Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

Choose a Topic:

Feb '06

Why Cartoons? Is There a Chasm?

Been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve heard several people wonder why people are reacting the way they are to these Mohammad Cartoons and don’t under stand the stir. I saw a good article from IHT which summed up much of the press perspective, and decided to add a little recent history so that we can understand better the whole WHY behind all of this. The IHT article I refer to can be found here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/17/opinion/edwright.php

Going backwards, cultural columnists for a small Danish newspaper by the name of Flemming Rose commissioned the production of several cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammad in various forms, including terrorism related situations. Among the most infamous being the bomb under the prophet’s turban with knives in his hands. Now, there are several important things to under stand here. In Islam, any image or likeness of Mohammad is specifically forbidden. Ie, its akin to a Thou Shalt Not. The IHT article draws a parallel example by Hugh Hewitt, an evangelical Christian, for other religions such as “a cartoon of Christ’s crown of thorns transformed into sticks of TNT after an abortion clinic bombing.” From the christian perspective of the God of Love, having Christ running around with a crown of TNT is heresy and any advocating such shows a lack of social responsibility and respect for the hundreds of millions of ‘good’ christians.

Hear, hear!

It is also important to understand why the Rose commissioned these cartoons in the first place, and why they were published by the newspaper. ( See http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/02/10/news/cartoons.php )

“The crisis began in early September when Rose came up with the idea to commission the cartoons after the Danish writer Kare Bluitgen, author of a children’s book on religion, complained that she was having difficulty finding artists to illustrate a book about Muhammad because of fears of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.”

“Rose, a former war correspondent in Afghanistan and Iran, known for his fearlessness and trenchant views about immigration, was incensed. Colleagues say he railed at the growing self-censorship and political correctness in Europe since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical because he had made a film critical of Islam.”

“Rose invited 25 newspaper cartoonists to draw a picture of Muhammad “how they saw him.” Twelve cartoonists responded and had their pictures printed on Sept. 30. As a former correspondent in Iran, Rose said he knew that Sunni Islam bars depictions of the prophet from the Koran because of concern that such images could lead to idolatry. But he says nothing prepared him for the reaction that followed.”

So Rose was frustrated that there were some taboo topics that shouldn’t be addressed, and felt that extremists Mulsims were limiting Europe’s free expression. I could see how he might see Europe’s reaction to Theo Van Gogh murder and the riots in Paris, France would make it seem that the extreme Muslims were ‘winning’.

Theo Van Gogh, for those who may not remember, was a controversial Dutch film director who was murdered by a self-proclaimed Muslim extremist in November 2004. Theo provoked death threats against him after he made the film “Submission” (which is what “Islam” means in English) telling the story of four women abused under the guise of Islam. The movie was perceived by the Islamic community as an inaccurate perception of Islamic teachings. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_van_Gogh_(film_director) )

The Paris Riots, See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Paris_Riots , were sparked by the death of three high school teenagers who “allegedly ran and hid when police officers arrived to conduct ID checks. Three of the teenagers, thinking they were being chased by the police, climbed a wall to hide in a power substation” where they were electrocuted. “A friend of the three stated that Clichy-sous-Bois “has three principal communities, the Arabs, the Turks and the Blacks. The three victims represented each one a community”. […] Protesters told The Associated Press the unrest was an expression of frustration with high unemployment and police harassment and brutality in the areas. […] An unemployment rate of 5% for French university graduates can be compared to the unemployment rate of 26.5% for university graduates of north African origin (BBC). Racial and social discrimination against persons with dark skin or Arabic and/or African-sounding names has been cited as a major cause of unhappiness in the areas affected.”

These major incidents, and many other less notable all point to the frustrations of these communities. But where are the frustrations coming from? The Paris Riots seem to indicate that social discrimination may play a significant role. The major news outlets are blaming it on the huge “chasm” between Western and Muslim cultures.

Western and Muslim cultures certainly have a history of conflict. From the Crusades to re-capture Jerusalem and then the rise of the Ottoman and Roman empires, to the carving out and creation of Israel after WWII. Even the Cold War didn’t spare the Middle East as Communism and Democracy forcibly struggled to topple governments and control resources. Many of the leaders of modern Muslim extremism were molded in the resistance against invasions of Soviet forces. Many of those living in these areas see recent aggression (“invasions”) of foreign forces as the equivalent of the Soviets. That, said, I’ve heard from soldiers actually in Iraq that they constantly are thanked for getting rid of Saddam, but that many are suspicion of American motives and whether they will actually leave. Those in neighboring countries, however, have been stirred by governmental and religious leaders and are more outraged than those actually affected. There are few things as effective as preying on people suspicions and prejudices–and that’s not limited to any subset of cultures.

So how does all that factor into the cartoons? Well, physical struggle is part of it. Another part is the cultural struggle. Western societies have constantly been pushing not just for new governments, but also for liberalization. A friend once told me how when he was in Washington lobbying on the traditional family values side of some debated proposal in the United Nations, that they had little support from American representatives and no support for European ones. Those who would champion traditional causes would be the Muslim and other Middle East nations. It was those nations who constantly felt attacked on moral grounds through imported television shows, movies, radio programs, CDs, even the great Western clothing and toys shout Western values far more liberal than extremes in the existing cultures.

Is that a huge chasm, as the media pronounces?

No. Its not a chasm at all, its really frustration at hypocrisy.

All they want is the right to say what they want to say, and live how they want to live. That’s a very Western and liberal idea. But the Western media, instead, proclaims how backwards and radical they are because they want to live in a different way and that there is a chasm separating the cultures, making them incompatible. These so-called journalists who insist they are above social taboos or “self-censorship” are incensed that they cannot ridicule whomever they want, how ever they want. “Yes, you are legally free to publish just about anything, but if you publish things that gratuitously offend ethnic or religious groups, you will earn the scorn of enlightened people everywhere. With freedom comes responsibility.”

Instead, we have Rose’s comments: “I think if any religion insists that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos, then I don’t think they’re showing me respect. I think they’re asking for my submission.” ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11179140/site/newsweek/ ). I thought Western philosophy was supposed to be “enlightened tolerance”?!

As is often the case with those who proclaim that their ‘freedoms’ are being infringed upon, it is a one-sided and selfish viewpoint. Muslim nations seek much of what African Americans sought for in the mid 1900 in America–a little respect and equal treatment. Yes, they want a little “self-censorship”. Taking what is sacred to one person and dragging it through the mud just to make the point that you can doesn’t make the other person happy. Think of the last fist fight you saw. Chances are that was exactly how it was started (one’s self being ‘sacred’ often being the catalyst). I mean, really. What do we expect?

One last comment. The reason this whole thing got blown up even bigger is that other newspapers (thanks France Soir) wanted to show their support. “Hey, look at me! I don’t respect you either! Oh, and give everyone more freedom too!” The Danish Prime Minister certainly knows where the gasoline is too. “After the cartoons were published on Sept. 30, right-wing Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reacted to the angry response by refusing to meet with ambassadors from Muslim countries and sternly lecturing Muslims on their need to put up with the caricatures.” ( See http://www.juancole.com/ )

Yeah. Nothing like throwing the kerosene of Western politicians on the fire.


1 Comment »

One Response to “Why Cartoons? Is There a Chasm?”

  1. Administrator's Wife Says:

    I’m glad you shed some light on this whole thing. The various responses seem out of proportion, until you understand what started it all and where people are coming from. I agree with you.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.