Last Thursday the Jordanian newspaper "Shihan" published the 13 cartoons previously published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September.
Since then – four months after the fact – a wave of violent, anti-European riots has swept through Arab and Islamic countries.
The editor of the Jordanian newspaper, Jihad Momani, was fired and arrested.
Shortly before being arrested he told Newsweek magazine he had been trying to calm the atmosphere, and to show the public that the cartoons were not the end of the world; the world has survived similar insults in the past, and he was trying to show that the cartoons in question were stupid and unworthy of such an extreme response.
You see? There are also measured, pragmatic voices in Islamic countries. But, regretfully, they are few and far between, too few to truly take into consideration.
The general atmosphere in Arab countries today began building during the 1970s. It is one of extremist and fanaticism.
Islam has become the central political power in those countries, as the results of recent elections in Egypt and the Palestinian Authority show, and the presence of 15-20 million Muslims in Europe has brought Islamic extremism directly into Europe's house.
This dramatically increases thus the possibility of clashes between freedom of speech – the cornerstone of civilization on the continent – and Islam.
European countries have tried their utmost to prevent clashes by taking a pro-Arab stance with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, by granting generous funding to the Palestinian Authority, and by opposing the war in Iraq.
In Europe itself, governments treat Muslims with kit gloves. The European media has never dealt with the roles of Muslims and Islam in the tensions currently swirling on the continent, and has spoken only of "immigrants" or "young people suffering from discrimination."
But as we saw during the riots on the outskirts of Paris, Europe continues to ignore outbursts of Muslim anti-Semitism, which continues to harass Jews, attack Jewish students and schools, and oppose Holocaust education or Jewish history lessons for Muslim students.
Even Islamic terror attacks in Madrid and London and the murder of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh failed to bring about a change in European policy. Europe continues to ignore the danger, believing that at the end of the day, Muslims "will understand and integrate" to their society.
But under current conditions, with two civilizations so very different trying to live together, the potential for clashes is very great, indeed. Over time, they will be impossible to prevent.
This appears to be the case in the current "cartoon episode." Radical elements in Saudi Arabia lit the spark by recalling their ambassador "for consultations"; Libya went even further and closed its embassy in Copenhagen.
This paved the way for anti-European riots throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
Root of the problem
The extremists incited – and governments stood aside. After all, these are Islamic countries, and Sharia (Islamic law) is the source of all legislation.
Furthermore, and here we may find the root of the problem: Islam, as it is studied in schools in Islamic countries from a very young age, plants the idea of Islamic superiority over other religions in the student's mind.
Followers of other religions are presented as inferior beings, and they are taught Jewish blood is expendable.
Literature, movies, written and electronic media strengthen this world view.
Raised to hate
In this way, Arab countries have raised generations of young people with strong hate instincts, especially for Judaism and Christianity.
Many Muslims preach a return to the days of the prophet and demand strength in the face of the lures of Western society.
But when they come of age, these young people are faced with a crisis of identity that stems from the discrepancy between those lessons and what they see with their own eyes; between the success of inferior, heretical Western civilization and superior, yet failing and downtrodden, Islam.
Short path to terror
From here, the path to Bin Laden is short, and from there it is no problem to enlist thousands of people – both from Islamic countries and amongst Europe's Muslim minority – against those who seem to be violating religious holiness.
Islamic countries have permitted thousands of extreme anti-Semitic cartoons and editorials and distortions that bear no semblance to reality in recent years. The intent of these is only to increase hatred of both Israel and the Jewish people, and to enlist the masses to the struggle.
There has been no one to fight this, because extremism and hatred have become the mainstream in Islam, and the images reproduced daily in the media have become part of the culture in Arab countries.
In light of this critical situation, all that is left for Europe to do is to use the weapon of free speech; to use some of that lofty idealism to demonstrate against radical Islam and to try to wage their fight by use of the written or drawn word.
Stop and think
In the current circumstance, the cartoons suggested Islamic extremists – terrorists who proudly murder innocent people the world over – pursue their goals in the name of the prophet and the Koran.
The answer of the Danish cartoonist was cynical: Your Mohammed is a terrorist? The cartoon was intended to make Bin Laden and his followers think a lot more about their actions, but it is clear that this will not happen.
Extremism – the result of Islamic schools financed by the secular regimes in every Arab country – is so deep that it will not disappear easily.
We will see that despite European efforts to avoid a clash, the clash is here. And even if it temporarily disappears, it is sure to reappear, with evermore ferocity.
Tzvi Mazel is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and Sweden