Opinions are split between Bangkok’s two main English-language newspapers over the controversy caused by the recently published drawings of Muhammad.
Yesterday Muslims held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Danish embassy in Bangkok, and in doing so, brought the conflict caused by 12 controversial Danish drawings onto the streets of Bangkok.
On Tuesday, the day after the demonstration, the two major national English-language newspapers in Thailand featured editorials on the controversy now making the pages of newspapers around the world.
None of the local papers – The Nation and the Bangkok Post – use up much space on the demonstration in Bangkok itself. The Nation carried a report from a foreign news agency and a picture, while the Bangkok Post had only a few lines of text and a picture.
But editorially, the Nation looks at the case from two sides, finishing its editorial with a call for decency on both sides. The Bangkok Post takes a somewhat different approach and writes:
“Jyllands-Posten was free to print pornographic pictures or a story that Danish astronauts had landed on Jupiter. Responsibility prevented them from doing so. Yet given the choice between insight and offending 1.2 billion Danish and foreign Muslims, risking the country’s economy and putting thousands of citizens at physical risk, the newspaper took the wrong choice.”
Bangkok Post also urges others to stop printing the drawings as this only adds fuel to the already burning fire.
“The cartoons were distasteful, but also not factual. Instead of “supporting” the admitted error of the Danish journal and reprinting this material, newspapers would better serve their readers by explaining the problem and helping bridge the gulf.
“The Post finds a bright side to the situation, noting that no Muslim leaders have called for violence, and adds that that in itself is progress, compared to the Salman Rushdie incident 15 years ago, where they universally called for his execution. The editorial finishes with a simple hope that offended Muslims around the world will follow the advice of their leaders and protest peacefully if they must.
Both side have failed
The Nation chose the middle path, and wrote that printing the drawings was a mistake, but also stated that the Muslim outcry might have crossed the line.
“Both sides at fault in cartoon row – Freedom of expression does not entail freedom to insult others at leisure,” was the headline of the editorial in The Nation.
The editorial took a wider approach and claimed that the dispute was between not just one Danish newspaper but the European media and Muslims.
At first it underlined that freedom of expression and the press are corner stones in a democracy.
“First let´s get one thing straight. Lampooning the most important religious figure of a major faith that is embraced by more than a billion people was no way to put freedom of expression to the test,” the editorial says.
But The Nation also sees the matter from the other side of the pond and states that the current matter is symptomatic of the clash between the Western and Muslim worlds.
“To be fair the reaction from certain Muslim quarters has been excessive. In addition to calls for boycotting goods from countries whose newspapers published the offending cartoons, there have been outrageous calls by mad mullahs and frenzied crowds to kill those responsible.
The Nationalist continues to write about the apology the Danish newspaper who printed the drawings in the first place, made and draws attention to the Muslims around the world who are asking people to show the humane and tolerant side of Islam.
Focus on decency
The Nation rounds up its editorial with a call for common decency.
“Instead of expending energy on defending freedom of expression or calling for deadly revenge, perhaps all parties should put this quarrel behind them and focus instead on our common decency, which is a prerequisite for rational debate,” the editorial urges.