It’s not often that I see eye-to-eye with William Bennett, aptly described as a right-wing “self-appointed moral compass for America.” But his take on Islamic anger over the Mohammed cartoon controversy is right on. Today on CNN I heard him tell Wolf Blitzer:
“Look, it just turns out that there are people who are acting in the world, cutting people’s heads off, putting jetliners into buildings, and saying they are doing so in the name of Allah. You know, this is what people say…they’re saying they’re doing this because of the Koran, because of the Prophet.
Now, others argue it is a distortion of that. Fine, let that debate commence. But I take it that one point of the Danish newspaper cartoons is to say this is being done in the name of Islam. Religion is not off limits when it comes to a free press. Religion is, despite the fact that our State Department may wish to deny it, very much embedded in this war against radical Islam.”
For some reason our State Department is critical of the publication of the Mohammed cartoons, calling them “offensive to the beliefs of Muslims.” Well, I’m with Bennett on this one (and it could well be the last one). As I said on my Church of the Churchless weblog a few days ago:
Earth to the Muslim world: People get disturbed by lots of things every day. People get their feelings hurt in lots of ways every day. Almost always these things and these ways aren’t illegal or immoral. They’re just part of life in a society where people can freely express themselves.I can’t believe that our State Department is aligning itself (or at least, making excuses for) fundamentalist crazies who are saying that Denmark should be blown up and those who published the cartoons should have their heads cut off.
I believe as many people as possible should see these cartoons. Secular Western democracies can’t allow themselves to be held hostage by religious fundamentalists, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or whatever. Freedom of the press far outweighs the “right” (if such even exists) not to be offended.
So here’s a link to a site that has more readable versions of the cartoons than the image I posted previously. Take a look and practice Islamic blasphemy. What does it matter, if you’re not a Muslim? Or, even if you are.
What was the point of making these pictures of our beloved prophet Muhammad peace be upon him?
In Islam we dont make pictures of any other prophets. We respect all prophets, Jesus, Moses, Abraham. In our religion, even if you made pictures of these prophets, it would be considered a big sin.
We respect all religions, yet why dont the people who drawed what they did respect ours?
Moreover, why not write about our prophet peace be upon him from true sources? if you really learn about this Prophet, you will see what a mercy he was to mankind.
Posted by: be | February 04, 2006 at 04:34 AM
I did a big press round-up of this issue yesterday, if you're interested in looking at it/commenting on it--I'd be interested to know what you thought...
It is a sticky topic, but I think basically that what these European newspapers did amounts to provocation or to, at minimum, irresponsible (possibly ethnocentric/chauvinist) journalism, but they shouldn't be censored. On the other hand, the issue of racism in the West and in Europe is a tricky one, because of the conglomeration of facts that amount to a somewhat racist (anti-Arab/anti-black/pro-white/French/Danish/etc.) or at least chauvinist (see above parentheses) stance on these issues. But violent protests, in my opinion, and this kind of fear of violence, is also really problematic.
Posted by: media fanatic | February 04, 2006 at 09:22 AM
Ridiculing someone else's religious beliefs always leads to protests. The problem with the Muslim response-- in my mind-- and why I think our government should have said nothing about it-- was the complete overreaction as to what some Muslims now say they want to do-- kill the cartoonists (who are btw I guess in hiding now), cut off their heads or hands, maybe bomb some innocent people to express their anger. Civilized people ignore, write articles or letters, protest, boycott, avoid the shows, maybe even picket. They don't kill someone (often innocent) because they feel they were being disrespected.
Remember Salman Rushdie and what he went through for writing a book that Khomeni felt was blasphemous. If someone wants their religion to be respected by others, the good way is not bombing someone innocent or threatening mayhem for disagreeing.
Our government should have kept their mouths shut on this one as putting yourself on the side of extremists never seems wise. What I wonder is why this suddenly exploded now-- after all these months. Is there something else somebody wants to distract attention from?
Posted by: Rain | February 04, 2006 at 10:04 AM
The generalization that Islam respects other religions is preposterous. Islam is rife with the vilest sort of anti-Semitism (awkward word, I know) and Islam in recent times has been characterized by gross intolerance and extreme violence toward non-believers.
While I'm generally against gratuitous offense to people's religious sensibilities, Islam has made a very bad name for itself, and countless atrocities have been committed specifically in the name of its prophet. The name of the prophet has thus been made shameful, but the only time we hear the likes of "be" chime in is to complain about the insults of non-believers. If he and his like showed the slightest embarrassment about the enormous amount of violence, usually committed in the most atrocious and cowardly way, then we might care a little more about the hurt feelings of him and his co-religionists about a few drawings. Let's see if he can manage a full-throated denunciation of Muslim atrocities around the world.
Everybody ought to have heard the old expression by now: "Islam has bloody borders." Look around the world and you'll see that it's so. Why is that? What has the "prophet" wrought upon the world? "What a mercy," indeed.
I won't hold my breath waiting for any serious self-reflection from "be" and other followers of the religion of the sword.
Posted by: Idler | February 04, 2006 at 12:00 PM
Media Fanatic, you were too humble and left the URL to your impressive blog hidden under your name. Here it is:
I enjoyed your global media review of reaction to the Muhammad cartoons. Very thorough and thoughtful. You're providing a useful service.
I've been reading more about this issue and continue to feel that when religion is fused with politics (or terrorism), it loses any claim to being uncriticized. Assuming it had any claim to begin with.
Islam may indeed be a religion of peace. I don't know. I've read, in translation, all three volumes of Rumi's Masnavi. I love Rumi. This Sufi says that the "greater holy war" is against our own lower ignorant self. That rings true to me. But most Muslims don't have that mystic understanding of their faith.
Here are some links to sites talking about the cartoon controversy that I ran across today:
Posted by: Brian | February 04, 2006 at 12:02 PM
The best thing I can find to say about Media Fanatic is that his ignorance doesn't appear to be entirely invincible. But it's a close thing. The category of "racism" (interchangeable with chauvinism, or what have you) allows his brain to resist actually evaluating criticisms against a reality to which they may or may not correspond. It's enough that white First-Worlders should say something against some racial or cultural "other" to know that such criticisms should be dismissed. Happily (and this is the crack in the otherwise invincible ignorance) he nevertheless finds violent protests "really problematic."
Brian shows a similarly touching resistance to empirical evidence. "Islam may indeed be a religion of peace," he muses; so what does he do to test the thesis? He reads a book written in the 13th century!
Perhaps I'm being harsh. I could agree if what Brian means is, "a peaceful version of Islam may be possible." And no doubt it could be and in many cases is. However, if a significant part of Islam is peaceful, it's not taking too much trouble to denounce the violent part and separate the sheep from the goats. Part of the problem is that there are just so many goats. As I stated before, "Islam has bloody borders"; Muslim moderates there may be, but there are Muslim extremists making themselves known through their violence and mischief all over the world. If you haven't noticed it yet, it's about time you started. The Middle East is rife with violent extremism, of course, but it's spreach to the far corners of the earth, to Indonesia, Kashmir, Nigera, Sudan, Turkey and Afghanistan. And of course Muslims acting in the name of the prophet have committed atrocities in the U.S., Russia, Spain, Britain, Holland and France. That's the short list.
How could anyone in their right mind call this a "religion of peace"? It reminds me of calling the fattest person you know "Tiny."
Posted by: Idler | February 04, 2006 at 05:36 PM