartoon debacle has been the level of support for publishing those Danish ‘toons; I expected a 50/50 split, but email is running at about 80% in favour. And several on (or near) the left sound like they’ve reached a camel-breaking point of their own. Speaking of the left, here’s then-editor of The Age Michael Gawenda in 1997, being interviewed by Radio National’s Robert Bolton:
Bolton: To take an example, when the National Gallery of Victoria recently closed the exhibition including the picture of Piss Christ, did the paper take a view, a position, on whether or not that was a good or bad thing?
Gawenda: Yes the paper did. And the paper took a very strong position that the gallery had made a mistake, closing that exhibition down.
Bolton: Was that your decision?
Gawenda: Well in the end it was my decision, but there was a process of consultation and discussion that went on the paper about what position we would take, we also had discussions and listened to arguments put by both the artist involved, the gallery director, gallery staff, people outside of the National Gallery but had an interest in the arts, so it was a considered position, but in the end yes I decided that the paper had to take that particular position on that issue.
Bolton: Did you personally have a strong feeling about the Church, the State as represented by the gallery and art?
Gawenda: Well I did have a fairly strong position, I mean we ran two editorials on this issue, the first was that the exhibition should go ahead, this was before it was closed, there is a free speech issue here an artistic freedom issue here, and while we understand the Church’s sensitivities on this issue, there is a larger good served by allowing this exhibition to go on.
Gawenda went on to say he aimed for a “consistent and considered decision that is in line with the tone of your paper.” Which is no longer so consistent under current editor Andrew Jaspan:
The Age will not run the cartoons for the reasons explained in today’s editorial. I am of the view that alongside strong press freedoms and rights come equally important responsibilities. As a leading player in the Victorian community, we place a high value on building understanding and tolerance between the various communities. The cartoons do not contribute to that end.
And a urine-drenched crucifix did. Incidentally, the magazine I work for is also accused of hypocrisy:
Cartoons satirising Islam’s Prophet Mohammed that have sparked violence overseas will not be published in The Bulletin magazine, assistant editor Tim Blair says.
The series of 12 cartoons has already been published on Mr Blair’s own website.
Mr Blair, a political commentator and former chief of staff of NSW’s The Daily Telegraph, said on the website that cartoons mocking other religions had been published before without incident.
But he says the latest cartoon would not appear in The Bulletin.
“It was an editorial decision that was taken that we didn’t need to, that they were already out there on the internet and it would be gratuitous,” he said.
I should have been clearer during that television interview; my fault. The Bulletin appears on sale Wednesday, at which point it would have seemed a little redundant to present cartoons already published here and elsewhere days earlier. Nice gotcha attempt by our News Ltd. friends, though.