v7n2_07 - The Cartoon Riots: A New Cultural Diplomacy by...

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The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations The Cartoon Riots: A New Cultural Diplomacy by Binoy Kampmark I n September 2005, riots erupted, diplomatic relations with much of the Muslim world were ruptured, two embassies were destroyed, and several lives were lost. In Syria, the Danish and Norwegian embassies were burned. In Gaza, Danish flags were set alight. In Yemen, 100,000 women marched in protest. This mayhem was the result of a Danish newspaper’s publication of caricatures (commissioned illustrations for a children’s book) depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The images were not flattering. One pictured Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban. Another mocked Islam’s purported ambivalence towards women’s rights: heaven was apparently running short of virgins for suicide bombers. They were hardly humorous and the Danish Government, led by a stubborn Anders Fogh Rasmussen, defended the publication of the cartoons on the grounds of free speech. 1 How should these reactions be interpreted? Was the Muslim world entitled to take such measures? The purpose of this article is to analyze the global reaction to the cartoons, within the broader context of diplomatic precedent, a task that has been neglected in favor of purely cultural critiques. 2 The study seeks out comparisons with previous events in order to posit how Islam and the West come to grips with the role of religion in their diplomatic relations and how the mechanics of those relations have developed. The paper also suggests that religion has been an important part of diplomatic history. As such, this current secular-religious clash requires another mode of analysis. What is needed is the realization that a new diplomacy—one that acknowledges the resurgent role religion and cultural considerations play in state relations—has developed. The nature of such diplomacy, it is suggested, undermines sovereignty and cultural independence by requiring nation-states, notably those of the West, to appraise ethnicity and statehood in a seemingly radical way, altering the current view of international statecraft as a secular practice. Binoy Kampmark is a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He has published on terrorism, international refugee policy, and genocide. He most recently wrote about the trial of Saddam Hussein for the Contemporary Review . Email: bkampmark@gmail.com 69
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KAMPMARK The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations R ELIGION AND D IPLOMACY It is an incontrovertible fact that religion has been the subject of diplomacy for centuries. While religion has ceased to be a putative feature of diplomatic engagement between most power blocs in the world (Europe, the Americas, Asia), religion as a feature of international relations has not entirely disappeared. Islam, as a case in point, acknowledges no such exclusion of religion from diplomatic practice, despite the acceptance by most Muslim states of a “secular approach to the conduct
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v7n2_07 - The Cartoon Riots: A New Cultural Diplomacy by...

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