At the start of this decade, a minor story occurred that set the scene for the years that have followed. In 2010, a Saudi lawyer named Faisal Yamani wrote to the Danish newspapers that had published cartoons of Islam’s prophet, Mohammed. Claiming to act on behalf of 95,000 descendants of Mohammed, the Saudi lawyer said that the cartoons were defamatory and that legal proceedings would thereby begin.
However, everything about the supposed legal claim reeked. How had Mr Yamani located all these descendants? How had he come up with exactly 95,000 of them? And how could you claim that a statement about somebody who died 1,400 years ago was “defamatory”? Legally, one cannot “defame” the dead.
Everything about the claim was laughable Yet it had its desired effect.