Monday, February 20, 2006

Mohammed Cartoons

I struggled with the cartoon issue for a while because I thought that printing cartoons that were offensive to Muslims was wrong. Since then I've listened to other opinions.

My understanding is that these cartoons were intended to make a political statement or a humorous statement, and not demean a religion. If that is true, I see no reason they shouldn't have been printed. If a political cartoon offends some people or a lot of people, so what? Political cartoons usually offend someone. If you are offended, there are many ways to express your outrage. Stop reading the publication. Send letters to the editor explaining why the material is offensive or patently incorrect or unfair. You can encourage others to boycott the publication and/or its advertisers. As you can see, none of these includes any kind of violence or threats of violence.

If Muslims in Denmark were extremely outraged, they could protest as explained above or they could emigrate to a country where freedom of speech is not the law or culture and such outrageous cartoons are not allowed. I'm not suggesting that Muslims should not be welcomed as guests or citizens of Denmark, but living in a country obligates you to some acceptance of its culture or at least some acceptance of the legal ways to change the culture or laws. Denmark is a country with free speech. If you just can't accept that, move on. It is not that hard to move from one country to another to find laws and culture that are acceptable to you. Voting with your feet is an honored tradition in the US.

The Danish Muslims who took their outrage to the Middle East are the real villains here. They created a controversy where there shouldn't have been one. The Danes did not force the cartoons to be shown in countries where they would be seen as blasphemous. While the cartoons may not have been appropriate in a Muslim country, they are acceptable in Denmark and many other countries. Even if they are outrageous.

I recently read an article where Muslims in the Middle East complained that they don't get the respect they feel they deserve. They have a culture and religion with a rich history of accomplishments that rivals any ancient religion or culture, yet no one takes them seriously. Of course, that is the heart of the problem. Other cultures have moved on. Modern societies move toward freedom, the rule of law, individual responsibility, tolerance, diversity, understanding, science and reason. Unfortunately, the out of proportion outrage of many Muslims only proves that they are not ready to join the modern world. Burning down their cities and killing their own people does nothing to gain the respect of the rest of the world. It actually isolates them even more. Burning down a McDonald's restaurant to protest a religious infraction is humorous and makes the protesters look foolish. If a martyr's reward in heaven is seventy virgins, what do you get for burning down a McDonald's? A big Mac, fries and a medium diet Coke.

Do some Muslims really believe that if anyone, anywhere breaks one of their religious laws or does something to offend them they have the right or duty to kill that person? If we gave these same rights to all religions the entire world would be at war all the time. Obviously people who believe such nonsense do not deserve respect or the deference they are being given.

I do not approve of reprinting the cartoons just to show the rioters that we can print them or to intentionally offend Muslims. I don't approve of reprinting the cartoons if their content is designed to enrage rather encourage reflection. But I think editors should reprint the cartoons that are not patently offensive to the general readership of their publication when writing stories about the rioting. An editor must decide whether or not the cartoons are truly offensive to a significant part of his/her readers. If they are offensive, don't reprint them; just report their content. But to not reprint the cartoons that are not offensive to the general population is a form of censorship imposed by a religion. In this case a religion that seems to believe it can censor the entire world. That is unacceptable.

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Scottage said...

I think there's a lot more to it than that, Logical. I think that really the protests had very little to do with the cartons, and that was only an excuse to mobilise protesters adn to send a warning to the US and the West; a clear warning that the Middle East is not powerless against us. But I do like a lot of what you said here, and appreciate how you took a step back and waited until you got all the facts to weigh in on such a serious issue. In general I liked your site, and blogrolled it, as well as adding a response to your post on my site.

LogicalOne said...

Thanks for your comments. You are correct that many of the protesters are being driven by people and/or governments for their own purposes. But I think it also makes a case that just leaving the region and, therefore, no longer defiling their lands would not be good enough. It also shows that force will not make this problem go away. People this easily inflamed to violence will not back down to force.

We are unquestionably stronger militarily, but we have yet to show that we are smarter than the manipulators. Our claims of moral superiority mean nothing. We need to figure out how to help the people of the Middle East understand that it is in their interests to become more moderate and join the modern world.

While I believe it is incumbent on the more powerful to make the most concessions when trying to resolve a disagreement, we cannot give up our basic ideals. We should make it clear that we respect the people and their religious beliefs, but freedom of the press will not be compromised.