Over on my other blog today I put up a post, "Statesman Journal should put Mohammed cartoon on opinion page."
It irritated me that the editorial page editor of our local newspaper, which is part of the Gannett chain, said that he'd probably never publish a cartoon that included a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, because this is offensive to Muslims.
Well, the cartoon above is the cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine that courageously is going to publish shortly after a dozen staffers were murdered by Islamic fundamentalists.
The caption at the top says, "All is forgiven." Mohammed is holding a sign that says "I am Charlie." A tear is rolling down Mohammed's cheek. It's an apt image: like the Prophet, all Muslims should come to their senses, get a sense of compassion (plus humor), and stop being so sensitive about their religious tenets.
Today the New York Times is reporting, "Reprisals Feared as Charlie Hebdo Publishes New Muhammad Cartoon."
(I never know whether it should be Muhammad, Mohammed, or some other spelling; also, I really don't care which it is.)
The story starts out:
PARIS — Muslim groups and scholars in France and elsewhere voiced concerns on Tuesday that a satirical newspaper’s first cover since the attack on its journalists last week could ignite dangerous new passions in a debate pitting free speech against religious doctrine.
Egypt’s leading Islamic authority warned that the new cartoon, depicting the Prophet Muhammad, would exacerbate tensions between the secular West and observant Muslims. Death threats circulated online against the surviving staff members of the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
My reaction is, there's always going to be tensions between religious true believers and secular people.
As an atheist I feel kind of tense around Easter and Christmas when Christians are insulting my non-belief system by telling me that if I don't believe in Jesus, I'm not going to be saved and will have a hellish afterlife.
But I have no inclination to murder those who fail to think like I do. Neither do, by and large, religious believers of any faith other than fundamentalist Islam. So it isn't up to the rest of us to change; it is the Islamic fundamentalists who should see the light.
Which includes recognizing that no matter how strongly someone may hold a religious belief, they have no right to expect that anyone else should respect that belief.
If Muslims want to refrain from creating images of the Prophet Mohammed, great. If someone else wants to draw a cartoon of Mohammed, that's also great.
Just as I don't expect people in a restaurant to refrain from eating meat when I walk in because I'm a vegetarian, neither should anyone religious expect that some tenet of their faith be upheld by non-believers.
Rosie DeManno, a columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote a good piece, "Star should have published Charlie Hebdo front cover: This newspaper does not wish to offend. That's the thing. The deeply wrong thing."
I heartily agree with her. Here's excerpts from her column.
If I thought the Star’s position was strictly a matter of security — papers have been firebombed for reproducing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, most recently a Hamburg tabloid set aflame on the weekend — it might be a little easier to accept. But I know this is not the case.
We do not wish to offend. That’s the thing. The deeply wrong thing.
...In Toronto, only the Sun — to my knowledge — published the Charlie Hebdo cover Tuesday. Three million copies of the satirical magazine — usually it has a run of 60,000 which it struggles to sell — were to hit the street in Paris Wednesday. But the magazine revealed its cover in advance: The Prophet, sad, holding a sign that says “Je suis Charlie,” and above the cartoon: “All is forgiven.”
...This cover was probably the least offensive — a word I have come to detest — version of the Prophet that Charlie Hebdo has ever published. It makes the point, though, simply and eloquently.
Still, not compliant enough for the many Muslim leaders who were quick to decry the caricature.
For many Muslims, perhaps most, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous. So be it — for them. But not so be it for us, in the mainstream media.
We are a secular profession. We do not make a habit of cowering before any other faith. We do not allow potential ramifications to pre-censor. We do not defer to the hurt.
I care far less about Muslim sensitivities than I do the articles of faith inherent to freedom of expression. It isn’t absolute, of course not, but it should fall far beyond the fault line of any religion’s sacraments. The Charlie Hebdo cover is self-evidently news. But we’re afraid to show it.
Too many “buts” have been attached to the commentary arising from last week’s two-pronged terrorist attacks in France. Oh yes, freedom of expression but. Civil rights yes but. Defiance but.
...The attacks in Paris were ultimately terrorist propaganda. Seventeen dead victims constitute a tiny niche casualty list set against the thousands of deaths tallied by Islamist militants, including the barbarians of Boko Haram who murder hundreds of civilians at a time and tie suicide vests around little girls.
I’m tired of being told this is not Islam. I know this is not Islam. But it is a strain of and a stain on of Islam.
I want Muslim leaders to defend these cartoons, without the pious disclaimers.
I want our paper to publish them.
Because either Nous somme Charlie or vous n’êtes pas Charlie.
There’s no in-between.