Tuesday, February 7

My thoughts on the Danish cartoon debacle

It's a crazy, clash of civilizations-type situation.

First, newsy link for reference.

My thoughts, without much filtering or integration (that is to say, quasi-stream of consciousness):
  • It's ironic that, in some ways, these cartoons are causing more upset than the War on Terrorism. The Danish ambassador to Lebanon was on NPR today and called it 'the so-called' War on Terrorism. Even when they're the ones apologizing for offenses and getting hammered, they still maintain their holier-(by way of more liberal thought and sophisitication)-than-thou attitude.
  • One of the objections is to portraying Muhammad with a bomb for a hat. Violent protests won't dispell that perception. Plus, is it really that unfair? I've said this before. Muhammad took Mecca by force. He advocated violence. Many conservative Muslims approve of violence and jihad. Iran says they will review their existing trade with other nations because of 'an anti-Islamic and Islamophobic current'. If they want to conduct their trade that way, that's their business. But their their involvement with violent, fundamentalist Islam and their rhetoric regarding Israel makes it hard to accept them as equal, international partners in trade
  • Jesus, the god of Christianity, is blasphemed every day in the Western world, certainly in Denmark and America. South Park does it. Robert Maplethorpe does it. Innumerable 'musicians' do it. Blasphemy is worse than disrespect of a human prophet. You don't see anyone demonstrating or apologizing for that.
  • Of course, Freedom of Speech is much more important in the West than in most Muslim nations.
  • While I will defend Freedom of Speech on principle (though maybe not to the death, like the famous patriot), and it is a necessary pillar of republican (strictly speaking) capitalism, it would benefit us to be more civil in our treatments of the very sincere faith of others. France's foreign minister calls 'on all Arab countries to talk with moderation about what is happening.' If I were Muslim, I'd say 'Screw you. You want to point fingers, the Danes are closer to you.' Besides, unless I'm much mistaken, Iran, for example, isn't even Arab, as many Muslim people are not. You'd like the foreign minister to be a little more 'sensitive', but that's probably asking for too much with France.
  • At the same time, mob violence is, of course, reprehensible and unacceptable.
  • Not feeling very coherent in my train of thoughts, here, but there they are.
A more integrated and, as usual, useful take is available from Mark. In a nutshell, Mark says we need to hold the line of Freedom of Speech and no quarter for Jihadi-Salafists.

Tom's got a post called Crying 'Muhammad' in crowded theater. I agree with his basic take here: the Danes have a right to do this stuff, but it's neither sensitive nor smart. I like this quote:

I mean, you see the Europeans shooting themselves in the feet on this one and you just have to laugh out loud at this slew of books over the past year predicting how Europe is going to lead the world as the next great superpower. Good God! Could reality and rhetoric be more separated?

Conculsion? There's plenty of blame to go around. We cannot and should not give ground on Freedom of Speech. No quarter for jihadists. Keep hammering them.

But not with cartoons that offend non-jihadist Muslims. Anyone has a right to publish or support the publishing of such cartoons, as long as they take responsibility for the fallout. Those of us who play on the global stage, including the Denmark, France and the US should keep one eye on order in our own house. Western Europe has some issues with sensitivity and tolerance of Muslims. Do you want Muslims living and working in your country or not? Do you want global relations with Muslims or not?

I wish all of this were more coherent, but I'm just not writing myself very clear on this, and that's all the time I have to give to it.
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