Sunday, February 05, 2006

Islam's Violent Reaction to Cartoons

The uproar over cartoons depicting Islam's prophet Muhammad provides interesting fodder for contemplation.

The cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper in September and reprinted in European publications recently, have produced a strong reaction among Muslims because Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depictions of Muhammad. Indeed, the level of outrage and violence are strongly out of character from what we Americans have come to expect from religious groups.

Thousands of outraged Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, setting fire to both buildings, and Muslims are calling for executions and setting European flags afire. "We should have killed all those who offend the prophet," said a leader of a peaceful protest group. Although his group did not act on that sentiment, the fact that it is a publicly expressed thought should be both instructive and reason for concern.

While most people are opposed to the violence there is general agreement that the cartoons were over the line. The Vatican, for example, denounced the violence, but also said some forms of criticism are an "unacceptable provocation." "The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers," the Vatican said.

One cartoon featured Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, among other provocative images. Civilized people honor the personalities and symbols of all religions, even if they do not subscribe to any of those religions, or to any religion. Most of us would be uncomfortable with images denigrating Moses or Jesus, for example, so we sympathize with the aversion Muslims feel. Certainly American Christians have suffered more frequent insults from their own countrymen, and Jews are under continual attack the world over. However, the fact that so many Muslims resort to violent protest says more about Islam than it does about the cretins who created these offensive cartoons.

Muslims, however, ought to be able to process not just the dissing of their blessed prophet, but also the actions of their murderous brethren that provoked these particular images. They ought to be able to see that Islam’s violent and intolerant fundamental faction has seriously stained their religion, and that faction’s uncivilized behavior threatens to turn Islam into a worldwide pariah.


Unknown said...

Have you seen the cartoons?

James Shott said...

Yes, I have. As a non-Muslim, I am not offended, although if they were aimed at Christians or Jews I might be.

The one that has drawn so much criticism, supposedly of Mohammad with a bomb for a headdress, frankly leaves me wondering. I would not have known that it was supposed to be Mohammed, and unless the Arabic inscription on the headdress says something about Mohammed, it could easily be any bearded Muslim.

The Muslims are upset because Mohammed's likeness is not supposed to be depicted, which begs the question, if no drawings of Mohammed exist, how could any drawing that is not labeled "Mohammed" be identified as Mohammed?

Anonymous said...

I am trying to find the cartoon before I decide where I stand. Please send me a copy of it.

But the level of distruction is not warranted, by any means.


Independent1 said...

What is interesting is how Muslims think in such collective terms.

They aren't angry at the cartoonist, they are angry at ALL danish people, and All westerners, for the actions of this one newspaper, as if everyone in Europe and the US personal stamped their approval on these cartoons.

I guess I am just not getting their thinking.

James Shott said...

I keep trying to accurately characterize the Muslim mind, realizing of course that not all Muslims think alike. But these riots have thrown me a curve. As you said, their rage is unfocused and irrational in its lack of focus.