Political cultures compared: the Muhammad cartoons in the Danish and British press

Nasar Meer, Per Mouritsen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    16 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    One outcome of the Muhammad cartoons controversy has been an opportunity for comparative critical examination of public discourse on conceptions of citizenship and belonging vis-à-vis Muslim minorities in different national contexts. In this article, we focus upon the press reaction in two north-western European countries that on first appearance offer radically different cases. While Britain is a formerly imperial power where 'legitimate' public articulations of the collective 'we' must take stock of the sensibilities in this diverse inheritance, Denmark's emergence as a modern constitutional state is premised on a cultural, linguistic and ethnic homogeneity. It would only be fair to anticipate, therefore, that any comparison of press discourse on matters of religious minority toleration and respect for difference would herald very different outcomes to these traditions. Yet this article shows that, on closer inspection, Jyllands-Posten's more 'radical' approach marked a departure from other Danish newspapers in a manner that left it relatively isolated, and that the self-restraint shown by the British press in not reprinting the cartoons was far from universally supported, and subject to significant internal criticism. Indeed, the press discourse in both countries cast the reaction to the cartoons controversy by Muslims themselves as a sign of failed integration, and each moreover stressed a need for civility and respect - even where there was disagreement over the kinds of 'dialogue' that should take place. Nevertheless, significant divergences and cleavages remained, and the explanation for these differences rests not only on Britain's more 'multicultural' traditions, but also the experiences of the Rushdie affair and the subsequent debate that had already taken place in Britain. What is striking is the ways in which the Danish discourse appears to be plotting a course that is not that radically different from one taken in the British case, specifically the extent to which a recognition of religious minority sensibilities needs to be offset with a civic incorporation that is cast in interdependent terms in a way that is inclusive of - and not alienating to - Muslims. 

    LanguageEnglish
    Pages334-360
    Number of pages27
    JournalEthnicities
    Volume9
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2009

    Fingerprint

    cartoon
    political culture
    religious minority
    Muslim
    discourse
    respect
    constitutional state
    Denmark
    divergence
    newspaper
    citizenship
    criticism
    dialogue
    minority
    linguistics
    examination
    Discourse
    Cartoon
    Muslims
    Political Culture

    Keywords

    • cartoons controversy
    • citizenship
    • civic status
    • freedom of speech
    • muslims
    • news editorials
    • public discourse
    • political cultures
    • danish press
    • british press

    Cite this

    Meer, Nasar ; Mouritsen, Per. / Political cultures compared : the Muhammad cartoons in the Danish and British press. In: Ethnicities. 2009 ; Vol. 9, No. 3. pp. 334-360.
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    Political cultures compared : the Muhammad cartoons in the Danish and British press. / Meer, Nasar; Mouritsen, Per.

    In: Ethnicities, Vol. 9, No. 3, 01.09.2009, p. 334-360.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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