The Case of the Danish Cartoons Controversy: The Paradox of Civility

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The so-called ‘Danish cartoons controversy’ set in motion by the publication of twelve drawings under the title ‘the face of Mohammed’ by the Danish broadsheet Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 has become one of the iconic controversies surrounding Islam in Europe. But the cartoon controversy was not only one controversy, but many. The paper argues that there are different controversies depending on what the object and the scope of the controversy are. But there are also different controversies depending on how a given object of controversy is framed, e.g. in legal terms and some in non-legal terms, and what is taken to be at stake in the controversy. The paper focuses on the non-legal terms of the cartoons controversy and considers how one might understand what was at stake in the controversy thus understood. An important part of the non-legal controversy can be captured and understood by interpreting it in terms of the concept of ‘civility’ as a social theoretical concept and analytical category. The introduction of this analytical perspective gives a more complete picture of what was actually at stake in the cartoons controversy. The introduction of the concept of civility makes it possible to understand how some views and interventions in the controversy were displaced or misrepresented, which gave defenders of Jyllands-Posten a rhetorical advantage that allowed them to dominate the controversy, at least in Denmark. But the very framing of the debate in terms of civility also leads to a problem due to the discursive logic of civility claims. This ‘paradox of civility’ is a practical problem facing any attempt by minority groups to raise issues of civility. This discursive phenomenon might have empirical explanatory significance, since the logic of claims of civility might explain some of the dynamics in the cartoons controversy and perhaps also some other public controversies about Islam in Europe.
TitelIslam and Public Controversy in Europe
RedaktørerNilüfer Göle
Antal sider14
Publikationsdatojan. 2014
ISBN (Trykt) 978-1-4724-1313-0
StatusUdgivet - jan. 2014


  • Mohammed cartoons
  • Danish cartoons
  • Cartoons controversy
  • Islam
  • civility

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