The Danish cartoon affair presents a vehicle for rethinking some of our longstanding assumptions about liberal democracy and its capacity to accommodate cultural difference. The public and academic debates have tended to frame the affair as either a clash between liberal-democratic and illiberal religious values or as a question of whose position is most consistent with liberal-democratic values. We begin, instead, from the assumption that liberal-democratic values conflict, not only between liberalism and democracy, but also within liberalism and democracy. We argue that cases such as the Muhammad cartoons controversy present liberal democracies with choices about which liberal-democratic principles and conceptions of these principles they emphasize and when. Guiding these choices should also be the pragmatic question of how best to make multicultural democracies work. We suggest that the Muhammad cartoons encompass not one, but three distinct problem areas: the violation of a religious norm in the representation of Muhammad, attacks on Islam as a religion, and attacks on Muslims as a group. We examine how liberal democratic values and multicultural citizenship relate to each of these cases, and argue that attacks on Muslims as a group are a form of racism.
Bibliographical notePublisher: Sage
- SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship