I’ve got a boycott for you, Holy Land

An article in yesterday’s Star Tribune stirred my pot a bit and got me thinking about the cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed and the ensuing uproar, hand-wringing, and torching of embassies. In the article, the owner of my favorite Middle Eastern deli, Holy Land in NE Minneapolis, takes the issue to heart in much the same way much of the Muslim world did and posted the following in his establishment:

Dear Customer. The Denmark newspaper published a cartoon degrading the Prophet Mohammed. The Denmark government refuses to apologize to the Muslim world for this; therefore Holy Land management decided to join the other business leaders in the world to boycott all products made in Denmark.

In the article, Holy Land owner, Majdi Wadi claims that if some of his patrons (a diverse bunch to be sure) have an issue with his boycott, they should come talk with him. He even says if they can convince him to change his mind he will take the signs down.

I respect freedom of speech,” he continued, “but I think there must be limits. I think there should be an international law to protect beliefs. It is wrong not to respect Jesus. It is wrong not to respect Buddha. And it is wrong to not respect the Prophet Mohammed.

Now I would love to go and speak with Mr. Wadi, but being Minnesotan, there is a pretty good chance that confrontation will never occur. So instead, in typical passive-aggressive (aka “Minnesota nice”) fashion, I will lay out why Holy Land should reverse its policy and why I am now boycotting one of my favorite markets.

  1. The boycott is asking for something from the wrong people. It wrongly states that “The Denmark newspaper” published these cartoons. It was the Jyllands-Posten. The Danish government is not, nor should it be, under any obligation to apologize for the free speech, its citizens make use of.
  2. The boycott targets the wrong people. Don’t buy the newspapers and magazines that printed the degrading cartoons. What do the people who make chocolate and cheese have to do with these cartoons other than living in the same country? Only 150,000 (of more than 5 million) Danish people even see the Jyllands-Posten newspaper each day.
  3. When people start to decide what the limits of free speech are, then we are all in trouble. You cannot protect beliefs with laws against speaking out against such beliefs. What if my belief is that Quentin Tarantino was a prophet? Does that make claims that some of his movies suck ass, blasphemy?
  4. Living in America means that you may, if you choose, practice freedom of speech and must also be tolerant of others rights to do so. Presumably that is one of the main draws, bringing countless hopeful immigrants to this country each year from places, like Vietnam, China, and yes, even the Middle East – places where it isn’t always acceptable to speak your mind.

2 responses to this post.

  1. If i still lived in town, i would probably not show up and try to convince him to change his mind or stop his protest, but i might be inclined to ask him why it seems like “folks” that practice his particular faith always act like such babies whenever someone steps on their toes? Remember Salman Rushdie? LOL
    Oh and by the way…that video game/marvin gaye clip from a few weeks back is damn funny! Thanks for posting that one…

  2. Posted by Daniel on February 23, 2006 at 9:26 am

    From a Danish citizen: Looks like you’ve got it right. If the newspapers worst cultural mistake was to publish the cartoons without realizing the effect it would have on muslims, I can live with that. They’ve said their intent was never to offend anyone, and if they’d known beforehand it would cause these kind of reactions, they never would have published it. On the other hand, the cultural reactions from several arabic/muslim countries is one of violence, anger and threaths of killing people… So, which is worse? Publishing cartoons you maybe don’t know the full implications of, or threathing the lives of people from a single country based on said cartoons? – I think I know which is worse…

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