Danish cartoons: new political tool
by Lorenzo Vidino
February 18, 2006
Over the last few days the CT Blog revealed how the whole cartoon controversy has been manipulated (by using fabricated cartoons) and used by various forces in the Muslim world for their political interests. The most recent wave of cartoon-related violence comes from Libya, as 11 protestors were killed while attacking the Italian consulate in the city of Benghazi. And once again, the protests seem to be far from spontaneous.
Last week Libyan Leader Col. Muhammar Ghaddafi made his first comments after the beginning of the whole cartoon saga. After an attack against unspecified European schools that teach the children that the Muslim Prophet was not a messenger of Allah but a liar, he went on to say that the riots that took place in Paris last fall were only the beginning of the armed struggle of the Muslims against discrimination in Europe. He also added that probably one day Europe will be subordinated to the Islam. Not exactly a tension-diluting statement.
But parts of the Libyan establishment hold a particular grudge against one European country: Italy. The North African country was, in fact, an Italian colony, and a certain animosity towards Italy has always been widespread in Libya since its independence. All that Libya was waiting for was a good opportunity to create problems for Italy and the pretext was given by the Italian Minister for Reforms, Roberto Calderoli, who decided to sport a t-shirt with the Danish cartoons during an appearance on Italian TV. The perfect casus belli. As the Egyptian columnist Magdi Allam noted on today's Corriere della Sera, Libyan authorities immediately understood they had a great opportunity and masterfully orchestrated the backlash. The President of Libya's Parliament, in fact, gave a fiery speech on national television, strongly attacking Italy. We have to reopen the dossier with Italy. The Congress asks the end of relations with Italy, said the President. The time has come for the people to act against the cartoons that mock our Prophet and against the Italian Minister for Reforms who has launched a crusade against Islam. The invective bordered the ridicule when the President said: The Italian Minister asked the Pope to start a new Crusade against Islam, he wants to use force against Islam. They want to raise the Cross in the land of Islam. We say no.
Few days later, what a surprise, came the mass demonstrations (in a country where normally all assemblies are strictly prohibited by the security forces) and the attack against the Italian consulate in Benghazi. The whole Muslim world took notice that Italy too was an infidel country that disrespects Islam and the picture of the Italian Minister has even appeared on a pro-al Qaeda website. Libya just added its name to the long list of states, political forces, and individuals in the Muslim world who have taken advantage of the cartoon controversy for their political gains.