The Cartoon Jihad
The widely publicized anger expressed by certain Muslims toward the cartoons published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, has been cast as a battle between the liberal concept of Freedom of Expression and the fair treatment of an entire religion. I can only accept the first half of that matchup. The religion being weighed in the balance is not that of Islam, but of a small lunatic slice of Islam. That lunatic slice is waging a guerilla war of ideas, hoping that we will strike out at random, forcing others to take sides.
I have for months been waiting and dreading the confrontation. The internal logic of this Islamist extremism has dictated that the cartoon issue would eventually result in outrageous, theatrical displays of political violence. I think of Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, both living strange semi-secret lives because of credible death threats, and I think of Theo Van Gogh, butchered in the streets for his exercising his rights to free expression. These are the martyrs to our cause. Think how many thousands of like-minded people there are in the Islamic nations who suffer in the grasp of the fanatics, intimidated, abused and murdered without recourse, or even the support of sympathetic officials.
The source of my dread has not been the confrontation itself, so much as the appeasement gestures that follow the outbreaks of violence. The U.S. State Department and the Pope, himself, have condemned what I consider a very mild and just reprimand of Islam for serving as an incubator of the extremist cause. I have been proud to see that others have supported the Jyllands-Posten position by reprinting the "offensive" cartoons. The risk is not trivial. I have been distressed that the response is not more widespread. In fact, it continues to be difficult to track down on-line copies of the cartoons, indicating that the charge of self-censorship and intimidation has some merit.
Here are some of the accusations addressed to the West regarding the cartoons, which depict various conceptions of Mohammed.
- It is asserted that the cartoons are insulting to Muslims.
- It is asserted that the images of humans are forbidden by Islam.
- It is asserted that this cartoon insult has come at a very sensitive time for the relationship between the Islamic World and the West.
- It is asserted that characterization of Mohammed or Muslims as prone to violence is false and discriminatory.
- It is asserted that the intention of Jyllands-Posten was explicitly to insult Muslims, the Prophet and Islam.
- It is asserted that Jyllands-Posten, the original publisher, has, in the past, refused to publish cartoons insulting to Christianity.
- It is asserted that Jyllands-Posten was publishing pro-Nazi pieces before World War II.
- Numerous public figures, including the Pope and the U.S. State Department, have denounced the cartoons as insulting and irresponsible.
- There are laws in some European nations explicitly restricting freedom of speech in certain contexts, such as Holocaust denial and hate speech. Why not protect Islam as well?
- The French, in particular, have banned hijabs in public schools, discriminating against Muslims.
- It is asserted that the Danes and Europeans in general present a hateful atmosphere toward their Muslim citizens.
- Mass protests by Muslims in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Syria show that the Islamic World is united in rejecting this cartoon blasphemy.
- Islamic nations have sponsored boycotts against Denmark and Norway because of their culpability in the publication.
- It is asserted, of course, that Jews are behind this and have turned the West against Islam.
- Muslims have been "martyred" in the protests, showing just how much they have been wounded by the grave insult to Mohammed.
- It is asserted that the West is preventing the nations of Islam from progressing economically.
- It is asserted that the U.S. drops bags of money on Israel, but only bombs on Arab nations.
- It is asserted that Islam is the Religion of Peace. Christianity is the Religion of the Crusade. Judaism is the Religion of Murder.
I like to think of myself as an enlightened and tolerant individual, willing to bend over backward to see another person’s point of view. Nevertheless, I take strong exception to every point listed above. I dispute the truth and/or relevance of each. I also have links to good arguments against every point. I will try to add some of them at a later time, but for now I would just like to point out this little gem, which will probably not be disappearing any time soon.
It is my assertion, that there is no requirement for any citizen of a free country to adhere to the strictures of Islam – nor any other religion for that matter. The only restriction I can accept on the freedom of speech is that there must be no malicious speech that calls for violence or leads by deceit to imminent violence.2/9/2006 11:30 PM