A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

12 February 2006

Just Need to Weigh In

This Danish cartoon business. Like most things, it's not quite as simple as free speech versus religious fundamentalism. If it were, I'd be right there onside with the European newspapers that are republishing the cartoons. But I'm not with the idiots rioting and killing one another in the streets. I can't even say I'm with the quieter protests held in Canadian cities.

Why? Well here's a summation:

1) (Point to Free Speech) This is less about religion than about culture. As mentioned above, protests in Canada are markedly free of the violence which has cost lives abroad. One does not hear of North American Islamic leaders advocating the murder of cartoonists, editors, et al. Even in the "Islamic World"--once known as the Arab Street--there is great divergence of opinion on who is to blame, and what constitutes a just reaction.

2) (Point to Religion) This isn't about Free Speech either, really. It's about the intent to offend. The Danish publisher recruited cartoonists specifically to draw Mohammed, and specifically to demonstrate a certain morbid fear of religious Muslims.

3) (FS) On the other hand--what are we in the West to make of the Arab newspaper habit of publishing vile caricatures of Jews? Is that okay? And if it's their right to do that then how is this different?

(Point to both) How would I, as a defender of the contributions of social-justice Catholicism, feel if a paper deliberately printed a cartoon of Jesus Christ hanging upside down on the cross? I'd be pissed, but I probably wouldn't threaten anyone with death. Still, some would. But not enough for a rampaging mob, surely? And society at large would neither stand by idly nor covertly encourage mayhem and murder, as some of the countries involved (think Syria for one) have done.

This is seriously old news. The cartoons were published in September. Why has this outrage taken such a long time to build? And why does it surge forth so violently now?

Even Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the big-club-swingers in Iraq, has asked his congregants to behave with dignity. So why this rage, this fury? It can't just be the pictures, or even their intentional offence. Contrary to popular belief, not all sects of Islam believe that Mohammed may not be portrayed.

Personally, I hadn't seen the cartoons until I sat down to write this piece. For me, the best of the batch was this one. Someone, possibly the editor of the Jyllands-Posten had written over it:
Lars Refn's drawing did not feature "the Prophet", but a Danish schoolboy, Mohammed, who wrote on the blackboard in Persian: 'Jyllands-Posten's journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs.' We think Lars Refn is a coward who does not understand the seriousness of the Muslim threat to free speech."

I am forced to concede that while the paper concerned was outside the norms of a civilised society, it had the right to publish. But in the act of publishing, they also took the debate up several notches. The cartoons are if not thoroughly racist, at least culturally backward and deliberately insulting. It's saddening.

But more saddening is the sight of thousands of protesting Muslims making themselves out to be as violent, threatening and humourless as the Prophet is portrayed in the cartoons.

So like most of the Western world, I think, and including a great many Muslims, I find myself firmly seated on the horns of a dilemma.

So I'm distracting myself by playing about with my template. I can't quite seem to get it the right shape and colour, so it'll keep me busy hopefully until this rubbish blows over.


At 12:30 p.m., Blogger Metro said...

I notice I forgot to mention that we in the West would consider slanderous and fear-mongering cartoons about Jews to be well beyond the pale, too.


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