Political Cartoons: Con.
That said, there is more to the question of whether Western newspapers should print these cartoons than you'd find in an ACLU brief. Is it wise? To put the shoe on the other foot, here's what it might look like if you're poor, oppressed, and living in in a Muslim country. George Bush has effectively declared war on Muslim culture. He wants to bring American democracy and replace your corner kebab stall with a Mickey D's. He scoffs at sharia law. And, if he doesn't like the cut of your leader's jib, he may invade your country, kill you accidentally, and force these things on you. To all of this comes some idiot in Denmark to ridicule you.
It might be a lot to take. On yesterday's Newshour, a Muslim writer captured this sentiment pretty well:
It's not particularly illuminating to publish a cartoon with a cartoonish jihadi threatening violence. None of the cartoons seem to bring anything especially insightful to the table. They're mostly broadsides that make the already very-well-made point that Islamic states are repressive and violent.
And I think that this incident in a sense was a spark in a context where since Sept. 11, increasingly people across the Arab and Muslim world perceive themselves to be under a generalized assault by the United States and its allies.
And there's a whole list of things that people would cite from the war in Iraq, U.S. support for Israel, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and many other things including increasing xenophobia against Muslim communities within Europe that provide tinder for this kind of widespread process.
So while the Western papers certainly have a right to publish volatile material, they also have a responsibility to make sure that it's not just uselessly inflammatory. In this case, I might have looked at the world situation and decided that there were more insightful ways to handle the situation.