Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the Jordanian parliament’s call yesterday for the punishment of the cartoonist that drew 12 caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten on 30 September and were reprinted in the Norwegian publication Magazinet on 10 January.
"Islam forbids any representation of the Prophet and we realize that these cartoons may upset some people, but it is not acceptable for the parliament of a supposedly democratic country to call for the cartoonists to be punished," the press freedom organization said.
"Those who so desire may bring a complaint against the newspaper, but politicians should under no circumstances should call for direct reprisals against journalists," Reporters Without Borders continued. "The cartoonists have already received death threats and these new statements put them in further danger."
In a statement yesterday, the Jordanian parliament said the cartoons "constitute a cowardly and reprehensible crime" and urged the Norwegian and Danish authorities "to express their condemnation and disapproval of this hateful crime and to punish the perpetrators and instigators."
I fully understand how these cartoons enraged believers, as their sole purpose seems clearly bent on stirring controversy and ridiculing some people’s beliefs. It’s clear people feel strongly about this, and rightly so. Actions hailed by one group as an "act of free speech" are condemned by the other as blasphemy. However, for Jordan’s parliament, condemnation is one thing (and here the most prudent thing for a legislative body), but calling for outright punishment is — like the RSF said — "not acceptable for the parliament of a supposedly democratic country."
I hope parliamentarians are not seeking inspiration from Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa, which called for the killing of Suleiman Rushdie over his controversial book The Satanic Verses! Moving from a body that gives voice to the people’s concerns to a congress bent on holy revenge is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.